A school is like a theater, and each classroom a stage. Well lit. Tables, desks, and chairs. Set decorations to match the subjects taught within. Mine, however, is an AVID classroom.
My walls are adorned with posters, college pennants, and enough blank space for my students—my troupe of actors—to populate with their aspirations and accomplishments.
The script I give them is the framework; it is up to them to write their own lines. The beginning of the school year is curtain-up. Act One begins with my practiced monologue:
“College is a plan, not a dream. Deciding who you are and who you are going to become starts now.”
In Toledo Public Schools’ AVID classrooms, we are big on acronyms, starting with our name: Advancement Via Individual Determination. One of my colleagues likes to say that AVID is really about the “I” — the individual. I am responsible. I am in charge. I am in control.
AVID is a by-invitation-only elective class. Similar to how honors classes recruit high-achieving students, we look for those students who are skating by with their C-averages. Those students who, as we tend to say, have so much potential that isn’t getting used. We find those “average students” and we say, “You can be better. You are better.” Whether it’s solving an algebra equation, preparing for a job interview or mowing the lawn—be better, every time.
Many of my students come to me with some version of the same statement: “I don’t know how to solve this problem.” But what they’re really saying is that they don’t know where to start. That’s what holds back most average students—they don’t know where to begin. AVID strategies—which focus on things like inquiry, collaboration, and organization—guide them toward a starting point. We’re saying to them, “Okay, this is where you begin,” and then we go from there.
Before I became an AVID teacher, I saw average students come and go, year after year, just trying to get by. They’d enter stage right in September, and exit stage left in May, no better for it. They were the ones who just wanted to survive until graduation, to get on with life, whatever that ended up looking like.
But with so many of our students living below the poverty threshold, being average would never be enough. I was constantly asking myself the question so many teachers ask: “How do I get through to them?” And just like my AVID students, to answer that problem, I needed a place to begin.
“I needed to find a starting point to help unprepared students become college and career ready. AVID was the answer.”
Now, inhabiting my walls are pictures of students who entered my classroom, stage right, as minor characters prepared to give forgettable performances, but instead exited stage left as lead actors, fully in charge of their own lives.
In those pictures, they are holding pennants of the colleges they attend. They perform on much larger stages now. But AVID is still their script, and in it they still write their own lines.
*This blog post is based on a true story / success narrative from Toledo Public Schools. All identities of submitted success stories are anonymous for privacy and story details have been added in order to provide a better understanding of the individual’s successes and struggles.