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.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Tribute to My School

I honestly don't think I have ever seen a school quite like the one I work at. The students and teachers work harder than anything I have seen before.

Today, I scheduled a set build for my cast and crew to come help build the set for Beauty and the Beast. I'd say a good 70% of my students showed up, despite it being a Saturday. When I arrived, it looked like a school day- no kidding.

One of the history teachers- who also serves as the wrestling coach- was standing outside meeting students to take them to a program he coordinates, Journeys to Excellence, which takes place at Fox Studios every Saturday morning. Not really related to history or wrestling, but he does it because it is an awesome opportunity for these kids.

Inside, the entire senior class was there, along with my department chair, Alicia, because she had assigned the entire senior class (yes, all of them) Saturday school since they were behind on their research papers- because at our school, failure is sort of just not an option. So, there she was, having brought them all breakfast, and there they were, books and laptops spread throughout the conference room, hard at work on their papers.

I wandered upstairs to get some stuff and passed by my friend Brent's room. He teaches 10th grade history and his students also have a research paper due this Spring, but not for several weeks. However, he obviously saw students getting behind on it, because there he was, with a room full of students, all hard at work on laptops, while he busily circulated the room doing his best to help.

A bunch of the juniors were also at school on this sunny Saturday morning. Why? As part of a several week SAT prep class that they had been given the opportunity to take for free.

In addition, several administrators were on campus as well. My boss, primarily to supervise the crazy amount of activity happening that morning, but also other administrators to coordinate the intervention tutoring for students who seem at risk based on low test scores. This is also a weekly occurrence.

As I wandered back into the auditorium, my students had already quickly jumped into the work of painting a village and painting our set extensions. As a few of us pulled out our set pieces from the last show and started trying to figure out how to fit them together, I frantically realized that my awesome, very handy set designer, Anthony, a junior at our school, is no longer in my play production class and I do not know what I am doing without him. A couple of my other boys jumped in to try to help and really stepped up to the plate... plus a few text messages between the students later, Anthony showed up anyway- just to help out.

My tech director, a very smart junior named Steven, fished out a giant ladder and climbed up to the top of the auditorium just to make minor adjustments on the lights. This student is amazing. I don't know the first thing about sound or light equipment, so last semester he learned the whole system- through reading the 1000 page manual. No, I am not kidding. Now he is becoming a perfectionist, making tiny adjustments to get the right amount of light just where he wants it.

A few hours into the set build, a friend of mine who teaches Math wanders in. I was shocked to see her, considering that she had been at school until 11pm the night before, since she also is the ASB adviser and had coordinated the school dance that night. I asked what she was doing there and she just said, "Oh, I just have a lot of work to get done."

Boy is that the understatement of the year. Don't we all? With a good 120-150 students each and grades due on Monday, I think we are all spending our weekend grading papers, which is why it shocked me even more to see how many teachers were spending their morning with students, working on various projects and activities. I just have never seen such a dedicated group of people before in my entire life. As hectic as it can get working at school like this, I honestly feel honored to be a part of it.

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