Note: This post originally appeared on Diane Ravitch’s blog, the work of anonymous writer. I tracked her down and we’ve been friends ever since!
America For America
When my family joined the program, I thought being a host sister would be a life-changing event. I’d grown up watching reruns of The Wire and Yo Teach! and I’ve just always felt like I wanted to do my part.
For the past two years I’ve been part of the program, I’ve agreed to share my room if the 5th grade student we host is a girl, but naturally a boy student stays with my younger brother. Right now we have a boy, which I’m glad about because I’m exhausted by the added Talk Time™ that comes with waking up and falling asleep with a student sharing my room. Honestly, the prescribed Good mornings! How did you sleep? the Would you like to use the bathroom first or shall I? And that’s the easy stuff! My phone’s app tracks my talk and presents me with endless incentives to make the student Stretch It™ even when we’re just watching one half hour of Roku together before bed. I don’t care if she can extend her response to my open-ended question about Taylor Swift’s analysis of this week’s International Idol contestants. Can’t we just agree Taylor Swift is a has-been and her red lipstick way too much?
But we can’t ever agree–it’s in my family’s contract. We have to Push™ the student to argue until she wins the argument or until she starts to cry. It’s sort of new, this whole Push™ thing. Before that, we just had to ask a simple question, get a response, then evaluate it. I think we called it IRE™ after Bob Marley. Such an amazing guy. So now agreeing to disagree isn’t okay in the program either. That’s actually the tablet example of lowering expectations for our host student– and families who lower them get kicked out of the America For America (AFA) program and if that happens I can’t get into Brown.
In the mornings I am always reminding the student to put on her belt, get her reading log signed and find and sharpen her five pencils. The pencils are such a pain because she keeps forgetting to empty the electric sharpener, which means I have to do it and then I have to take dollars off her Allowance™. I’m not a fan of the Allowance™ but it’s mandatory for us. When friends ask why my parents, brother and I are always fiddling with the Allowance™ tracking app our phones, my Dad explains that Accountability™ is one of AFA’s five pillars which means we have to monitor all our student’s actions, words, body language, half-thoughts, full-thoughts and utterances. We record positive behaviors by adding dollars when she does things like clear her place or Stretches It™ without being asked. (Sometimes I just add dollars for not leaving toothpaste in the sink. As an AFA family I’m proud to say we focus on the positive.) On the flip side, we remove dollars when the student forgets to empty the pencil sharpener, talks too loudly at our dinner table or in the car, forgets to support an argument with evidence, doesn’t show an appropriate amount of Gratitude™ for being in our home or lacks Grit™ when helping my brother rake the leaves.
Once we had a friend over for dinner who asked my Dad to explain Enrichment™. My Dad said, basically, if the student slips and says Don’t nobody or Imma (not that they all talk like that but most of them do) then she eats dinner alone at the old desk in the guest bedroom downstairs. When she’s done eating there’s an app she plays for an hour called SpeakUp!© It’s on both the student’s and my Dad’s phones and tracks when she makes mistakes speaking proper English. The app, SpeakUp!©, feeds her a variety of games to learn the right way to talk. It’s really fun and the graphics are awesome. After an hour of practice, she comes back upstairs and shows her mastery. Then he always says I’m proud of you because you worked so hard at that. For some people it’s really confusing why he says that, but my Dad shouldn’t ever tell her she’s smart or else she’ll grow a Fixed Mindset™ and then we’ll get kicked out of the program.
That night, after my Dad explained Enrichment™, the friend got upset and left. We didn’t hear from her again but then she called last week. I guess she has a two-year old daughter now and was looking for programs. My Dad offered some advice about demonstrating Zest™ and Optimism™ in the application process, but I don’t think she has what it takes. Besides, it’s not like it’s 2018 anymore. Everyone’s applying to America For America now.