BrentM

Teach ’em, don’t just Test ’em

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on Teach ’em, don’t just Test ’em
Jan 022020
 

Welcome to the next decade where it is predicted that we will use sophisticated glasses to see the words on the screen, rather than walk with our heads bowed to look at a screen in the palm of our hand.

My blog topic today is about reading and the need for more teaching. It just so happens to coincide with the social promotion of third grade students

The Charlotte Observer editorial article of December 20, titled Educators, not courts, should decide reading test, had me quite intrigued. It highlighted Read to Achieve (RTA), a program adopted, or perhaps borrowed, from the Just Read Florida initiative that tests K-3 reading proficiency. The RTA program has failed to show significant improvements in NC, or anywhere else, says the article, despite $150mil spent by the NC DPI, or Department of Public Instruction.

Growing up in a family where reading was encouraged and promoted from an early age, I did not have to worry much about reading tests at elementary school. After all, I was learning (and reading) English and therefore got to hear thousands of words daily, in my native language, long before I had to take my first school test at age 6. I also grew up at a time in South Africa when TV was only introduced when I was a teen, so there were less alternatives (and distractions) like there are in 2020. 

This scenario has not played out with young students in our program like Anthony, Sneijder and Gabriela, who essentially learned their first English words on day one of kindergarten. Score 1-0. Advantage to the native English speaker. My daughters have all recently attended public school and I am privy to the heavy amount of testing they undertake, rather than the teaching they receive. And I am sure Language Arts, and reading is no exception, regardless of the subject.

The problem appears to be that NC borrowed the programs worst aspects … more testing and holding back children who fail to show proficiency by third grade. In case you missed it, only 4 out of 10 3rd grade students in CMS schools can pass the reading proficiency test, according to recent Charlotte Meck School research. And it’s not getting any better I am afraid to say …

 So, what happens to those on the cusp of repeating grade three? Glad you asked. In my experience with working with ELL students from title 1 schools in our after-school program, 3rd grade students are tested, and retested near the end of the school year. If you fail the retest, you are afforded the opportunity to come back to school for the first three weeks or so of summer, to do some intense Read to Achieve testing. Or should that be teaching? It’s really not possible to catch up on years in just a few short weeks while their more fortunate buddies are enjoying a nice summer vacay. In my experience, 4th grade looms large, whether they are ready or not. After all, what would third grade look like if some 18,000 or so were held back every June? And besides, who would want to be a third-grade reading tutor, tester or perhaps teacher?

You see, the $150mil has not been spent so much on teaching to read, as it has on testing. The Science of Reading program is getting strong reading results at less cost in Mississippi, the state with the dubious distinction of having the highest poverty levels, but where 83% of 3rd graders passed, this past school year. In NC, only 56% passed, according to the research. It was 4% higher when Read to Achieve was implemented in 2013.

Dr. Claire White, from UMass, in her recently published dissertation had it right, in my opinion. Academic literacy is the way to go. Dr. White really got me thinking. She makes a great case for teaching target words and then engaging children from a young age in debates about topics like “is it cruel (in your opinion) to have animals in a circus?” It is never too early to start, her research suggests. In my opinion, we ought to teach kids to connect with the books theme and its overall content, and worry less about force feeding the vocabulary that has little significance to a young child who is already so far behind and is no doubt going to be to fourth grade, regardless.

I am suggesting that we need to try something else in our local schools. More emphasis on teach, instead of test. Reading often comes across as an unpleasant time of struggling to figure it out by yourself. Not fun at all.

Here’s what we are doing and will continue to do at LHCC in the reading arena. We let children choose their own books, read with them and help them connect with the subject matter. We want them to see reading in a different light. Much like the beacons of hope we try and represent for all students and their families.

Brent Morris

Executive Director

Learning Help Centers of Charlotte

January 5, 2020

 Posted by at 7:58 pm

Happy New Year

 Encouragement, Family, Our Mission, Reading is important  Comments Off on Happy New Year
Jan 012020
 

Firstly, may I wish all our blog readers a very happy and blessed 2020.

