The Author

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I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

It's just different here...

It is hard to explain what it is like working in the community where I work. It is not something I know how to get across, because to be honest, it is not something I understand. I just know that it is different.

You know the end of the school year, when you can barely get kids to focus on anything because they are so absorbed with signing yearbooks? That didn't happen at our school. Our school's yearbook staff couldn't sell any of them, and they were not that expensive. This is just one example.

I just received a copy of our school's WASC report which we worked all Fall to compile. It has information in it about the school's community. Do you know what the median annual family income is? $11,450

You may think it is not true, since it is hard to imagine getting by on that, but a lot of our kids share houses with several families and struggle for every dollar. It makes me appreciate things I have never appreciated before. Things that probably seems so simple to you are not simple to them. Like the mail.

I am doing this Shakespeare letter project right now that, if you have been reading, you probably have read a lot about by now. Although the project's main goal is to get money to take them on a field trip to see a Shakespeare play in a professional theater, the goal is also to give them experience writing business letters, as well as practicing their persuasive writing, both of which are 10th grade standards in the state of California.

They have been working on persuasion since they began high school, but the idea of a formal business letter was a completely foreign concept to them. Do you want to know how foreign it is? Today's lesson was addressing envelopes. Yes, lesson, and yes, it was needed. We spent over 30 minutes addressing envelopes today, and most of them really did not know how to do it; I am still getting emailed questions. They don't know the difference between the main address and the return address and put them in the wrong place in several instances. They don't know where to put an apartment number. They don't always know to abbreviate California. I am not kidding.

These are not dumb kids. They are incredibly innovative students with often brilliant ideas. I do not know why addressing envelopes is not something that they have done before, but they have not. They also didn't know how much postage stamps cost or even where to get them. I took orders today and they gave me their cash so that I could go to the post office and buy stamps.

People... appreciate what you have and the life in which you were raised.


  1. It shows you what computers have done really. So much is done through email and the computer that you don't have to address letters, or get stamps anymore. Heck you can even buy stamps online and print them out! So I imagine it has a lot to do with that and also I would hazard to guess that letter writing may not be practiced because their whole family probably lives with them or near them, so no need to write, and frankly if you're barely scraping by as it is, you won't be wasting money on stamps to send a letter.

  2. When I was working at a bank, we used to get high school students from time to time as part of a work experience thing. I'll never forget the time we got 2 high school girls - I think they were seniors - and I asked them to help us mail out a bunch of wire transfer receipts. I asked them to address the envelopes and they looked at me like they had no idea what I was saying. I said to just write out the address on the front of the envelope. When I cam back to check, they had written the address in one long line across the front. I was totally shocked. How could a 17 year old not know how to address an envelope? Even when shown an example, they still didn't get it right. It was so strange for me since I've known how to address an envelope since I was around 8. Had they never seen a letter that had been mailed? So we had a little lesson on how to address an envelope and they looked bored.