Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Souls of Black Folk

The Negro . . . [is] born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,—a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.

W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk

This is the first book I finished on my study leave.  

I have meant to read it for some time, and it did not disappoint.  

I learned that this formidable black intellectual saw that the world looked on his people “in amused contempt or pity.”  He could have Tweeted many of his pithy observations and critiques at #blacksoulsmatter.

I learned that this sociologist understood the complicated “twoness” of the black people, born with a veil that was the color line, which was both a curse and a special giftedness, yielding a double-consciousness that is both wise and maddening.  Such observations have amazing staying power, as I have heard black friends speak of this same “twoness” and the challenge of being true to their blackness even as they make progress in assimilating.  I do feel that they see the world in a way I never will--that is a statement of fact, and not a value judgment.

I learned a lot about African American education in the era of Reconstruction.  I was struck by the parallels to our current situation, where huge deficits were addressed with big investments.  The Achievement Gap goes way back.  Note to self: If anyone wanted to learn from history what works and what doesn’t in addressing such dire challenges, we might learn something from the Reconstruction experiments.  

I also found DuBois on education in general inspiring and wise.  His defense of a liberal education was not popular in his day, when so many were enthralled by the more limited but practical vision of Booker T. Washington.  But as I read DuBois I found myself re-committed to an education of the soul, the kind of formation that a classical education brings.  (At the same time, I did find in DuBois hints of the elitism which has sometimes attended the best of classical educational visions--not unlike Jefferson’s and some of the Ivy elites of the 20th century.  I am always torn by this argument.  DuBois wanted to find his 1/10 of the African American population that could be truly educated and bring the rest up.  Somewhere between that and “a liberal education for all” is probably the best goal.  In a democracy, surely we need more that 10% with the kind of education DuBois had and wanted to offer to others?)

Finally, I’ve read the sequel to this book, the story of DuBois’ life.  It makes me sad to see how hard he worked and agitated and how disillusioned he became by the end of his life, dying in Ghana having renounced his American citizenship.  This is racial progress one step forward and three steps back.  Sobering.  

Monday, February 8, 2016

What They Said About Trinity School

This is a report and reflection on the 2015 Constituent Survey for Trinity School.

The survey, designed and administered by the Southern Association of Independent Schools, was given to five constituent groups at Trinity between November 10 and 20, 2015: Parents, students, faculty, trustees, and alumni.  This is the second year we have given this survey, and we will be studying trends in our results as we develop the school’s next strategic plan.  448 people completed the survey, 242 of these parents, with an overall response rate of 43.2%, down from 522 total responses (321 parents), at a rate of 57.4% for the previous year.  We are not sure why the response rate is down this year, though we are well aware of survey fatigue in schools--already this year we have given a technology survey and a homework survey to parents and students.
Let me start with the best news from the survey, the things we can all celebrate heartily together:
  • Our faculty.  Trinity’s faculty receive the highest ratings across all constituencies--and this is a rare phenomenon in such surveys, where student ratings often differ widely from parent ratings.  Trinity’s faculty are commended for their care and concern for students, for their subject area expertise, and for their inspirational and motivating teaching.  Alumni reports agree with current students and parents on this assessment of Trinity.  
  • Safety.  The Trinity community, across the board, values physical, emotional, and spiritual safety as much as anything at the school; and all constituents rated these three in the top nine (out of 34 possible measures) in performance.  In other words, the school thinks that safety is important and that the school is doing a good job of making Trinity a safe place for students to learn.
  • Skills.  The formation and training of students to exercise curiosity, to act ethically, to demonstrate resilience, to practice teamwork, and to nurture creativity were again at the top of the list in both importance and performance.  
Among our parents, there is a strong congruence--really quite amazing--between those things that parents rate high in importance and in performance: ethical training, faculty care and concern, physical safety, emotional safety, inspirational and motivating faculty, character education, subject area expertise among faculty, and spiritual safety.  This means that Trinity is performing well (above 4.0 on a 5-point scale) the things that parents want most in a school.  In addition to these top nine, parents rate the school high for instilling in students the skills of curiosity and creativity.  
Not surprisingly, given our concerted efforts in the launch of our Digital Learning Initiative, parents and students rate the school’s performance in the area of technology very strong.  In fact, this is one area where our performance out-paces the parents’ rating in importance, and it is the area where we saw the greatest jump in performance.