Over the holidays, I received a wonderful Christmas greeting card from one of our families that bears repeating here. It was written by one of our 7th grade students on behalf of the family, to me and my family. At the start of the new year, this message is inspiring and encouraging to me, my family and our LHCC staff. I dedicate it to all our partners and supporters for the privilege of being able to serve on the mission-field in this powerful and fulfilling way. It is also no doubt intended for each and every one of our volunteers and staff members.

“Dear Mr Brent, thank you for making LHCC, a really good thing in our community. You help a lot of children’s education become more successful. Thank you for encouraging us students to read. I really appreciate it. Thank you for helping us with our work and making us be better at school work, it does really help us, and we all appreciate that.

Education is very important, and you make a child’s education better. I know every child of the LHCC group appreciates it, and their parents. We all love that you gave your opportunity to help us and care about us in LHCC.

Love Karina P “

Truly humbled, and grateful for what we get to do, together, through scholastic, spiritual and social supports for families who appreciate what we do.

Brent Morris Executive Director LHCC January 1, 2020

 Posted by at 4:08 pm
Nov 292019
 

We celebrated another enjoyable and festive Thanksgiving meal this week with our LHCC families. I learned of some of the heartache of family separation, as immigrants like myself, whose family is not all state-like. It’s been many years since we last embraced loved ones.

I was motivated to determine the origins of Thanksgiving and came across the Thanksgiving Proclamation made by George Washington, just 13 years after independence. It strikes me how far we have departed from the original intent of this annual American holiday.

Washington issued a proclamation on October 3, 1789, designating Thursday, November 26 as a national day of thanks. In his proclamation, Washington declared that the necessity for such a day sprung from the Almighty’s care of Americans prior to the Revolution, assistance to them in achieving independence, and help in establishing the constitutional government.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor­ ­­­– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Thankful that we can pray and give thanks today and everyday…

Nov 212019
 

Many young at-risk children that we serve and growing up in crescent communities in Charlotte find themselves constantly on the move. Switching schools constantly as parents move to find affordable housing. Maybe seated in another new school classroom trying to learn their second language. Perhaps you have felt the same way at times. I know I did, when I moved to a new city and into a new school and the age of 6. Finding new friends and fitting in ain’t easy.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to Sofia. Sofia and her sister Gabriella, along with mom, started attending our after-school program in 2018. They have attended each week for many reasons including receiving literacy and homework help. Sofia was in kindergarten when she started. She was shy and certainly quiet. Overwhelmed with learning English, she often seemed disengaged by the interactions and encouragement from her reading buddy. Then she met a friend, Samantha, at the start of grade 1 and together they soon struck up a friendship. Things started to change …

After some quality time together, having fun at summer camp and then homework and reading, they have become best buds. Both are helped by the same volunteer and are making steady progress. More importantly though, they have made a connection. Both learning together, taking in the new vocab words, reading the same book, together and solving the same math problems. Together. That’s the blessing here. They made friends and their outlook is looking up. This kind of friendship is blossoming in other areas as well, including between our students and their homework buddies.

We have some more volunteer spots to fill so that others like Sofia, Gabriella and Samantha can also get a helping hand. Forming friendships that we hope and pray will last well beyond vocab words and solving math problems. Come see the bonds that are being forged and be a part of something special while doing good. We have good to give. You have good to give! Connect with us in person at a program near you or via email

Happy Thanksgiving until next time. We have much to be grateful for.

Brent Morris

 Posted by at 8:35 pm
Nov 032019
 

This past Tuesday, the LHCC family came together to honor me with a post-program dinner celebration of my birthday. I am very grateful for their kindness and generosity in providing a meal to feed 5,000 … literally. The Hispanic culture dictates that all family meals are a pot luck. Everyone contributes something tasty and the volunteers are always the guests of honor for their generous time commitments. Our families are grateful for the help they get as well as their children. Reflecting upon this joyous occasion, I wondered what it would be like to be grateful like that every day, birthdays or no birthdays…

Brennan Manning in his book Ruthless Trust posed the question of whether the primal sin of the first couple mentioned in the bible was ingratitude. Even before they were deceived and ate the fruit of the forbidden tree.

I believe that people who have known tough life and death situations, suffering and know what it is like to need something so bad they will do anything to get it, have had to draw upon trust or something like it, to find joy in their lives. They have literally had to swim upstream against the odds. The poor give larger proportions of their income to charity than the rich, because they know what it is like to have needs seemingly beyond their means.

