Saturday, January 10, 2009

New School

I heard from one of the young teachers I mentored during my last year in the classroom. It's only been a few years, but suddenly he's in his 4th year and the brand new $120 million dollar high school that was built on the site of the torn down old school is ready to open.
3 1/2 years in a temporary campus of portables is enough. Nicknamed Guantanamo High School, it really felt like it the one year I thought there. But now the wait is over. A brand new school is a thing to behold. Imagine new school bathrooms. Imagine desks and walls with no graffiti, clean-well lighted rooms, heat, all windows present, supplies. Wow!
I feel relief for the young teachers and all of their students who never had a real campus to call their own. It's bound to make a difference. Right? I hope we will be able to tell. What shall we look for? One place to start will be the mood of the campus. The vibe. Will the students take more pride in their environment? Who will draw the first graffiti? Where will it be and for how long?
Next time I go down to the Bay, I'll pop by the new campus and give it a good going over. It won't be easy. I won't know where anything or anyone is. But I'll find a few teachers I worked with for the better part of 30 years. I'll find many new faces. I won't know one student. How strange.
Undoubtedly, both schools, new and old, will show up in my dreams. They are, after all, the same one in a way. What bothers me now is a sneaking emotion that's jabbing me in the gut. I feel a little...dare I say jealous. Maybe it's envy or just sadness for not being around long enough to enjoy the new campus. I wouldn't wish any teacher the condition of my old classroom, but I sure would like to know the feeling of having a brand new one. In the end, I'm just hopeful that it'll be years before any teacher has to concern herself with broken glass, columns of ants bisecting the room, disintegrating linoleum, pounds of chalk dust, desks used by three generations, (really, the carved names don't lie) faulty lighting, (know what a ballast smells like?) broken furniture, hidden asbestos, door-knobs that break off in your hand, cabinets with no knobs (unless you replace them) WWII file cabinets, outdated maps, and a loud speaker that once fell on my head. But those are just physical things. None matter too much when you factor in all that makes up a classroom. Who enters the space and what happens there is really all you ever take away. Besides, I know some great housecleaning tricks.

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