I remember the first time I saw a friend's sonogram picture on
Facebook. We had both already graduated high school and were in our
freshman year of college. I immediately took down my away message
on AIM (those were the good ol' days) and sent another friend a
message in all caps freaking out about our peers getting
By now, I'm used to the baby pictures that appear in my Facebook
News Feed on a daily basis. I'm 24 and might not have baby plans of
my own, but I'm no longer surpised by the announcements.
But yesterday during my 826 tutoring session at Golder College
Prep, I felt that same shock I had back in college when I saw that
first sonogram picture on Facebook.
One of the juniors we're working with is writing about how
teenage pregnancy can change a young girl's life. It's not a
judgemental piece by any means and I've really enjoyed talking to
the student about her research. Yesterday, though, she told me a
pretty startling stat taken straight from her own life.
This student went to a public middle school in Chicago where she
had four best friends. When she started at Golder during her
freshman year, the other four friends continued onto a public
school. All four of those girls were pregnant by the end of the
I don't know these girls and I would never judge them, or infer
that public school incfluenced their pregnancy, but I was still
startled. We were working in groups of three at the time, and the
two other female students echoed similar stories. Of course we all
hear about teenage pregnancy being on the rise, but it was
different to hear it while sitting in a high school classroom
straight from the mouths of three teenage girls themselves.
What I'm learning more and more from working at Golder is the
same lesson we're trying to teach our students: the power of story.
The power of the anecdote. You can write about research and
statistics, you can make as many charts and infographics as you
want, but it's the interview that packs the punch.
This week, we played a clip for the class from a
This American Life episode all about Middle School, and a few
weeks ago we played a clip from the This
American Life series on Harper High School. After we played the
Middle School clip, we asked the students what impacted them both
from each of the clips. What was the most interesting and why?
Once again, it's the story, told by the person experiencing it
instead of the interviewer, that really reaches an audience. In the
Harper broadcast, the Golder students remembered specific things
from a conversation between a student and their guidance counseler.
In the Middle School broadcast, the Golder students connected with
actual audio clips of students talking about their personal
So maybe if we really want Chicagoans to see the need for change
in our schools, we need to stop shoving infographics in their faces
and actually to get them into the classroom, talking to the
Or at least get them to listen to This American Life.
Alaina is the digital content editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Chicago.
See more of Alaina's stories here.
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