If you are reading this then surely you have much more to be grateful for. Living in a first world country with plenty of clothes, a warm home and one maybe two cars. I have much to be grateful if I consider how much better off we are than many struggling for survival each and every day. Let me use this reminder to count my blessings every day and to praise God for blessing me abundantly and most assuredly more than I deserve.

Until next time

Brent Morris Executive Director

October 20, 2019

 Posted by at 7:53 pm
Oct 072019
 

Picture the scene. Ten or so pallets full of potato’s, totaling about 20 tons, being bagged by kind hearted folks into 10-pound bags on a cool Saturday morning. How did they get there you may ask? The potato’s that is…

It all takes place every year at Pineville Neighbors Place. A generous farmer donates what I call the gleanings in the form of potato’s, in support of the homeless and food banks. Gleanings is a term used in the bible and is defined as the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested. It is a practice arising over 2,000 years ago when it became a legally enforced entitlement of the poor in a number of Christian kingdoms.

Fast forward to Charlotte and the 21st century and it has taken on a more hands on meaning with a deeper connotation. Potatoes are trucked in from three hours away in central NC. Picture for a minute (or check out the video) random strangers, neighbors and school children standing in huddles around pallets of spuds, surgical gloves on, digging into the gleanings and bagging all 40,000 pounds of edible offerings until they are all bagged. It’s a beautiful picture of collaboration and unity across all races, cultures and people of different socio-economic backgrounds. High fives every time a pallet is transformed to handfuls for easy distribution. Organizations represented included Atrium Health, Cardinal Innovations, Pineville Elementary School, Learning Help Centers of Charlotte and Pineville United Methodist Church, to name a few. There were the many young, the young at heart, ambitious teachers and pastors, church congregants and community helpers. It was another awesome drop.

So, now you know what’s a potato drop. Lots of potato’s going to a needy cause, for sure, but more importantly, a show of how a community comes together, extends some love for the less fortunate and helps one non-profit make light work of an otherwise huge truck load.

Thank you, Jane Shutt and Pineville Neighbors Place, for blessing our neighbors and the LHCC families with a fun community service event, and more importantly a show of good neighborliness. Till next year …

Video credit to Mr. Morry Alter, who does great productions for non-profits like LHCC and PNP

Sep 222019
 

Are you crazy busy? More to do than hours in a day to get it all done? Might we take a time out? Read on for a simple challenge this week …

A recent LHCC summer blog post called out neighboring as an art. We shared this concept with our LHCC families this past summer and the results are in. Summer camper families grew closer. Volunteers got to build deeper relationships with families and children. Parents invited other parents to our program and we got to enjoy an end of summer celebration together. It was awesome.

When serving our neighbors, are we trying to look good or do good? Inviting others to our program or opening our homes to others is a great way to show hospitality. Weary people may join us to share a meal and conversation and hopefully leave feeling refueled and refreshed. It can be stressful and awkward for both hosts and guests. We get worked up, tidying up and fed up, focusing perhaps on appearance rather than good ol’ southern hospitality.

In Luke 10, Jesus pointed this out to Martha when her sister Mary was feasting more on the friendship than faffing about the food. Christian hospitality has more to do with good fellowship than good food. In the book Crazy Busy, the author points out that there is a fine line between care and cumber. Less ado would serve better. “Feed people, not your pride.”

How about a little challenge for the coming week:

  • Slow down your hurried life. Go out of your way to greet and chat to a neighbor.
  • Be present with our family ( aka put down the phone?), and
  • Make time for daily meditation and devotion. 15 to 20 minutes, tops. This might just be the one thing strong enough to pull you away from your busyness, so you can be intentional about becoming a good neighbor.

Peace to you, take it easy and have a Mary-like week

Brent M

 Posted by at 8:49 pm
Aug 112019
 
 Posted by at 2:09 pm
Jun 262019
 

I was invited to the Copa Gold cup soccer matches this past Sunday at Bank of America stadium. It was an amazing experience. Most of the fans were clearly Mexican supporters. I mean, I am thrilled they beat Martinique 3-2, and the win was the cherry on the top of a festive, fun and entertaining evening. Had they lost, I would have run to get away from a potential stampede.

