Friday, March 06, 2009

Addendum to Post about Why I Work Where I Do

Since my last school post, I've been feeling that I came across as an elitist bitch. Which has been bugging me a lot. It's taken me awhile to update, because I have a fussy baby who likes being held, and it's really hard to type while holding him.

But he's happily sleeping in his swing, so I want to elaborate a bit on my thoughts on my job.

When I said that it was not my dream to work in a school labeled a "drop out factory," what I should have added was that it's no one's dream to work in or attend such a school. And that no one deserves that. It's one thing for me to be in a tough school where there is no support for teachers or students, but I'm pretty much fully formed.

The consequences are much greater for my students. They deserve to attend schools where they can learn and thrive and gain the skills they need to be productive citizens. Unfortunately, that's not happening.

So why do they come to my school? Well, most of the students at my school have low test scores. Your seventh grade test scores are used to determine which school you may attend, unless you want to attend your neighborhood school. My school is not a neighborhood school, and it's in a safer neighborhood than many South Side neighborhood schools. So if you only got accepted to a couple of schools, my school is probably your best bet.

Furthermore, my school is a vocational career academy, so the students are enrolled in shops, like cosmetology, plumbing, carpentry, automotive, et cetera. Many students like the vocational model. Ideally, you can graduate from my school with the necessary credentials to enter the job market as an apprentice plumber or mechanic, or earn your cosmetology license and do hair to help pay for college. Unfortunately, not one student has actually passed any licensing exams in the last few years, but at least the option is there.

The main point I want to make, though, is that if teachers and students are supported, then no school will be a drop out factory, because the teachers will have the tools to give students the support and skills they need. You give me a school where there is adequate security, small class sizes, and teachers and students who feel like they matter, and I will give you a school where amazing things can be accomplished. I truly believe that.

And I really have tried hard to make clear that I do not think race is the issue with my school. Poverty is the issue. Poverty is bad. No one deserves to be poor. But we don't care about poor people in this country. We've made it seem like poor people deserve their plight, due to their own choices. This makes us not feel bad about the situation. Which is crap. But until we tackle that issue, not a whole lot is going to change.

A comment was made to my last post about my job, suggesting that I should move or change jobs, since life is too short to be miserable. Life is too short to be miserable. I'm not miserable; I'm frustrated. My students deserve better. I'm not going to quit, because I think this job matters, even if it doesn't seem like it sometimes. I do believe the job should be better, and can be better, if we as a society are willing to face up to what we have done with our poor. But I'm in this for the long haul.

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