Monday, December 19, 2011
Yes, it is true. I have been appointed to a vacancy in a High School in my District. I waited until I met the Administration and believe they are serious in giving me a chance to show my stuff. Like all appointments, this is provisional until the year end and if it turns out to be a good fit, I will have a permanent placement and no longer be an ATR.
The school is not great, in fact it is a restart school with real issues and poor grades and yes, it could face closure down the road but for now it is an easy commute with available parking. Therefore, I will give it a shot and see if I am still that great teacher I once was. While my days as Traveling ATR are over for now, I intend to stay active in advocating for ATRs and will in the future be a guest blogger on chaz's school daze and write about my experiences on what I find in my new school.
I thank everybody for their support and encouragement and hope that we all outlast Mayor Bloomberg.
Friday, December 16, 2011
My last school showed me what those poor District 76 ATRs have to go through when traveling between Brooklyn and Staten Island. I was sent to my first (and last) Rockaway school and it took me a good hour by car, including a $6.50 bridge toll to get there. The school is one of those small schools that co-exist with a closing large school. This school and all the other small schools in the Rockaway Peninsula are fighting tooth and nail to get the dwindling middle class students who don't go to the local parochial school.
The school has struggled to keep their school environment, requiring students to wear proper pants and shirts. However, there are just too many students who pull their pants down and show their underwear and nothing is done about it. Teachers in the school see a rise in student disrespect and it is becoming a concern. Furthermore, the students complain that they are treated as elementary school children as teachers are required to pick them up in the cafeteria when they first come in and after lunch. Of course the Administration comes from elementary school roots and are quite vindictive when teachers dare to complain about this and other issues. There is not enough hallway supervision as boys are seen hanging out in the stairwells and twice as many boys seem to go to the bathroom than girls. The reason being these students don't want to stay in class. Furthermore, the middle school where many of the students come from saw their grade drop from an "A" to a "C" as academic achievement has stagnated and violence has risen.
Overall, the school is competing with the other small schools for the limited number of high achieving students available. However,this and the other small schools in the Rockaway peninsula are isolated and victims of a slowly worsening and changing social-economic conditions on the peninsula. Worse, is the dumping of low achieving students in these small schools as the closing school can no longer take then in and they must go somewhere? The prognosis is bleak. However, that is the future. Therefore, I must grade the school based upon the present.
Friday, December 9, 2011
This week I found myself in a mid-sized school located in one of the best neighborhoods in Queens. The school is relatively new, has plenty of parking, and a nice Administration. However, I must point out, I never met the Chapter Leader at all. To continue, this school has a diverse student body from the surrounding communities and for many years the school climate was more suburban than urban. However, the school is in the process of experiencing a slow moving tsunami as the school desperately neeeds to fill student slots and face a dwindling source of high achieving students who live in the community.
In the last few years the school has reluctantly accepted an increasing number of students outside the nearby communities because they couldn't compete with the powerhouse large comprehensive high schools in Northeast Queens and has steadily lost ground to these schools and others in attracting the high achieving academic students to the school. Therefore, to keep their student numbers up, the school reluctantly started to accept the lower achieving students from South Queens and even Brooklyn. These lower achieving students brought a more urban culture and attitude to the school and it seems have created a schism in the school environment.
The school has tried to maintain their suburban environment but haven't adjusted well to the less disciplined urban culture brought in by an increasing number of students from Southern Queens. For example this school allows the students to wear hats, hoods, and, dare I say, those thuggish paints down to their knees with the underwear showing. Further, study hall does not require a pass in this school and some of the students spend more time in study hall where they socialize and play cards then they do in class. Finally, the students all carry Ipods, and cellphones and many of the students use then in the classroom with no consequences. Interestingly, the school has to some degree has rubbed off on these students, even the most thuggish are relatively respectful and follow orders. Now if the school can get them to go back to class.
This school has deteriorated over the years but is still a good school.
Friday, December 2, 2011
I was fortunate enough to be sent to one of the few remaining large comprehensive high schools that has not been targeted for closing (yet). This school is located in a solidly middle class neighborhood and the students reflect the diverse neighborhood. The students are, for the most part, academic achievers and take advantage of the many Advanced Placement classes and electives the school offers. The school has numerous clubs and extracurricular activities that can be only found in a large comprehensive school.
While this school, like many of the large comprehensive schools in Queens, have seen an almost doubling of students with IEPs. The school has managed to maintain its reputation as a high achieving school. During the two weeks I was at the school recruiters from West Point, Binghamton University and Hunter College came to the school. After experiencing what was going on in schools #3 and #5, I was more used to seeing the only recruiting being done were by the "Bloods, Crips, and MS-13". More importantly, the only "Latin Kings" at this school were the top students who take Latin and not the street gang.
Does the school have problems? Of course, all schools do. One problem is that the school lacks a lateness policy for students. While most students follow the rules and get to class as quickly as possible, a few students know that if they show up ten or more minutes late, nothing will happen to them by the Administration. The second problem is that this school has three additional unnecessary Assistant Principals that gobble up a minimum of five teaching positions and with the school suffering from budget problems, that is a pity. Moreover, teacher morale in the school has declined over the last few years because of a very weak and "do as I say, not as I do" philosophy of the school's Administration. However, looking at the school from an outside perspective this school is like heaven, when compared to the other schools I have been sent to, with the exception of school #1.
In summary, this school is exactly what a high school should be.
- Loads of electives.
- A wide variety of clubs and extracurricular activities.
- An active and involved PTA.
- Good student-teacher rapport.
- An academically achieving and educationally engaged student body.