It was not difficult to spot who was there for their home country. They are all kitted out in green or white Mexican soccer team shirts and garb, faces painted in the national colors of the flag, boom boxes, Mexican flags flying, horns blaring, and many with masks. There were sombreros galore. They arrived really early and stayed well into the night. I also got to witness the Mexican wave … a crowd inspired “stand-up at just the right time and wave arms” as the momentum circumvents the field, much to the delight of all concerned. Growing up in South Africa, Mexican waves had just started to make their appearances at day/night cricket matches, when the going was slow. It was far from slow Sunday, and the waves kept on coming…

What struck me was how much camaraderie existed between seemingly complete strangers. They were out to enjoy themselves… Respectful, friendly, law abiding, and not overly rowdy. Frankly entertaining for this Anglo spectator. Families and friends were just hanging out together, singing, chanting, young children in their fathers arms and others in tow mothers guided them through the carnival atmosphere outside the stadium … and certainly inside. I have not seen so many similar happy immigrants together in one place. They were delighted to be there … together, without seemingly a care in the world. I had to marvel at the contrast from Nascar, basketball or football spectators, on so many levels.

The local press is full of stories about the harsh treatment of children, the caravans of immigrants at the border, and the dramatic rise in the Hispanic population in our Queen City as the 2020 census nears. One has to admire these peoples tenacity and perseverance. Families are here for a reason, even though most would prefer to be back home. That’s a true statement. This deeply divided city, nonetheless, is a great place to live, and a paradise compared to the trouble they are fleeing in their homelands south of our border. You see, these are our city neighbors, escaping unspeakable violence and persecution. If my family lived like that, I too would pack up and leave for a better future. I believe I did in fact do that. Therefore, as long as they are here, we should welcome them and treat them with respect and dignity. They have something the rest of us don’t seemingly possess. We might benefit from taking a page from their playbooks. In our line of refugee and immigrant ministry work, at LHCC, we meet a lot of awesome immigrant children and their concerned parents. We love on them and try to help with everything we possibly can and tend to their needs. They are grateful people.

What follows is a short, sobering perspective on what we ought to see with our neighbors, regardless of whether they are from Mexico or Timbuktu.

Let your love be stronger than your hate or anger. Learn the wisdom of compromise, for it is better to bend a little than to break. Believe the best rather than the worst. People have a way of living up or down to your opinion of them. Remember that true friendship is the basis of lasting relationship. (Author unknown)

These are people, not problems. They are our neighbors. Who wouldn’t want to live in peace and raise their children as best they can, in a safer environment? Let’s pray they are successful in school and in life, for a better future for everyone.

Until next time, I am

Brent Morris

Learning Help Centers of Charlotte

June 25, 2019

 Posted by at 9:02 am
May 052019
 

Back in March, I challenged myself, and others to be a better neighbor. After Movement Day in March, I was inspired to practice what I preach and literally love on the neighbors on my street and in my neighborhood. I undertook to share my experiences here after these first 30 days. In addition, we at LHCC challenged our volunteers, and the parents and children we serve to do the same. Love their neighbor. Yes, literally.

What I put into practice was to be more intentional than I had been before. I made excuses to be in the front of our home, not hidden away in the back yard. I was intentional to slow down and catch up with my immediate neighbors and the people in my sub-division. My “hi’s” were extended to “how are you” and “it’s good to see you” kind of sentiment. What happened was amazing. I actually felt good about not been so hurried and I took the time to show kindness and caring. I shared this with various members of my church group and they too were encouraged to persevere with strangers and acquaintances and convert them to friends.

In the past 30 days, LHCC has hosted three community events. We saw families inviting their friends. Even an opportunity presented itself for those served to serve two of our volunteers. What I believe I have seen is that it feels good to slow down and engage people in our midst or sphere of influence. For the next 30 days, I will continue to encourage others to love their neighbors and be a blessing to their communities.

Until the next time, I am Brent Morris, Executive Director of Learning Help Centers of Charlotte, proudly serving alongside our staff and volunteers on the mission field that God has called me to.

 Posted by at 10:38 pm