When we look at the student responses, we see that six of the nine top priorities of parents are shared by students’ highest ratings.  Like their parents, students indicate strong appreciation for our faculty and for the safety of the school.  They also rate the school very high in academic rigor and in its preparation for college.  Students would like to see the school do a better job of training them in time management and in offering a greater variety of courses.

Alumni responses were low this year; those that did reply were mostly recent grads (most still in college, a few out by now).  It is gratifying to see these Trinity graduates affirm the value of our strong faculty, the safety of the school’s learning environment, the ethical training they received, and the academic rigor of Trinity’s programs.  Other learnings from this group: they think that Trinity did a particularly good job with athletics and with opportunities for participation in athletics, the arts, and co-curriculars.  Alumni also value highly skills like curiosity, resilience, creativity, and time management; and while Trinity does a good job at these, we note that our alumni think we could do better.  

The data across the two years is remarkably consistent.  From the two charts below, you can see that the order of importance for the nine major categories remains the same when measured for importance across the two years.

When we compare the two years on performance by major category, we see a similar pattern, with two exceptions (athletics and curriculum and programming switch places this year; and technology spikes).

As the board and leadership of the school analyzes these surveys, we are trying to observe larger patterns, longitudinal trends, and strategic questions.  For instance, I am particularly interested in the following:

  • Finding the things we do well, which all constituents value, which are missionally vital to the school.  Celebrate these, market these, make sure we continue to invest in these.  Faculty and safety are surely at the top of this list, and the school’s strategic initiatives going forward must reflect that we support these strongly.
  • Finding the things that all constituents value, which are missionally vital to the school, but where we could see improvement.  The school’s accreditation improvement plan and strategic initiatives should reflect new ideas and investment for moving the needle on these.  This needs more careful study, but my initial read is that concerted effort to improve our training in certain key skills like time management and resilience would be smart and wise.  
  • Finally, finding the things that are missionally vital to the school, where both our performance and our importance ratings are lower.  I would put diversity in this category: Most constituents rate this low in importance and low on performance.  But my own assessment, and that of the board, is that diversity is vitally important to the mission and health of the school and that we undervalue it at our peril.  Our work in areas like this is doubly hard: We must not only improve our performance, but also change the way our constituents assess the importance of this. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

A Brief History of Kindergarten (at Trinity School and Beyond)

When I was five (the year President Kennedy was shot) there was no public kindergarten in the Knoxville schools.  I learned how to wait my turn and play well in the sandbox under the benevolent guidance of Mrs. Paige at the Second Presbyterian Kindergarten.  Today, it would be hard to find a public or independent school that did not offer kindergarten.  In this way, kindergarten has surely become the new “first” grade.  Trinity began in 1995 with a kindergarten, but serious space limitations at our rented location forced us to choose to promote our fourth graders to fifth and drop the kindergarten in our second year.  And it took a bit of blood, sweat, and tears at the board before, a few years later, we reinstated it.  Let’s just say that it wasn’t a given in the beginning that kindergarten was necessary.  A lot has changed in twenty-one years.  Now that grade is etched into the mission of the school: Transitional kindergarten through grade 12.  TK and K are the most popular entry points into the Trinity community.

The other national kindergarten change that we have witnessed over the last twenty years is the increased emphasis on academic skills (narrowly defined) and the diminution of play, conversation, and exploration.  A recent study by three scholars at the University of Virginia (“Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?”) compares kindergartens from 1998 through 2010.  They document more emphasis on advanced literacy and math content, more teacher-directed instruction and assessment, and significantly less time spent on art, music, science, and child-selected activities.  

Trinity has embraced the idea of kindergarten (even of a transitional kindergarten for our younger fives) as a critical part of our mission.  But we have always lived in tension with the trend which the UVA study documents.  Where the national trajectory has been toward acceleration of narrow academic skills, we have always favored a richly textured atmosphere where young boys and girls interact with ideas and work on mastering habits that will serve them well for years to come.  The gold standard for kindergarten is not learning to read, but learning to listen and speak, to ask and answer questions, to play with ideas, and to establish habits of mind and heart that are what Charlotte Mason called “the rails” of learning for the rest of one’s life.  

