By Egberto Willies
Clayvon Harris wrote an insightful first-hand account of the conditions and real-life challenges teachers and students face daily in urban schools.
Clayvon Harris left a career of writing for television behind and returned to Philadelphia, where she planned to pursue a career in teaching. Easing in as a substitute, she was confronted by disruption and violence that undermined both the learning environment and her aspirations. Still hoping to contribute, she wrote an insightful first-hand account of the conditions and real-life challenges teachers and students face daily: SUB—Inside the Notorious School District of Philadelphia.
During her 90-plus assignments across 67 different schools, Harris came face-to-face with overwhelmed principals, burned-out teachers, and chaotic classrooms. “Burdened” is how she describes the district administration. “It’s underfunded, under-resourced, and overpopulated,” says Harris. “They’re fighting with one arm tied behind their back and no shoes.”
Harris had hoped to make a difference. Instead, she found many students who had a profound lack of respect for teachers and education in general or wanted to learn but were being held back by their classmates. To maintain anonymity, SUB is divided into three sections, with schools identified only by number (P.S. #1, etc.). Part 1 chronicles 17 schools (elementary, middle, and high schools) from her first tour through the District in 2001-02. Part 2 provides an update on these schools and a running tally of “below basic proficiency” percentages for standardized test scores. Part 3, which takes place 15 years later, offers additional classroom stories, solutions for improving educational outcomes, and an in-depth analysis of the link between education underfinancing and
Clayvon Harris covered the following in our interview and book.
Please watch the entire interview. It is very insightful.