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Feedback 6/21 

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The UR and East High

While I enjoyed Mary Anna Towler's piece, "The UR's Bold Commitment to a City High School," it seems that much conversation about the UR-East partnership fails to capture the factors that, if continually provided, are most likely to lead to East students' advancement.

As one who works in Rochester City School District schools, including East, and who studies psychology and education, I have been most intrigued by East's commitment to building relationships and networks between the school and community, and the support of student interests through experiential learning opportunities. These initiatives have the promise to help motivate students by providing opportunities for self-determination and more social support in school and life beyond.

The day begins with "family group" at East, a time dedicated to creating a culture of caring by providing students a voice and a space to support each other. As the CITY article noted, this is critical due to the "growing isolation" of under-privileged youth. But it's especially important in the education sector, as students everywhere disproportionally suffer from mental health issues, likely as a result of a culture of competition and existing in a system without personal agency.

Further, East creates opportunity for student development through culinary arts, young teachers, and optics programs. Students elect to be in these classes based on their interests. Each course includes experiential components. Students run a restaurant, work directly with elementary kids, and fashion glasses for peers, all while building skills and social networks.

This last bit is more important than many realize. As highlighted by CITY, there is a "failure to invest enough in overcoming poverty's effects on school children," but I would stress that this is not strictly a financial failure. Robert Putnam's book "Our Kids" focuses on the impact of the social-capital gap between income brackets in the US. Simply put, poor kids benefit from knowing more people in the larger community. Partnerships with companies through collaborative learning opportunities build social capital alongside the skills and self-knowledge afforded by such programs.

I expect that the University of Rochester is aware of the potential impact of building on these small, but in some ways revolutionary, changes to the structure of schooling. The university is home to the authors of the widely supported and empirically established Self-Determination Theory of Motivation, which argues for the needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

While mandates of the state and public notions of schooling convolute the work of applying what we know about human development and motivation to educational spaces, the support of the UR and the larger community is imperative to building better education systems for students at East and throughout the region.

JOSHUA P. MURPHY

Donald Trump and responsible parenting

The writer of the letter "Paris and the Politicization of climate change" tells us, "Your kids will suffer from volatile weather patterns," and lists all the other consequences, which remind me of a concern I've had for some time.

Melania, President Donald Trump's wife, and daughter Ivanka are both highly praised for care of their children – his son and three grandchildren, respectively. The president seems to heed what these women say, so why don't they speak up loudly about the effects of climate change upon their kids and advise him to act accordingly?

BYRNA WEIR


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