Tuesday, September 2, 2008
I paid a surprise visit to my old school this morning. Just dropped in right before lunchtime at El Cerrito High School, or at least the version that now exists before the brand new school that is being built gets occupied in December. I didn't know what to expect. This is the first year that there are no students enrolled there that have ever had a class with me. The new principal, a young African-American educator with the right frame of mind and the right energy level is a former student of mine. He gave me a welcoming hug, as did all the women in the main office who were there when I was there. Of course some of my old colleagues were there and I popped in their classrooms.
It was so wonderful to know that I could just observe it all with out having to take responsibility for anything. High schools are such fascinating laboratories for the study of adolescence. When I start my new job as university supervisor for beginning teachers next week, I'll have had recency. The level of noise, the resistance, the enthusiasm, the optimism, and the anxiety all came tumbling back to me. At one point, as I was leaving and the last stragglers were getting to their first afternoon classes, a couple cruised by me. The guy had his girlfriend in a headlock, and although she wasn't exactly protesting, I just couldn't walk away.
"Hey, that can't be too much fun," I shouted at him. No response. I then motioned with my arm mimicking the release of the headlock. My body language said knock it off. he did. They walked on; I walked on. Guess you can't take the teacher out of the school.
Next time I visit the new school will be ready to inhabit. It'll no doubt change some of the behavior of the student body. It'll give them something impressive to feel connected to and to rebuild their pride. The physical geography of the new campus will be up for grabs. It'll contain clean restrooms; it'll have no graffiti, no broken anything, no dysfunctional classrooms, no leaks, no fifty year residue of disgruntled humanity.
I left El Cerrito Gaucho land with the impression that if I ever wanted to come back and teach there all I'd have to do is say the word. I know it's not that simple, but it's gratifying in some small way. After all, the principal remembered my International Problems class. I felt the rarified air of respect.