Working on this evening's story (Video link) about "The Boy Crisis" was a reminder of what's best and worst about my job. As a producer for NBC Nightly News, I get to meet the most amazing people. Unfortunately, we only have about two minutes to tell their stories.
This week Newsweek's Jonathan Alter and I visited the George Jackson Academy as part of our story on the challenges boys are facing in schools across the country. It's a truly inspirational place. Funded by private donations, George Jackson Academy is an independent school for boys from 4th through 8th grade whose families couldn't otherwise afford a private education. A lot of these kids are being raised by single mothers in neighborhoods filled with violence and drugs. They tell stories of being mocked at their old schools for getting good grades. Here they find generous teachers - mostly male - who show them you can be both smart and cool.
There were a lot of memorable moments in our day. As we left Mr. Ruiz's 7th grade Logic class - that's right a 7th grade logic class - veteran soundman Larry Edgeworth stopped to tell the students how lucky they were to be learning Logic in 7th grade, a subject Larry didn't encounter until college. In Ms. Billingsley's 5th grade class, boys were bouncing out of their seats to tell her the hallmarks of a good presentation. As one said "you have to make eye contact and think of your audience." I've encountered more than a few adults who never learned that lesson. Most inspiring of all though, was a shy little boy sitting outside the principal's office. He'd been sent there because he wasn't prepared for the day's class. The Head of School, David Arnold, wasn't lecturing him, instead they were laughing and joking. As Mr. Arnold told me later the boy had seen "terrible abuse" and "we like to take every opportunity to let him know how much we love him."
It's all part of what the school's founder Brother Brian Carty calls the difference between an instructor and a teacher. He told us he can hire anyone to instruct, but being a teacher requires a "movement to the heart". For more visit the George Jackson Academy and check out Newsweek's cover story "the Boy Crisis."