A recent article in The Atlantic by Erika Christakis, “The New Preschool Is Crushing Kids,” is a sane evaluation of this national trend, which now is extending downward into pre-school.  Christakis, a preschool teacher herself, cites an important study by three scholars at Vanderbilt’s Peabody Research Institute showing that immediate gains in school readiness through these kinds of amped-up preschool programs do not yield lasting results.  In fact, the data show that students who go through these kinds of programs are more likely to lose ground by second grade and lose their enthusiasm for school.  An accessible summary of this study was published in the November issue of New York magazine.  

The driving motive for putting preschools on steroids is understandable: the notorious achievement gap in American education.  That gap, which correlates strongly with lower socioeconomic status makes early intervention a national imperative.  The now famous study of Hart and Risely in 2003 estimated that three-year olds from high income families have heard 30 million more words than their peers from families living below the poverty line.  

The problem is that what these lower SES children need is just what every child needs: a rich language experience, a teacher who is equipped and motivated to lead her to explore the complexity of the world, and lots of time to learn through play and what Hart and Risley call “language dancing.”  This kind of preschool experience is expensive and hard to scale quickly to reach tens of thousands of at-risk kids in every state across the nation.

There are no easy answers, but we will have to answer for a generation of young Americans whose innate curiosity and intellectual capacities have been desiccated by insipid drills and scripted lessons about “key concepts” in the curriculum.  I suggest that there are three ways that Trinity School can help answer this challenge.

First, and most importantly, we can try to get this as right as we can, by creating rich learning experiences for our youngest students.  This is the kind of education that Charlotte Mason was touting a century ago.  Our long fascination with Mason is to be explained by her axiomatic claim, forged out of her Christian faith, that the child “is a person with all the possibility and powers included in personality.”  To such persons, ideas are food for the mind, and the teacher’s axiom is “What a child learns matters less than how he learns it.”  If you visit a Trinity transitional kindergarten or kindergarten class, you will find teachers interacting with students, asking open questions, helping them think out loud, guiding them into new learning experiences with books and things, and carrying on real conversations with these five-year old persons.  In her Atlantic piece, Christakis tells the story of a group of five year olds debating whether snakes have bones.  This kind of real intellectual activity is the stuff of a great kindergarten, and I am deeply grateful that Trinity teachers bring their best game to school every day.

Secondly, we should be training a generation of students who know and understand this national challenge and who are prepared to tackle it with all the God-given resources they can muster.  This includes the ability to analyze a social problem with clarity and objectivity (the fruit of a good classical education), the tenacity and courage to tackle intractable problems with creative solutions (the fruit of entrepreneurial training), and the commitment to work for the common good (the fruit of our Christian, Non Nobis, culture).  Imagine with me that a Trinity student--or better, a group of Trinity students--devised an innovative and effective plan for creating rich learning atmospheres for students across the state of North Carolina.  Could the next Teach for America come from the inspired mind of a Trinity graduate?

Finally, we should be open to God’s leading for Trinity as an institution.  What is our larger mission in the Durham community, where these challenges reside close to home?  How can the good that is Trinity be a good for all children in Durham?  Many Trinity alumni parents will be retiring in the next decade, with time and talent and ambition to work for the greater good--what good could we do together?  How might the need of an educationally impoverished generation of children be connected to the resources of an army of educated boomers with time on their hands and money in their 401Ks?  And what about teacher residency programs, like the Memphis Teacher Residency (MTR), where Trinity alum Philip James is teaching?  After MTR Director David Montague spoke at Trinity last year, several Trinity teachers came up to me and said, so to speak, “I want me some of that.”  So do I.  There is something deep in our hearts that yearns to do justice, and we know that our educational system is unjust for so many.  If there were a way for Trinity to rectify that wrong in some significant way, no matter how small, we would all break out in song, like the Psalmist, who finds the justice of God a reason to throw a party:

Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy;
let them sing before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth.
Psalm 98:8,9

It’s a blessing to be in kindergarten at Trinity School.  Like Abraham,  we are blessed to be a blessing to others.  Non Nobis.

Friday, January 22, 2016

How to Make a Snow Day

Students have been talking about snow all week.  Long before I took it seriously, they were paying close attention.

I heard Mr. Gould tell the Upper Schoolers to take their books home and be ready for emailed assignments in case of protracted snow cancellations.  (Just one more ""benefit" of the DLI!)

