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One Roof, Two Schools

By Kwok-Sze Wong, Ed.D., Executive Director, American School Counselor Association (ASCA)

My daughter, Tori, attended two high schools. Like most of her friends, she was very active. She was in the National Honor Society, the Chinese Honor Society, the marching band, the orchestra, drama productions. She was the class secretary and took Advanced Placement and honors classes. Tori went to a school of engaged, enthusiastic and energetic students.

There is another school, however, existing under the same roof. In this school, students don’t participate in any extracurricular activities. They don’t take a rigorous course load. Students in this school have attendance and disciplinary problems. This is a school of unmotivated, unchallenged and disenfranchised students.

Many students in the second school come from low-income, ethnically and culturally diverse populations. They don’t see themselves in the same world, much less the same school, as their more involved counterparts. The different socioeconomic populations may be physically desegregated, but they were never integrated into one cohesive student body.

Unfortunately, many schools across the country experience this same “one-roof, two-schools” issue. Every school has students who are engaged and those who are apathetic. Often, student involvement and performance is based on individual factors such as abilities, interests and family constellations. Regardless of whether the border between these two schools is drawn along racioethnic, socioeconomic or some other line, when the border becomes a barrier to learning, schools and school counselors need to take action. If they don’t, entire populations can become alienated.

To prevent the borders from becoming barriers, school counselors have long operated in the three domains of academic achievement, personal/social development and career planning. The most direct link between the academic and personal/social domains is literacy. School counselors and all educators should take a broad view of literacy, looking beyond the skills of reading, writing and even interpreting words and communication. Literacy connects individuals to their world and to the other worlds around them. When humans cannot communicate with others through reading, writing, speech and other methods, they feel isolated and separated. They often respond by associating only with others like themselves who share their language, customs, values and interests. As a result, students who feel out of the mainstream may never learn how to connect with the larger world around them. Therefore, schools should teach students not just how to read a book, but how to read the world.

By helping all students navigate and understand the interrelations among their educational, social and family worlds, school counselors can help them connect their worlds so education and literacy are interwoven into their lives – rather than just being a piece of their lives.

My daughter wasn’t aware that another school existed in her building. Perhaps someday, it won’t, and all schools can truly be integrated into one culturally diverse school under one roof.

Image by Nieuw [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

" This is a school of

" This is a school of unmotivated, unchallenged and disenfranchised students." This is probably wrong! I would call this school - a school of unprofessional, incompetent and uncreative teachers!

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