As Colin so artfully pointed out during a team outing to Sonic for lunch (I know you're jealous)- I had never spent a full day in a public high school before starting this job. It's true, I spent most of my childhood enrolled in Jewish Day Schools and high school at a private all-girls school where I wore a kilt every day, true story. Times spent in public high schools included taking the SAT back when I was in high school... and that's about it.
So I began to think about how this 'urban' public school compares to my idea of a public school and how working in an urban public school compares to my expectations. I'll reveal some of my thoughts in list form:
-. First, this school does not feel incredibly urban to me, despite being described as such. Perhaps this is because in the Midwest, at least, the term "urban" is a little more lenient. When I think urban, I think inner city Baltimore where the schools take up city blocks and are surrounded by row houses and other urban buildings. This school is a sprawling one story building surrounded by sports fields nestled in an ordered yet relatively spacious neighborhood of modest single family homes. I feel more like I am in a suburb than a city when I drive to work every day.
- Safety: I don't feel unsafe when I'm at school. I'm aware that this is a gross generalization about 'urban schools' that really unfortunately stereotypes the student population that we work with- but I won't pretend that I wasn't worried about it at first. In fact, my mom strongly discouraged me from working at a job that would place me in an urban school because she didn't think that I could handle it. Can you blame her, though, with headlines in Baltimore like "Teacher ‘petrified’ after being attacked by student: Baltimore educator says she cannot bring herself to return to work now" (for the rest of the story see here: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/24047456/)? Fortunately, I am not at all worried that any of my students would attack me and think, instead, that they would probably come to my defense if necessary. There are also no metal detectors or anything of the sort here, like I might have expected. And, unlike other schools that our organization works with, I've witnessed no fights, though I've heard that they do happen.
- PDA: There are a lot of teenagers making out around school. I think that's actually less of an urban thing or even a public school thing and more of a co-ed school thing. Still, it's awkward. That would not have been/ was not tolerated at my high school, and believe me, there were relationships going on. Our motto is usually 'look away and walk away quickly'... I don't need to see any of my students doing that.
- Sweepers, and I don't mean the kinds with brooms: There are people at this school who are HIRED and PAID to sit in the hallways and force the students to go to class. They watch down the hallways suspiciously and demand passes from students. Seriously? I can think of many many more effective ways to spend a school's budget. Perhaps a better college prep program? Maybe ensuring that we don't fail to meet AYP AGAIN this year...? Funny fact: On more than one occasion, Victoria and I have been 'swept' and I saw a sweeper eyeing us today... pathetic.