Sunday, April 10, 2011

FDR & Other People.

I parked next to police car. I cannot even begin to explain how weird it was to be parking next to a police car, preparing to go into a high school and observe. I got the eye from a security guard, who told me I needed to get to class, and I passed a bank. A real bank, where these kids used their debit cards and got out money. After the first five minutes of being there, I was completely weary of being in Derby High School.
Derby High School is where I did my ten hours of high school observations. Molly Pourhussin is an English teacher there, who also teaches ASL (sign language). She's been working in the high school for three years, and before that she worked in Winfield as an elementary teacher, also as a translator. The first day started out alright. Both days I skipped going through security, because they weren't ever in the right place, and I didn't want to have to wait for ten minutes, and then be late for class.
First hour for day one was English 11, and they were going over Local Color Writing, which is not about african-american writers, which is what I originally thought. The desks were grouped up, and the kids all had assigned seats, from what I could tell. Every child in the class had an IEP for one reason or another, as well as every other class she taught. To be honest though, I didn't know that at first. Some of these kids were just brats, but they had a "behavorial problem". Molly handed me a textbook, and a sheet of paper with questions on it, and suddenly I was being paired up with a 17 year old named Chelsea, and we were looking up answers to the questions. I had to explain a lot of what we were talking about to her, and I also had a break down a lot of words that I used into something more understandable to her. I loved feeling like I was maybe imparting a little bit of knowledge to her, even if she did just copy off of my paper in the end.
I'm pretty sure that each class was ninety minutes long, and second period was English 10, and the Holocaust. I was pretty impressed with what the kids knew already, since it was a new unit. I think the para Allison and I might have answered quite a few questions though. I was very amazed at how much I remembered once I started thinking about it. We started listening to "Night" by Elie Wiesel on audio book, and I admit, I started reading ahead. I was really into this class, and was sad when it ended. But it did, and that was the end of my first day back in high school.


I'll just say now, white people are almost a minority in this school. Maybe it just seemed like that to me, because until college, I never went to school with more than one African-American at a time, there was maybe one Asian in my high school, and he was younger than I was, and very few Mexicans, if any.
My second day in Derby High started with a planning period. It was also a food day for the teachers, because their principal was leaving, and they were saying goodbye, with donuts! So I spent the ninety minutes writing a permission letter for the 10th graders to take home letting their parents know that they would be watching Schindler's List in class, googling videos of Hitler's life (do you know how hard it is to find a useable video when youtube is blocked?), and eating a donut! Second period was Advisory hour, which is just study hall with a fancy name. The majority of the students in the class were the same kids from English 10 the day before, and maybe a few others. I spent the hour with a junior, helping him with his Government homework. It was kind of heart-breaking. He was such a nice kid, and he was making a clock in shop class that looked like a human eye, so he was creative and thought outside of the box - which I think is a really good characteristic in a kid. He couldn't spell "Thomas" though, and he didn't know who FDR was, and I don't know why - but none of these kids seemed to understand that all you have to do is look for the bold words in the textbook, and that's where all the answers are.
Third period was my favorite. It was ASL (American Sign Language), and the kids spent the time preparing to share what they did over Spring Break in sign language. There were 2 or 3 hearing impaired kids in the class, and one was completely deaf, and had a para in every class with him, signing what the teacher was saying. I learned how to say "blockhead" in sign language. Only a couple of the kids actually got up in front of the class and showed what they did, but it was so entertaining to watch them practice, and so inspiring! All of the kids seemed to be working really hard on it. They also are preparing a song, of their choice, to perform in front of the class - but they didn't practice that during that class.
Lunch was spent in the teacher's lounge, which wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. All the teachers are really nice, and they only talked about a few kids. Mostly they talked about themselves, and joked around. It was a different atmosphere from the middle school teachers lounge, where the talk was all about men and Zumba. The last class of the day was English 10 again but with different students, so they were just starting the unit of Local Color Writing. 
The thing I do like about middle school and high school is that you don't have the same students all day long, and I do like variety. I still prefer elementary though. All in all it was a good two days, and I enjoyed my time very much.

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