I really feel as if I learned a lot today. It was nice to be able to step out of my comfort zone, to step away from what I’m used to. This was a nice way to witness one version of public education. It is, however, much different than what I am used to. I must admit that, as of now, I don’t really know how I feel about this alternative high school.
It was a great experience, though. And I did witness a lot of positive points to it. Some of these include:
- The maturity level of the students. Maybe I have spent too much time in 10th grade, but I can assure you that the students here were some of the most mature that I have witnessed. Although, I am basing this mostly on the two students that were kind enough to give Andy, Li Li, Dr. Stearns and me a tour of SWW and a young freshman boy who we spoke with in the morning. Very mature. I wonder if this is because of their environment. Maybe I would need to see a bigger sample of the school.
- The students really seem to be doing things that they care about. One boy I spoke with was legitimately excited to start his senior project, a book of short stories. His enthusiasm was encouraging.
- Another thing I noticed was that a lot of the students were able to work through real-life problems together. There was something called… I don’t remember the name… but it was a part of class where everyone talks about a problem that each student is having, either in school or out, and, as a class, everyone discusses possible solutions. Such problems went from: “I’m failing math” to “I was kicked out of my house.” This was remarkable.
- I really liked the community that these teachers and students have created. They really were like a big family.
There were many other interesting things that I saw that were “good.” There were, however, many things that I wasn’t particularly impressed with. Up until lunch time, I was particularly intrigued by SWW, and I was enjoying the field trip. It was after lunch that I became skeptical quickly. To be brutally honest, I wasn’t impressed with the critical literacy class. I didn’t see any impressive teaching going on. I wasn’t impressed with the pedagogical skills. Maybe I am just not used to this… Another disturbing thing, which may just be because I am an outsider, was the use of vulgar language–from both student and teacher. I guess it just caught me off-guard.
Overall, though, I really like some of the things that are going on in SWW, and I am really glad that we took this trip. I learned things that I could not have learned in watching a movie or reading a book. I’ll let more of this sink in and will return to it later.