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I’m amazed at how many people commented on this Q&A with Wendell Bass. One even called him a mensch, which is Yiddish for a generally upstanding guy. Anyone who knows Bass knows that he tends to talk at length — he’s got great things to say and plenty of them — which meant a lot of extra bits got cut from this interview. Here are some extras:
On teacher Cherilyn Avedian telling kids they’re brilliant:
See, that’s what we don’t tell children anymore. We don’t tell them that they’re brilliant. That you’re gifted with talent. “My job is to help you take advantage of the giftedness that you have—” When you say that to a person, they’re going to look at you a bit differently. If you come in and all you do is beat them down, say, “This is hard stuff we’re going to do and you’re probably going to struggle doing it” — then guess what? They’ll rise to that expectation.
On referring kids to the principal’s office:
Every time that you refer a child out, who’s in control of your classroom changes. And the kids know it. So they will purposely act out just to get out of class, because they know, “Ain’t nothing gonna happen to me here.”
On another great teacher from “the old Lincoln” High before it was rebuilt:
A guy named Gary Flisher – Gary’s a white guy. And when I was doing attendance you’d see these kids that would miss all day and then they’d come the last period of the day. And I was like, “Why’d you bother to come to school?” And they’d say, “Well, you don’t miss Mr. Flisher’s class.” So everybody else you can miss, but you don’t miss his class? Or they’d come at the beginning of the day and miss the rest of the day. And he said, “No, man, no, you don’t miss Flish.”
And more on the old Lincoln:
We built a culture that was about love and expectations and so when you hear people talk about the old Lincoln, one thing that will always come across — it was such a family feeling. Kids knew that they would be taken care of. We had children that could go to three or four adults on campus at any time with a problem and they would be taken care of. So many principals and I would even say teachers, where you have problems on your campus, it generally is a result of folks not really knowing their kids, not really paying attention to them and what their needs are. Yes, it’s important to teach content — but there’s so much more that you’ve got to teach. How to be a good citizen. How to be a good person.
Bass also namedropped a book by Asa Hilliard called Young, Gifted and Black that he asked Superintendent Terry Grier — and me — to read. And he talked at length about how successful the Lincoln students were when their school was closed and they had to go to other San Diego Unified high schools to finish up and graduate. I can tell that he’ll be missed in the school district.