February 17, 2011

What’s it like… to work in a disadvantaged high school?

It’s pretty fucked. 

And kids who don’t? 

 

Setting aside that at any high school, teenagers are going to be going through emotional ups and downs, they’re stereotypically “angsty”, “hormonal” blah blah blah and all the other traits we’re taught to associate with this period of life, at the school I’m teaching at, in three of my classes, MOST OF THEM CAN’T EVEN READ/WRITE OR SPELL PROPERLY.  If their literacy levels are this low, how are they even supposed to… do anything?  How am I supposed to teach them?  Well sure, I’ll start at the very, very basics.  I was looking at some resources to teach them about human rights, and how the hell can they learn anything when they can’t even READ OR WRITE properly?  One of the teacher’s told me I should give them colouring-in activities.  The librarian photocopied some word searches for my study hall class to do because they were “reading” Where’s Wally.  Obviously it’s challenging my assumptions about what students should be doing.  I still feel that I should expect more from them than colouring in.  Seriously what the fuck.  Today I played Uno with them – some of them are 17 years old.  And they couldn’t play properly.  At 17, I was in my first year of law school.   

 

The highlight of my day was teaching a kid to spell “pregnancy”.  “Yup, it’s ‘preg’, then ‘nancy’.  Now spell it!”.  He looked up at me as I gave him this huge challenge and had a huge grin when he got it right.  Why was he spelling pregnancy?  Because one of his assignments was to research teen pregnancy.  “Teen pregnancy is bad because the girl could be called a slut or whore” is what he wrote down.  This was the kid who had already gotten into two fights by week two of school, who was so worried about getting charges pressed against him by the other kid who was hospitalised in the fight that he couldn’t sleep at night and his dad said he didn’t want him as his son anymore.  He told me he wanted to walk on the highway in front of a car.  What the fuck is going on.  No wonder they sit in class and stare at me when I give them work.  Their whole schooling lives, they haven’t had to do anything.  They don’t know what it’s like to study hard at school.  They aren’t given any homework or if they do get homework, they don’t do it.  Deadlines are meaningless.  There’s so much more going on in their lives.  And even when they do want to study and do well at university, it breaks my heart that they’ve had to go through so much to even get to year 12.  One of my brightest students is a young mother.  She’s 17 and already has an 18 month year old child, is a single mother living by herself and is currently going through mediation proceedings with her ex-partner.  What the hell.  There’s too much to rant about.  

 

And don’t get be started on the chaos of the school system.

 

By the way… this is cross-posted to my other blog.  

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