Monday, February 05, 2007

A Tough School

A senior was telling me today of her recent college interviews with alumni.

A little background here. Our school apparently has a reputation as a "tough" school (translation: people think that because most students aren't white that maybe there are more fights and drugs and gang activity here as opposed to the wealthier whiter schools around). I don't know what people imagine, but I'm guessing they think they wouldn't feel safe at our school. Who knows. I am a perfectly safe whitey, and I teach great kids. The only "poopy" ones are the few bad teenage attitudes in the halls when I (heaven-forbid) ask them to comply with various rules (hats, music, cell phones, wandering...), and I get that from a nice variety of races.

So anyway, this one alumni to interview her lives here, and one of her first questions was: "So is ____ a tough school?". My student replied, "yes, all the classes I'm taking are pretty challenging." (not knowing her implication). The lady asked again, apparently, in another way, and my student defended our school. Woot woot.

We then proceeded to be verbally angry with this woman. But I guess we're guilty of the same thing as she was at times. When we hear of ______ down the street, our wealthier/whiter counterpart, we conjure up all sorts of stereotypes about their monied existence. Whose misjudgment is worse?


  1. Anonymous6:28 PM

    I think you have a right to be defensive about your school. So many schools are being sterotyped by their racial breakdown or the SES of the students in our schools. Even growing up in one of those "white-schools", I was jealous of the other schools because of the unique diversity that the school had that I didn't.

    If an interviewer came into the school asking questions without doing her background homework, it is that persons fault. I am happy to hear that both student and teacher defended their school, from what I have seen that doesn't happen to often anymore, especially from students.

  2. Our school gets some of that. People assume that because we are in a rich neighborhood, surrounded by $900,000 homes, that we have everything. We must have all white and asian kids (who are presumed to be brilliant and driven), involved and educated parents, students with computers at home, supplies, air conditioning, computers and projectors in the classroom ... everything.

    Most of our kids don't come from those homes. The few kids in those houses go to private schools. Over half of our kids are on free or reduced lunch. 37% are ELL. About 10 - 15% (we can't ask and don't know) are illegal immigrants. We have no computers or graphing calculators in the math classes. Our technology is an aging television and an overhead projector. There is no air conditioning and it can be 87 degrees inside by June. Sometimes there is no heat in winter.

    Whether a school is "tough" academically or "tough" behaviorally is not primarily a function of race or neighborhood. It is most of all a function of the leadership quality of the administration and the respect built by the teachers and staff.

    p.s. See my math teacher blog: