Wednesday, February 4, 2009

First Day of Observations

First off, I just need to say that I absolutely hate driving in Rochester and I don't think I could ever live there. I'm sure that if I did live there, after a while, I would be able to navigate without getting hopelessly lost, unlike yesterday. Yesterday was my first day observing in an inner city school. Actually, it was my first time experiencing the inner city by myself ever. I had started out driving to my destination at 9:30. Now normally it would only take about 30-40 minutes to reach where I was going. I didn't arrive until 11:00. First I missed the inner loop sign, so I had to turn around and try to find it again. Then it took me almost an hour to actually find the school that I needed to be at. Finding the street wasn't the hard part, I found that pretty easily, it was trying to figure out how to get to the school itself. See, for some ridiculous reason there are gates around the possible entrances to the school. They only open twice during the day, when the buses come to drop kids off and pick them up. So I could see the school, but I couldn't get to it. So I drove around and around the surrounding streets trying to find a way to the school. Eventually, I don't know how, I found the one place to drive up to the school.

Since I have never been to an inner city school, I didn't realize that the doors are always locked. So you can imagine my frustration when I went to open the doors and they wouldn't budge. Thankfully I found the button on the side of the wall that you had to push in order for the office to let you in.

I was already completely overwhelmed and frustrated with being lost for what seemed like forever and not knowing what to do, when I now have to find the room where I am to observe. The school isn't terribly big and I figured someone form the office would take me to the classroom I was supposed to be in like I had heard other secretaries do for other observers in other schools. Not so for me. I was given a harsh response and directions to where the classroom was. The only problem was, the lady who gave me directions got the last part of it wrong. I ended up going down the wrong hallway and just ended up figuring out which direction I needed to be going based solely on the fact that I had the room number.

One thing that I was worried about with my placement is that I would be the only white girl. This doen't mean I'm racist, it just means that I know some black people are sensetive to having white people around and I don't want to accidentally say or do something that would be offensive. There are a couple white teachers in the school, but I only saw one white child and she wasn't in my grade. I really wonder what my Student Based Teacher Educator (SBTE) thought of me. Here I was a white girl who really didn't know what I was supposed to be doing in a class full of inner city kids. Let me tell you, inner city schools are soooooo different from schools like Brockport and Woodstock. There is hardly any love given to these children. They are constantly snapped at and yelled at all day because the don't listen if you talk to them nicely. The threat "do I need to call your Father or Mother" was used so may times to inflict fear into the kids so they would do what they were supposed to. Sometimes even that wouldn't work, the child would simply sit quietly and rebel instead.

One girl opened my eyes to the kind of life that they live. The teacher was teahcing the kids about words that are spelled the same but have different meanings and the kids had to write sentences for each pair. One of the words was tie, like the one a guy wears. This little girl, who's in 2nd grade, turns to me and says, as nonchalantly as you can get, "My Daddy was wearing a tie when he was shot. I think he was 31 or 29 when he was shot, but he was wearing a tie". The most important thing to her in that story was the fact that her Dad was wearing a tie, the fact that he was shot was inconsequential. I looked at her not knowing what to say. What was I supposed to say? "What color was it" just didn't seem appropriate.

Another thing that totally blew my mind was the fact that some of the children went most of the day with doing absolutely no schoolwork. They refused to do it and the teacher didn't even ask them to. It was like it was a silent known fact that some kids aren't 'smart enough' to do it. How else are they supposed to learn if you don't sit down and help them? Now I know that it is really hard to help all the kids in one class, but just because it's hard doesn't mean you can ignore it completely. I can't be too critical of this, though, because I've only been there one day. There may be other issues with those specific children that I don't know about, and I don't want to put the teacher down either. This is her first year teaching this age level, but she has been teaching for 16 years. I don't know.

At the end of the day, the teacher and I had a couple minutes to talk before she had to run to a meeting. She pointedly told me that I shouldn't laugh with the children. For those of you that know me, you can understand how unlike me that is and how hard it will be for me to try. But her reasoning behind this was that I need to be the authority and if I laugh with them, then they no longer think of me as the authority. I've never had this problem with other children before. In fact I have found that many children like it when adults laugh with them, it's a way to bond and have fun. Smiling is the only thing these teachers do to show these children they are having fun. And even then, I only saw maybe one or two teachers smile at their students. As I walked down the halls with the children, I would smile at those we passed. Some of the children would return the smile, but the teachers didn't. They walked down the halls with scowls on their faces making sure their children stayed in line and did what they were told when they were told. How horrible, in my mind, to go around scowling all the time to let children know that you are the authority. Can't you be the authority and still smile and have fun with the children? I have so much more that I could say about yesterday, but I think this post is long enough.


Heather said...


Above all else: Love said...

Above all else: Scowl.

....hmm, something seems off?