Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Bring Yolande Beckles to America!

UK: This is how you get a community and its children into shape.

Yolande Beckles is a tough-talking woman on a mission - to help inner city teenagers achieve their dreams. Teenagers must be pushed to aim higher, says Yolande Beckles In a new BBC series, Don't Mess With Miss Beckles, she tackles nine pupils failing to fulfil their potential. Here, she tells the BBC News Website why schools must play their part in raising the aspirations of pupils. "I think the impact of teaching can be huge," she said. "You have a key to a door when you are a teacher and you should wake up every day and remember that." Drawing on her experiences working in human resources, she set up a motivational firm Global Graduates, which currently has 3,000 pupils going through a 10-year programme which often starts when they are 13. Those on it have to go through a rigorous selection procedure - as do their families. Once on the programme they are faced with the tough-talking Miss Beckles, or Yo as she prefers to be known, who works with the pupil, their family and school. She tells them when to get up, what to eat, how much they need to work - and she tells them what will happen if they don't. Her results are impressive. Many students go on to do degrees at Oxford and Cambridge; one has just been accepted at Harvard.
Bringing structure, setting goals and a no excuse attitude will get results most of the time. Beckles doesn't sugarcoat anything.
"There are many children like that," she said. "And we have to ask why, in education, do we switch off so many children?" She added: "I had to switch them back on to learning. But that was not just my responsibility. It's about the child, it's about parents, it's about the school. This is about doing a 360-degree turn and some people, when they are faced with how I work go 'whoaah'." One of her biggest challenges, she says, is to encourage self-belief. "There are many people who were told at school that they weren't any good," she said. "People should not be told that. They should be told that they can achieve." But isn't she just piling on too much pressure? "Life is pressured," she said. "Life is not an easy ticket. When you leave school with no qualifications and you are stuck being a trolley boy in a supermarket you might start to think 'What was I doing all that time at school?' And you might start to think why didn't anyone tell me this was what I'd be doing if I didn't do any work." It is this honesty which she says she often finds lacking from both teachers and parents. "I tell children off," she said. "And I found that many people just aren't being honest with the children. I think honesty is about truth and if you say 'Look this is what will happen if you don't do this work' then there is nothing wrong with that."
The sad part is she may be too radical for the education system in America at this point.

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