Well, it's been a few weeks since I've posted on the blog. Anyone who reads this probably knows that I have started a new job teaching choir at Simeon Career Academy (SCA), a high school on the south side of Chicago. I will try to start posting more regularly. So, I'm not really sure how to give a good overview of what the first few weeks of school have been like, except to say that you can expect random thoughts and run-on sentences. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Simeon is, as the school's name says, a career academy, meaning it has a career and technical education program. The kids choose a "major" sophomore year and spend most of their extra course work time in classes centered around that major. (Remember in high school, how you had 1 elective freshman year and increasingly more electives every year...? They use those electives for their major classes so that most of their electives outside the regular state requirements are centered around their focus.) Anyway, they have a lot of programs- from machine shop and welding to cosmetology to accounting to culinary arts. (The cosmetology rooms are pretty cool!) There are several "career academies" in Chicago Public Schools. Hmm what else? The school is 99.9% African American and .1% Hispanic. (I have 1 hispanic student, out of 220 total.) The students apply and are hand picked by the administration. (Although, it's not competitive like the top magnet high schools.) The kids can come from all over the city, although most live on the south side. The administration is relatively new- it's the current principal's 2nd year. I really have enjoyed working with him so far, and the assistant principal is fabulous! They seem to be making a lot of great changes in the school. From what I hear, things are much more calm and focused this year. In years past, there would be students roaming around, fights breaking out more often, etc..
I really like the students. On the whole, the kids are nice. Of course, they have their moments, but don't we all. They also have a lot of questions - Mrs. Cook, are you married? Mrs. Cook, how old are you? Mrs. Cook, why we gotta sing this sh**? Mrs. Cook, you fine. Mrs. Cook, how it be? Mrs. Cook, do you listen to Drake? Mrs. Cook, where you come from? Mrs. Cook, we gonna sing any gospel? Mrs. Cook, can you sing?
But now that we've been in school for more than 2 days, there's a lot of dramatic sighs and eye rolls. I know I sound like an old fogie, but the need to be constantly entertained is getting irritating. "Why we gotta do this?" "I'm bored." "I don't like this." Um, okay, well why don't you drop out and see if they'll let you work at mcdonald's forever... or you could suck it up for 7 hours a day (including 1 hour total of passing time, lunch, gym, etc...) and learn something. I don't ever say things like that to students (I used to hate when teachers would). Usually I just smile and say "try your best" or just ignore it and pretend to be oblivious. But, let's be honest. I knew everything in high school too. And I knew I didn't need any of that useless information. Then I got to college and realized maybe I don't know everything. Then I graduated and realized WOW I have a LOT to learn... so in the mean time, I'll think of my little know-it-all-eye-rolling-attitude-14-year-old-freshmen-self and cut them some slack :)
Cell phones. Ok. They did not cover this in college and I underestimated the cell phone battle. The school's cell phone policy (which is EXTREMELY strict.. and necessarily so) is that students should not be using their phone during their instructional day, including passing periods and lunch. Now, some teachers are like police on this- almost looking for kids to bust for phones. I don't really pay attention in the halls - waste of time and energy. Anyway, 1st offense... guess what the consequence is??? drumroll....
taken away and turned into the main office where the parents can pick it up between 3:30 and 6 on FRIDAY of that week. Extreme as that is, they're serious. So, why any kid would use their phone during school on Monday is beyond me. (oh, and if they refuse to give it up, automatic out of school suspension for 2 days + parent conference.) woah. Funny story. okay, 2 funny stories. (1.) I received a note that a student I have was suspended out of school for 10 days. She had been pretty quiet thus far in my class, and turned in her work. Seemed smart enough. So, I was SHOCKED when I got this paper in my mailbox. The principal was in the room so I asked him what happened. He told me, "Shavonne got her phone taken away. She came in at the end of the day and said she needed to look up her doctor's number so she could cancel her appointment since she was waiting for her mom to pick up the phone. When she was given the phone, she took it and bolted out of the building. She kept going even when security and the in school police officer tried to chase her and yelled to stop." hahahahaha now, that is ridiculous. (2.) When a lady heard her daughter's phone got taken away, she left work, came to the building and cussed out the principal (without an appointment...) then, when she was asked to leave by the police (the school has a couple police officers assigned to it), she called 911 (who said- uh, ma'am there are police in your area....) then she called the district office downtown... oh man. she came 3 days in a row trying to get her kid's phone, constantly yelling at the principal calling him a M*F*. That day, she pulled her kid out of class, and withdrew her from the school- transferring her elsewhere. over a cell phone. amazing.
okay, this has to be the end for now. this has gotten way too long. more posts to come (shorter posts) in the near future.