Then on Thursday afternoon, Mrs. Simpson told me that her assistant, Mrs. Stauber, had shared with their first grade class the Gigantic Secret of How to Make a Snow Day.  Apparently it worked back in the day when Mrs. Stauber was going to school (somewhere like NJ, where it really snows).

Probably I should keep this quiet.  If too many Trinity students find out about this, we could be in for a rough February and might have to go to school until the middle of June. . . .  Hmm.

So I will give you 2/3 of the secret and you have to figure the rest out for yourself:

  1. Throw ice out the front door.  (I don't think the back door will work, but you can try it.)
  2. Put spoons under your bed.  (I don't know how many spoons you need.)
  3. [This one you will have to guess, but MaeBea Sherwood, of Mrs. Simpson's and Mrs. Stauber's class, is giving you a clue below.]

Happy Snow Day.  Stay warm and dry and I hope we don't lose power.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A Rich and Unhurried Winterim

Today was the final day of Winterim, that Trinity tradition of rich and unhurried learning in the Upper School.

I had the privilege of sampling several Winterim classes this winter.

Sandie Shoe and Dawn Ward invited me to their Ireland class, to share about the Book of Kells and my visit to Ireland last summer.  We had a great time looking at some of the rich and intricate illustrations.  (I also enjoyed some Irish bread baked by Dr. Sundseth's baking class.)

On Monday, I spent a half hour hearing from the students that Adrienne Davis and Paula Hardy had led in learning about reconciliation.  I was impressed with the depth of their engagement with issues of privilege, racism, marginalization, and inclusion.

This morning I had breakfast with the class that met at Pregnancy Support Services.  Thirteen young women shared with me what they had learned about the circle of responsibility, the options that pregnant women have, and the realities of dealing with unwanted pregnancies.  They had some really good questions for me.  It was great to see former Trinity staffer Ruby Bea Peters, now Director of PSS.

Tuesday afternoon it all ended with a showcase of demonstrations, videos, and exemplars.  The clip above is the Senior Acapella Group and their rendition of "Sentimental Journey."

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Hey! Unto You a Child Is Born!

Best Xmas Pageant Ever.jpgLast Friday, Bev Smith-Fendt led our weekly faculty devotion by reading aloud from the last chapter of Barbara Robinson’s The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  It took me back to the days when my own children were young and Trinity was too.  When it was first published in 1971, I was just old enough not to care about books like this one; by the mid-1990s, I was eager for such stories.

It’s a story of six ragamuffin Herdman children: Imogene, Claude, Ralph, Leroy, Ollie, and Gladys. Infamous in town for their derelict behavior (smoking, drinking jug wine, and shoplifting), this motley family somehow land the main parts in the annual Christmas pageant. A funny, ironic, and heartwarming story, it somehow captures upside-downness of the Gospel in refreshing way. I think of Mary's joyful and subversive song in Luke 1: "He has brought down the rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty." Sometimes we see the good news most clearly through the eyes of the lowly.

Herdmanns.jpgI was listening intently to Bev's devotion, not only because I wanted to remember the Herdmans, but because I was wondering how this tale of the reversal of privilege would strike me twenty years later, when the Occupy and Black Lives Matter movements made the question of who gets to play Mary seem--well, different. Robinson's story has been turned into a popular theatrical performance, and I did a quick Google Image Search: I probably scrolled through a hundred pictures of the Herdman clan, and they were all white. White trash, scary white, rough white, angry white, redneck white--but all white.

Today, the voice of the self-righteous Alice (who much to her indignation, lost her privileged part as Mary in the town pageant) might be channeled through, say, someone screaming at a Donald Trump rally. And the Herdmans might not look so white or even so American. Imogene the Syrian might be playing Mary, and the three wise men might be refugees from Burma, the shepherds undocumented immigrants from El Salvador. I think I'd like to see that pageant.

You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. Betty Simpson, one of our first grade teachers, sent this email out after Bev's devotion.

Thank you so much for your devotion this morning. It meant a great deal to me, not only because I love that story, but also because I'm helping with our church's Nativity play this coming Sunday. Rehearsals have been hilarious and sweet. It brings tears to my eyes to watch them get so excited about the play. Several are American-born, but we also have children whose parents left Burma because of religious persecution, and the children of visiting Chinese scholars who are becoming Christians and being baptized secretly before they go back to China. Thank you so much for reminding us that the Herdmans of the world often "get" the gospel message better than we do! Your devotion was a blessing.


