Anyone find that ironic? I’ve been in an out of schools for 24 years, walked through metal detectors, been patted down, and walked alongside men with Glocks, beating sticks, and Tasers visible in their exterior belt, all while students sit in classrooms talking about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and peace, open and close locker doors, discuss plans for Friday night, and rush to and from class.
I will never get used to a police state in a school.
Einstein asked how we could simultaneously prevent and prepare for war. How can we advocate creativity, character, and critical thinking while presenting such a distrustful environment? Why doesn’t anyone evaluate this when they conduct Curriculum Walk Throughs or a Climate Audits? Ferguson isn’t is just a Missouri “problem.” It’s endemic in every community where its citizens or students are treated like criminals.
The police were busy today: a gun scare, a fire drill, and a fight.
I observed the “throw aways,” a group of 8th graders who have failed at least one grade, most two. They are struggling readers and writers and are listed as “behavior problems” so they are caged in one class for hours while they work through a prescriptive curriculum that cost the financially struggling school struggling hundreds of thousands of dollars and operates on iPads that don’t work because the connection to the Internet never works.
There is no creativity and no critical thinking—But there is character.
I am struck by the quiet, tall girl who is teased because she never talks. I lean over to watch her try to write sentences out of three vocabulary words “defiance, hulking, and constraint.” Again, the irony. I ask if she needs help. She looks at me with anger. Another fucking teacher helping her do a useless activity.
“I don’t talk because I don’t have anything to say!” she snaps.
I reply, “Being a tall girl means you are a hulking figure with power who defies anyone to try and constrain her. There is more strength in silence than in words.”
“Can I write that down for my sentences?”
“Of course, writing is meant to be collaborative, words shared. And, I’m jealous of how tall and quiet you are. I wish I were more like you.” She smiles and looks down.
Another student asks my name and proudly says, “I’m Mexican…100% Mexican!” It’s important to him that I know that he is. I tell him I am 100% mut of German and English descent and barely can speak my grandmother’s native tongue anymore. He let’s me know with pride that he can speak two languages.
But later, he speaks with a deficit. During the fire drill, he is asked by a teacher to go to the front of the line. “Why do I have to go the front? Because I’m Mexican?” he asks pissed off. In the 92 degree and 100 humidity while we wait 10 minutes to come back inside, he tries to take his sweatshirt off and a teacher starts shouting that no one can take off their sweatshirts. Again, he retorts, “Why, because I’m Mexican?” And finally when he isn’t chosen to read his answers in class, “Why, because I’m Mexican?”
Those negative responses are learned. And, who teaches them?
After the fire drill, a girl that I think is a student runs into the classroom and walks up to an African American student in the class and with a red face starts shouting, “What’s your name? What’s your name?” The girl doesn’t reply but another student shouts her name out. The teacher continues, “You better never touch or say anything to my students again, do you understand me?”
The African American girl just shrugs, sits down and checks her blood sugar.
The hatred and loathing in this TEACHER’S voice, in her eyes, and the finger in the girl’s face are hard to watch. “Her” students. This girl is in her damn school, isn’t she also one of "her" students?
The students are trying to read a chapter book on their iPad prescriptive curricular program about children hidden in the Holocaust. And I wonder who will write about these children? These students in this classroom who are hidden in the most remote classroom in the building of one of the lowest performing schools in the state? These students hidden away behind a curriculum that is ineffective? These students hidden with their backs to police officers in their hallways? These students hidden behind teachers who don’t care about them?