Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Hell Hole

I was just joking with Safety.  I told him I was walking the halls and he needed to send me home.  He said it has become chronic after 1st hour, so he was going to bump it up to a 3 day suspension.  Another staff member walked by, asked what the banter was about and his response was, "Oh no, she worked at Grand Avenue.  That was a hell hole.  She's staying."  

And I came up to my room, slightly really freaking offended. 

I am not going to tell you it was all a bed of roses, because it was not.  There was no tip-toeing through the tulips, but we had those kids moving and grooving.  The staff was AMAZING.  We were doing team building, through Ropes and Challenges, which I miss more than anyone will ever know.  The kids were doing that same kind of team building and problem solving.  They learned how to think outside of the box.  You should have seen our staff parties.  Ropes games everywhere.  In fact, I was on a High Ropes  portion of the course when one of my babies fractured their skull, falling out of the crib - and everyone's heads looked up to me. 

I learned how schools actually ran, because our admin had us involved in just about EVERYTHING.  Each team had a communicator, a chair, if you will, that went to a weekly meeting.  Our voices were heard and the information was spread.  I was involved in the Scheduling Committee and the Budget Committee where we, as a team, literally fit the pieces together to keep as much going as we could in the era of declining budgets.  We hand scheduled our 150+ kids, three times a year.

Technology was HUGE.  I had more technology available to me 15 years ago, than I do now.  My classes were not much smaller than what I currently have, but I had the technology to break things up.  On top of what was in our rooms, we had 3 or 4 full labs.  That was the school that truly nurtured and developed my classroom geekdom.  We had a Family E Newspaper and every team took 6 weeks and the kids produced the Friday News show. Portfolios were maintained and defended. 

My kids were amazing.  They were broken and bruised, just like my kids today, but they were hungry.  I had my 6th graders writing cited research papers and my 8th graders developing projects and community service ideas, based on the 10 page papers.  We had an 8th grade memorial garden in the courtyard outside of our classrooms, they organized a Comfort Drive for our troops in the days post 9/11.  They were real.  They were up to the challenge.  Today, I am fighting this sense of apathy at every turn.  10 page paper?  HA, I am fighting for a 5 paragraph essay, where I am feeding them the information, just so they begin to understand the structure.  

I look back at the amazing work we did and I am beyond offended.  We were doing amazing things!  Times have changed, money is not flowing. But I can't help but feel protective of the AMAZING things we did there.  I have yet to work with as wonderfully cohesive of a staff as I did there.  I will probably never find that again.  It was built as a school that was probably ahead of its time, but the ideas for multiple intelligences and project based learning were seen everywhere...and are still in my classroom today.

And ironically, I find myself defending my current school in much the same fashion...except to the community.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  People fear what they do not know or understand, even within education, but also within the larger community.  We need to find a way to work together, instead of tearing others down.  There has to be a way.

So, to my staff from Grand, I miss you guys and what we had there. Maybe I should have stayed on for the last year. I am so proud of what we accomplished there and the connections that were made. Regardless of what anyone on the outside says, we were doing great things.  Anyone who does not know about what we were doing, was clearly on the outside looking in.  Call it what you will, I cannot control that.  But Hell Hole, nah.  Those were my kids and my teachers.  That was our school.
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