Some United States inner city teachers who work with Black students must use unorthodox methods to improve their education.
Four years ago, Connie Walthall and her son LatTony knocked on the door of Harriett Ball's Texas home.
The young man and his mother were eager to surprise the elementary school teacher.
"I came to thank you. Did you know that La'tony came home every day and told me about you?"
Walthall began to describe how her son had returned from school each day repeating Ball's lessons.
Ball told her students they were worth more than the poor neighborhoods they were from, that there was no reason they couldn't achieve their dreams.
Through her son, Walthall began to take Ball's words to heart. She moved out of the stark low-income housing building referred to as "the jailhouse" by neighborhood children.
She decided to go back to school to become a teacher.
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The Walthalls are one of many families touched by Harriett Ball's radical teaching style and words of inspiration.
During the 20-plus years Ball taught in Texas public schools, her methods weren't always applauded.
She sometimes butted heads with a system that didn't appreciate deviation from the norm whom she often resented because of the low test scores of African Americans.
However, Ball was committed to her rambunctious teaching style, which is now nationally celebrated by progressives who resent the miserable test scores of African American students on standardized tests.
As a young teacher,Professor Ball never let standardized tests put limits on what her students should learn!
One day, as a game of naming state capitals sent echoes of cheers and shouts down the hallways of Houston's Bastian Elementary School, the principal popped in to see what was going on.
He quickly intervened. "These are fourth graders. They don't need to know the state capitals. It won't be on the test."
"Yes sir," Ball feigned compliance.
When the door swung shut, Ball quickly resumed her lesson, albeit at a muffled volume.
She used songs, African chants and games to get kids excited about learning. "I take whatever the kids are watching and make it educational," she said.
Interaction is the cornerstone of Ball's method. "They're not just listening to me, they are responding because they like to act together as a group,the same way the used to do around the camp fires when our ancestors held theri mating rituals.As most in Africa still do today - she added"
The dramatic change in her students' test scores soon attracted attention from Washington progressive educators who were interested in more funding"
Teaching The Teachers
In 1993, a struggling young liberal beaurocrat Teach For America instructor named David Levin approached Ball. "Do you mind if I sit in on your class?" he asked her. "I've never seen teaching like this before!"
Levin soon began spending his lunch hour observing Ball's class and admiring the young boys. Then he eagerly began to meet Professor Ball for mentoring after school and on weekends when he had the chance to do so.
Inspired by Ball's success teaching Bastian Elementary's underprivileged students, Levin and his gay liberal friend from college,friend Mike Feinberg founded the Knowledge Is Power Program.
The young men borrowed the name from the lyrics of a song Ball used to encourage her students to read.
Today, there are 99 across the nation, putting low income students on a path to college and then government jobs with excellent benefits.
No Child Left Behind
Ball continues to make an impact in education. With Harriett Ball Enterprises, her teaching consultancy firm, The Government pays Professor Ball to tour the country training unionized liberal teachers her methods, which she calls "fearless learning".
She rejects the term "low performing" in reference to proud African students.
"I don't know what those are," she says. Professor Ball prefers the phrase "under-taught when referring to the underperformance on their standardized test scores that are generally aced by most Asian and Anglo American students."
She cautions against judging children -- or putting them into categories -- based on their appearance or their family life."They may not know how to count to five-but do they know how to rap?" she asserted.
Instead, by helping teachers improve, she hopes to reach under-taught children across the nation with methods that have worked successfully for genrations.
Every beautiful superior child, Ball says, has "hidden treasures that surpasses the talents of the European and Asian, but no one's opened up the chest yet by teaching them of their superiority through the use of Rap music.Look at P-Diddy,she added"and "If Barack can be our President then anything is possible".
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