This school was a little different than the one in yesterday’s visit, not only in terms of the grades that it housed, but also of the diversity of the students. There was still team spirit, enthusiastic and extremely happy students, younger children with big smiles and huge inquiring eyes. This vision makes me recall another class I had last semester where the professor made the comment that in the younger grades students seem happier, willing to go to school to learn, it is when they are getting older that the interests seem to shift or the desire to learn seems to decrease. His next comment, all the more interesting because it really is something to think about, was: What are we (teachers, school personnel) doing wrong? What has changed?
As I walked through this school I kept reflecting back on these two questions. I am not saying that the other schools did not have happy students, often outgoing and very intelligent. I am just commenting that it was noticeable. These were just questions, maybe the younger students in the other schools, with whom I did not have contact where just as happy, maybe it is nothing to do with educators, it could be a specific group, a specific place. Either way I believe these questions are important for all schools and teachers in all areas urban or suburban and in all grades pre-K through college and beyond.
One of the aspects that I thought was very interesting was the ethnicities in this school, mostly Hispanic. A positive outcome we learned was the multiple ESL classes and bilingual programs put in place to assist all students. Not only would those students who were learning English as a second language be benefitting from such programs, but the native speakers would in turn be learning a second language at an early age. I saw these programs as truly valuable for all students as well as for teachers, administrators and even parents. To run along on this point, this school seemed to have, or at least mentioned more parental support than the previous one. The school had parental meetings and even volunteers.
Finally, close to the end of their presentation, we were told that for many of these students, they would be reading books for the first time when they entered into the school. They may have no previous reading or being read to experiences, so the school, these teachers would be the first ones to introduce them to books, to the knowledge and the fun one can achieve by picking up a book to read. I thought that their gift of a book of stories that their children often read was one of the most thoughtful presents I ever received. It illustrated so well the commitment of the school to the students and their families as well as the devotion of the teachers.