Monday, March 12, 2007

Advisory Visit

Today I had the privilege to accompany two Montessori seniors (Joanna and Vishnell) as they lead a roundtable discussion around their unique experience in starting a new high school. They spoke openly and honestly about the struggles and the enormous benefits of their trail-blazing experience.

Together we sat in an advisory at World Journalism Preparatory High School in Bayside Queens with fifteen freshmen boys. The question which directed most of our discussion was, “What is high school supposed to be like?”

By affirming the fact that all teachers, students, and parents come to school with preconceived notions of what “school” is, all members of the group were immediately empowered. They recognized their conceptions of “school” come from hearsay, the media and former teachers mostly.

Vishnell and Joanna both shared their own notion of high school. Their comments included “a safe place to express ideas” and “moving out of comfort zones.” They reflected on particular experiences they encountered here at the Queens High School of Teaching. Often their reflections were amazing tributes to the faculty here at QHST.

The students from WJPHS seemed genuinely interested in listening to our students. The body language of the group which at first was one of cautious disconnect swiftly turned to one of intense reception as Vishnell shared her story of discontent with QHST on her first day of school.

Ironically Vishenell fought to be transferred out of QHST while Joanna’s parents were pressuring the region to place her in QHST. Joanna focused on the amazing opportunity afforded to her through the writing center as opposed to Vishnell’s focus on the access to adult attention in a small learning community.

Any teacher who has the opportunity to hear the stories of their struggle to define QHST as its first graduating senior class should take the time to listen. I personally walked away from this before school Monday morning meeting re-energized and ready to start off another week.


vishnell said...

On March 12, 2007 I went to a new school called World Journalism Prep High School. I didn’t know what to really expect. I knew that this was a school starting off much like mine and I was eager to hear the thoughts and ideas of these freshmen that are much like how I was.

As soon as I walked in the school and through the halls of the third floor which was the floor for the high school kids, I sensed a feeling of ownership as the kids walked in the halls or in their classes like they knew they were the high school kids and were in charge.

When I sat down with Mr. T, his class of boys, Mr. Brown and Joanna I looked around the room with these boys in uniform expect one. As the boys expressed their thoughts and about what a high school should look and feel like I couldn’t help but see a little Vishnell in so many of them. They were confused, mad, and didn’t expect their high school experience to be like this.

Edward and Fernando explained how they felt not having sports teams, dances, having the lower classes in their building, and not having any role models in the school to look up too. I remember when I first came to my school and I can’t help but say I felt almost entirely the same. How are you supposed to know what’s right and wrong when you are holding the responsibility to making this high school and its future. I learned in a small school to make events or anything else come about you have to help make it happen. Since there aren’t that many kids in the school to begin with you are helping create the school to what it will be in the years that will come. You have to see the good of it because as the years go by they will know that they are the first class of World Journalism so they will be the voices and the kids who will make a difference in the school.

I used to want to transfer schools so bad during my freshmen year. I am so happy I didn’t or else I would have been just another ID number, another girl with a loud voice that’s unheard and misunderstood. Being in a small school gives you an advantage of making it easier to socialize and having a relationship with a teacher that will help guide you too better success.

A boy named Freddie expressed how he disliked uniforms when he was one of the only ones not wearing one. Honestly I would love to wear uniforms and not worry about what to pick out for the next day and waste my time. Edward also said to Mr. Brown that he feels like he is in a private school with all the rules and regulations. Mr. Brown replied with “you know how much tuition you have to pay in private schools and what do you pay here”? I though that was such a valid point. To be in a school with the attentions, rules and expected behavior that people usually pay a lot of money for but you are getting that education and respect for free. There are so many great things you can receive from a school like theirs and mines. You learn not to be inconsiderate to others, talk to people you thought you would never talk too, and learn not to say words or expressions that we take for granted. No other high school is really sitting down and trying to talk about things in life that are relevant to us as young teenage students. Even if they were it wouldn’t have the same impact because in a small school you know almost everyone and our more comfortable talking to one another. You are helping making a difference. I took in a lot from my school and have changed for the good in my eyes because I got to learn in a small school.

To end this I want all the boys I talked to in the school to know how much I appreciated being a guest in their school and talking to them. Thank you for listening to me. I couldn’t help but smile and think how much we have in common. It seems like just yesterday I was sitting in your seat and trying to see the good qualities of being in a small school. My advice is to give it time and don’t rush to transfer to another school. Mr. T, with your ambition and goals for these students I feel you can change the minds of your children and take this school far. Remember to value what you are receiving in this school that no other school would be able to provide you with. We are the students that will be able to better ourselves with the privileges we get from a small school.

Superfly said...

See Brown, I did write... It just too me a ridiculousely long time to do so (I don't think I spelled that right)... And I couldn't think of a neat pic to go with... oh well.
click me!-> (or copy and paste into the browser, I suppose)