In an elementary school where over 90% of the students are African American and the majority of the remaining 10% are Hispanic/Latino, my third grade classroom of approximately twenty-five students reflects these percentages. My students' ages vary from those who have just turned eight to others who may turn ten before the year ends. They come from a variety of social-economic backgrounds and home situations. Their academic ability and the level of their general knowledge also vary considerably. Some are members of families with multiple problems. Few of their lives are without difficulties. Most, though not all, parents or guardians are supportive of school. Most want to be helpful but are not sure of the best way to go about it. Often the struggles of everyday life interfere with their efforts.
At this stage of their educational life, most students enjoy school but not just for the academics. They are just beginning to understand that their school career will have implications beyond the present and they are slowly developing a picture of the historical and personal events which have helped to shape their lives and possibly their future. Due to a variety of factors many of my pupils lack a strong feeling of self-esteem, are deficient in basic skills, and have little confidence, or even awareness of their abilities. Generally, they find it difficult to establish even short term goals. They may want to become a doctor, a lawyer, an artist, or more likely a famous singer or a star player in the National Basketball Association, but they have no idea what is required to achieve those positions. Perhaps of more importance is the fact that they often fail to recognize the positive support and role models already existing in their lives, especially within their own "family." They do not always realize that these individuals can become sources of strength, offering them stories, information, support, and pride which could assist them in formulating and achieving positive goals for now and the future. At the same time, I am well aware that negative role models also exist for some of them, but since I am incapable of judging each situation, I will assume that my unit will point them in a direction which will help them to find the needed support.