SACRAMENTO, CA - Many of his students come to him lagging behind in geography. It's why William Jones pushes his students so hard at Sacramento's Luther Burbank High School.
"The knowledge itself is not as important to me as them caring enough and knowing how to get the knowledge," Jones said. "The question is: Can I motivate them enough to care enough to go get the answer?"
Something must be working because many of Jones' freshman students have improved 100 percent and he points out many of them are English Language Learners.
Students have little down time in class as Jones gives them various writing and research assignments and tells them they only have a few minutes to get them done.
"I have less than an hour to provide an environment where they can learn as much as possible," he explained. "They need every second and I need them to be on it from the time that bells rings."
Jones also allows students to get up from their seats for a little game during a discussion on South Africa. The students pick partners to talk to while soft music played in the background. When the music stops, everyone runs for a seat and the last one sitting down shares what he or she has learned with the entire class.
Sometimes, Jones asks them to respond to questions, such as, "Can we learn to hate less?"
Jones said, "You'll notice that many students have opinions that differ from their classmates. They felt comfortable enough to put forth their opinion and that's huge to me."
Jones teaches English and serves as the lead teacher for Burbank's Arts and Communications small learning academy.
He motivates sophomores to pass the high school exit exam and vows to cut his hair any way they choose if they do well. Students who score high on exit exam practice tests can attend The Achievers Banquet and enjoy food cooked by their teachers.
Jones also spends hours helping students with their senior projects.
"It's a matter of meeting them after school," he said. "Heck, if they need me on Saturday, I'll be there, too. They have my phone number and they can call me."
Jones said he gets a big kick out of seeing former students who come back to the school to talk to his current charges.
"I always tell them the secret to doing well in this world is to work hard and be nice. You work hard and you can get there," he said.
By Karen Massie, firstname.lastname@example.org