Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Trading Places

So last week The Principal catches me in the hall and says, "Just the person I need to see."


Mrs. Squirrel is retiring, bless her heart, and after a pretty extensive search The Principal hired a replacement, although we all know that Mrs. Squirrel is irreplaceable. The new AP, Mrs. Sparrow is currently a sixth grade science teacher at another school in the district. I've actually run into her in the past during science in-service stuff, and it's nice to have a former science teacher added to the admin staff.

"Mrs. Sparrow needs to spend about a week shadowing Mrs. Squirrel, Mr. Enforcer, and myself to get a feel for the building," continued The Principal, "but her principal isn't wild about paying for a sub for a whole week, let alone having Mrs. Sparrow gone. Well, Dr. Big Wig, actually suggested that you go over there for three days and introduce her sixth graders to some seventh grade science."

Whoa. Dr. Big Wig? The Director of Middle Schools? The Principal's boss? Actually he's a real cool guy (and the first to tell you that as a child he was labeled "at risk' at one time), and he's out in the buildings quite a lot and knows most of the middle school teachers by name - which is saying something in a district this size.

"He said that since our seventh grade science scores are the highest in the district, he thought it would be good to have one of you visit Mrs. Sparrow's class and he suggested you."

(At last! A confirmation that we really were the highest in the district! Take that all you rich schools!!)

So, I agreed to spend three days at the Rich School Across Town, while one of our aides took over my class. I got with Mrs. Sparrow last week to get the lay of the land over at The Rich School Across Town, and to fill her in on what I was going to do. I actually asked my current seventh graders what they would have wanted to know about seventh grade science before they actually got to seventh grade and they all said the same thing: cells. So, with their input, I put together a three day introduction to cells.

Today was my first day there and I'll have to admit, it was a lot of fun. I have to keep reminding myself that these kids are sixth grade, not seventh, so they're even more immature than what I'm used to (but not by much). Mrs. Sparrow has her kids in desks in rows, which I haven't had for years in my room, so that's taken some getting used to as well. It's kind of nice to see different styles and procedures and ways of doing things.

The kids themselves were really nice kids, and seemed excited to have a visiting "real teacher" and not just another sub. They were really concerned about who was watching my class so I had to explain how we had aides in our building who helped teachers so one of our aides was taking care of my class. The idea of aides was new to them, but then again, this is a school that does not have 60% free and reduced lunch like my school does. They don't get funding for aides. The other thing that they were really intrigued with was how I do notes - I never have kids get out paper and take notes, we always do foldables, and they'd never seen these before.

One thing that struck me...compared to these kids, my students look like a bunch of ragamuffins. These kids obviously come from better backgrounds financially, and they show it by how they dress. It's not that they have designer clothes so much, but they are cleaner and just seem to take more care in their appearance. Their hair is combed and neat, they have clothes that are obviously clean, and they just carry themselves better. Many of my students wear the same thing day in and day out, are sloppy in their dress, and don't do as good a job with personal grooming.

Then again, I have kids who've lived in cars, and these kids all have a roof over their heads.

One of my girls that comes to mind is a quiet little thing that I have in my Fourth Period Class From The Very Depths of Hell Itself. Quiet Girl is one of about ten kids (his, hers, theirs) and there's not much money at home. I think she has maybe four outfits. Her hair is limp and stringy, her clothes aren't always clean, and things don't fit quite right. She's smart as a whip, but doesn't do any homework as she's responsible for babysitting all the younger kids when she gets home, because mom and dad are always out "shopping". We're not quite sure what they're shopping for since they don't have any money, so we're wondering if she means "shoplifting", or "shopping for drugs," as there's some anecdotal evidence that there's drug use in the home. It's sad. She's raising herself and her siblings, and is barely taken care of. Quiet Girl would stick out like a sore thumb here with all these kids at The Rich School Across Town.

That being said, it's nice to visit, but I think I'll stick with my ragamuffins. They need me more than these kids do.


NYC Educator said...

It's good to know you're needed, isn't it? Also, it's undoubtedly more of a challenge to teach kids like yours. It sounds like they're lucky to have you. And it also sounds like your principal knows it.

Mister Teacher said...

Congrats on the affirmation!!!

HappyChyck said...

Yes, your students need you more! I suppose it's nice to get a different perspective, though!

Sarah said...

I imagine that was strange! I think your type of student needs you more too. I have the same type, and that's what I keep telling myself!

Anonymous said...

What a compliment!

I am also struck by my students' raggedy appearances when I visit other schools. Very few of my students wear name-brand sneakers. It seems strange to be working with students wearing labeled sneakers.

Ann aka ButDoctorIHatePink said...

Please don't underestimate the needs of the middle-class to hastily. The kids might be cleaner and dressed better, but they are still struggling with parental substance abuse, divorce and other forms of societal ills. And, because culturally they are less likely to ask for help and don't appear to need it, they are less likely to get it. Even when your belly is full, when mom is passed out at the dinner table night after night, it hurts.