I work in what is presently a kindergarten through fifth grade elementary school with sixteen classrooms containing a total population of about four hundred students. About 90 to 95 percent of these students are African American. In recent years, my classes have consistently reflected this percentage. Of the remaining members, most are Hispanic/Latino along with one or two white or Asian students. The ages of most third graders in our school vary from those who have just turned eight to a few who are close to eleven. This variation is primarily a result of retention. The students come from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds and home situations. A number of them have a relative other than their mother or father as their primary care giver. Some are members of families with multiple problems. There are few who do not face difficulties in their lives. Most, though not all, parents or guardians are supportive of school. Most want to be and are helpful, but often are not sure of the best way to go about assisting. Often the struggles of everyday life interfere with their efforts.
Their academic ability and the level of their general knowledge vary considerably, but it is often below the norm for children of this age. Although many are performing below their potential, many display considerable creativity. Through its integrated approach, my unit presents activities that allow students to utilize the multiple intelligence they possess.
At this point in their lives, most students still enjoy school, but many are beginning to face considerable difficulties both academically and behaviorally. They are starting to understand that their school career will have some bearing on their lives beyond the present, though their actions often are influenced negatively by peer pressure, their lack of basic skills and general knowledge, difficulty in establishing long-term goals, and the lack of positive self-image, especially regarding their academic abilities. Nevertheless, at least on the surface, most still have high aspirations regarding their future. Hopefully, as they participate in this unit's activities, the positive role models that students encounter will help them to see and develop their own positive qualities.