Into this picture of the Nativity, I can imagine Gladys Herdman, "with her skinny legs and her dirty sneakers sticking out from under her robe, yelling at all of us, everywhere: 'Hey! Unto you a child is born!'"

To me, Mary will always look like Imogene Herdman, and Joseph will always look like a refugee. And these unlikely actors in the divine drama unveil the deep meaning of the Incarnation in ways we often miss, Christmas after comfortable Christmas. This Christmas, I am glad to be unsettled by the prospect of people coming into our country and our city from parts unknown, who have experienced deprivation and hardship I cannot imagine.

My daughter resettles refugees through World Relief Durham. Some weeks ago, at the start of the Syrian controversy, she posted this picture on her Facebook page, a Karen refugee who had just arrived at RDU with her sick father and these two bags.

RDU Refugee.jpg

"I'm 23 months into refugee resettlement and every arrival still nearly brings me to tears," wrote my daughter. "It is pure joy to welcome to our country and this city those who have no home. We will never understand the experience of someone who has been persecuted to the point that they give up all they know, including those they love the most, to start a new life in a place where they do not know the language, like the food, know a soul--but at least can live safely. They don't arrive exuberant, as if they've won the lottery or finagled their way in. They arrive weary and haunted--like someone crawling out of a burning house, all they know and love is still inside. They arrive hungry and scared and sad--with hard, hard months ahead of them."

Hey! Unto them a child is born!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Service Learning Tour

I’d like to highlight Trinity’s service learning program for two reasons.

First, service is rightly one of the hallmarks of a Christian school.  If we are not modeling and teaching students to serve, how can we call ourselves by the name of the one who came “not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45)?  As we approach the Christmas season when we celebrate the Incarnation of God’s own Son for us and our salvation, let’s remember that Jesus “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:6,7).

Second, service learning is one of the hidden gems of Trinity.  Parents don’t get to see so much of what goes on as students learn through serving.  In one way, I am glad of that: Jesus warned us not to show off our deeds of mercy and acts of righteousness (Matthew 6:1).  At the same time, part of my job as Headmaster is to show our families a vision of what Trinity is and can be.  Think of this Parent News piece as a short tour of Trinity’s service learning program.  There are two stops on our tour.

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The first stop is Lakewood Elementary School in Durham.  It’s 8:00 am and as we enter the cafeteria we see nine Trinity seniors spread out at lunch tables, paired with second through fifth graders.  Lakewood, part of the Durham Public School system, serves almost 500 students, over 90% of whom qualify for free or reduced lunch.  Like so many school serving that socio-economic group, Lakewood is a “low performing school.”  This is only part of the picture though.  Lindsey Kennedy, the president of the Lakewood PTA, has written an op-ed piece celebrating this school and her own children’s experience there.  Reality is almost always more complicated than we expect, and this is one of the invaluable lessons our own students are learning as they immerse themselves into the lives of some of the students at Lakewood.

And what are these Trinity students doing?  We see Riley going over a chart of vowel sounds with one student who is new.  They are practicing the sounds and she is teaching him hand motions and mnemonics to go with each sound.  Across the table, we see Libby working with her student on a magnet board, forming words in a consonant-vowel-double consonant pattern.  Service Learning Director and class instructor, Lori Easterlin, explains that these nonsense words provide a way of assessing whether the students (who spend so much time in class drilling for EOG tests) are really mastering the phonics and not just memorizing words.  Nearby Isabel is guiding her student as he reads sentences.  Barnes is doing the same exercise with his student, and we hear him quizzing for comprehension.  When it is clear that this young boy hasn’t understood what he read, they go back and try again.  Davis is playing hangman with his tutee as they practice what they’ve learned.  

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All nine of these Trinity students are putting into practice what they’ve learned from the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading, a time-tested and scientifically researched approach that helps students master the code of the English language.  They start in class at Trinity with Mrs. Easterlin, who has been trained in this method through the local literacy non-profit, The Augustine Project.  After weeks of training, they go out to Lakewood, where they work over the course of the entire year with an elementary student.  Trinity students have to prepare lesson plans, which they review weekly with Mrs. Easterlin.  The class meets weekly together at Trinity to collaborate, troubleshoot, and to reflect on what they are learning.  For instance, one of our Trinity students has been assigned to a homeless boy and is learning a lot more than phonetic pedagogy in this class.


