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One of the things I am most worried about in the rush to online learning and disposable teacher temps is the elimination of relationship building and mentoring, which in my experience, is key in having education move people out of poverty and promote upward mobility.

Teacher Temps

When you grow up poor, there are many skills other than strictly academic ones you have to learn to bring resources into your family and community, or if you choose, to move into the middle class. Teachers and coaches who go the extra mile for their students- especially those who remain in their jobs for a long time- play a critical role in imparting these skills

One of the best examples of comes from a great Brooklyn-based baseball organization called Youth Service League, which my son Eric played for and which produced many major league players. The head of the league, Mel Zitter, realized early on that the vast majority of his players came from working class Latino families who had little experience with the world their children would enter if they went to college or played professional baseball. So one of the things that Mel raised money to do was have his older teams stay in hotels and eat in sit down restaurants when they were travelling to other cities.

He also had them meet with major league players who had come out of Youth Service to talk about what off the field adjustments they had to make. That way, when his players went off to college or were drafted (Mel got junior college scholarships for almost all his players) they would be prepared to interact with people who came from much wealthier families, would not be intimidated, and could concentrate on what they needed to do in the classroom and on the field.

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If we are going to do something to unfreeze upward mobility in this country and have public schools help lift young people out of poverty, we need teachers and coaches who can do the kind of things Mel Zitter did for his players, Teacher temps and computer tenders can't do that.


Mark Naison
With A Brooklyn Accent