Vanderbilt University’s Janet S. Eyler (winner of the 2003 Thomas Ehrlich Faculty Award for Service Learning) and Dwight E. Giles, Jr. have defined service learning as “a form of experiential education where learning occurs through a cycle of action and reflection as students. . . seek to achieve real objectives for the community and deeper understanding and skills for themselves.”  Trinity’s Augustine Tutoring Class is a serious endeavor to put this into practice.  The good these students are doing in the community is measurable and meaningful.  The impact on their own lives is striking as well.  I am thinking of one Trinity student who is now training to be a teacher, who discovered passions and gifts through this class several years ago.  At the end of this piece I have included one of our student’s college essay, which he wrote about his experience in this class.



Our second stop on the tour is along the right side of the Trinity driveway, where the hundred-acre wood forms a V and the creek runs under the driveway.  You’ve probably seen the pile of wood and topsoil that has been there for a week or two.

All of these materials are part of a project that Service Learning Director Lori Easterlin and Lower School Director Robin Lemke have been planning since the summer.  Early in the process, they brought students from the Durham Nativity School to Trinity to share with our students what they learned when they built their own flower beds.  Students helped design flower beds and make materials lists for this project.

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Now that the weather has cleared, our fourth graders have begun transforming those raw materials into a our own flower beds.  

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Fifth graders are lining the beds and filling them with topsoil.  



Once the construction is completed, our younger Lower Schoolers will plant bulbs and water them (well, they may not need to do much watering, if this rain keeps up).  Then, like the farmer in Mark 4, they will go to bed and get up (for several months) and then find that they have bloomed into beautiful flowers.
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Finally, our older Lower School students will take the daffodils to a nearby senior center or assisted living, to give to residents as they initiate conversations.  

What’s fascinating is to see in our Lower School students the same “cycle of action and reflection as students . . . seek to achieve real objectives for the community and deeper understanding and skills for themselves” as we saw in our Upper School Augustine tutors.  

(Below is Davis Culton’s essay on his Augustine tutoring experience.)
    If given the opportunity to give a TEDtalk, I would talk about The Augustine Project, a local program in Chapel Hill focused on teaching children how to read. Literacy in America is a significant problem that receives little attention in the media. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress scores for 2015,  65% of fourth graders in North Carolina read below grade level. The U.S. Department of Education reports that 85% of juvenile offenders are not proficient readers. There is a direct link between incarceration rates and literacy, in fact some states use the reading scores of current second graders to project budgets for future prison construction. Despite these disturbing statistics, school administrators, instead of addressing problem, allow the children to advance instead of holding them back. Under resourced schools resort to social promotions, thus contributing to childhood illiteracy. Obviously this problem deserves attention and for that reason I would use this opportunity to give a TEDtalk about the Augustine Project and how everybody can contribute.
    This is an important topic, because anybody can become an Augustine tutor. I am currently taking a class in which we are trained to be tutors and then assigned to a struggling young student at Lakewood Elementary in Durham. Being able to raise awareness to recruit more tutors would be an amazing opportunity I would be eager to take advantage of. Not only does tutoring a child help the community, but it can be an invaluable experience for the tutor. My student, Taisean, is an extremely motivated fifth grader, focused on improving himself. Unfortunately, he is homeless and often arrives late to tutoring sessions because of unreliable public transportation. Despite his tough situation, he has an optimistic attitude, and a love of learning that inspires me as a student, and as an individual. I know my fellow classmates would agree that both the student and the tutor learn with the Augustine Project.
    The Augustine Project is extraordinary not only in their mission, but in their method of teaching. Instead of teaching kids to recognize specific words, a method used within the public school system, the Augustine Project teaches kids how to encode and decode words. Encoding words is the process of taking letters and sounds and forming words while decoding is breaking down words into sounds and letters. By learning how to encode and decode, children are equipped to add words to their vocabulary in the future instead of having to memorize every word they encounter.
    The Augustine Project is an important program addressing urgent issues in our society today. I personally have loved my time spent tutoring, and would love to give a TEDtalk to help the project recruit other tutors, and raise awareness about the problem of illiteracy in children.