(I include this picture, because the open and naturally-lit library was my favorite area in the school)
I was not the most thrilled to visit Mathers High School, as I had recently visited Chicago for another class and observed at an Elementary school in Little Village. The majority of the residents in Little Village are Hispanic and so every student at my school was Hispanic. The experience did not affect me the way my experience at Mathers did, especially because I was observing an Elementary school class as opposed to talking with multiple High School classes. I left Mathers High school with a full heart, in response to the continuing reassurance my school experiences are giving me; I become more and more confident in my feelings that Education is my perfect fit.
Upon first entering the school I was surprised by a girl who was crying and what looked to be a metal detector. No matter how many Chicago public schools I enter, I continue to feel put off by metal detectors at the front of a High school. Regardless, I was happily surprised by the looks of the library with its wide windows shedding natural light, and an enthusiastic Librarian. She told us about the crowding problem their school has recently been tending to by holding classes in the computer lab as opposed to a regular classroom. As we were walked through the school, I saw police officers at multiple corners and teachers consistently reminding students of how much time they had before the bell rang. There was a feel of warmth and genuine care through every teacher or faculty member I found myself in contact with; the feeling that every adult was on the same page in truly loving these students and pushing them to achieve their best selves.
The first class I observed was a homeroom class that was unfolding upon the auditorium stage. Students were sprawled across the stage, laying on their stomachs, braiding hair, watching Youtube videos, several different cultures playing out in each corner of the stage: The example of what every High school homeroom should look like, in my opinion. My High school was comprised of mostly white people, a sliver of Asian students, a sliver of African American students and even fewer Hispanics. This stage was completely diversified and brought me lots of joy to see so many different types of people interacting together. Once the homeroom was called to order by a quirky, loud, drama teacher, the students immediately quieted down. The respect they had for their teacher was very evident as their activities were instantly put away and their eyes met hers. Sample Vespa forms were handed out to students to complete in small groups while the teacher guided them through the sheet, answering any questions that arose. I was very surprised they were learning about grants and loans and money! I’m sure these High school students know more than I do about the subject, and I felt more so encouraged to include a life-skills segment into my future classroom, or at least bring focus to learned knowledge that may be applied to all aspects of life—inside and outside of the classroom. That seemed to be the goal throughout my experience talking with the students and hearing their questions, focus was on the future; making realities out of highly placed goals. In my experience, High school felt like it was going to last forever and there were few reminders of the inevitable dive-into-the-real-world that would have to be taken. These students will never experience the shock that I did towards the end of Senior year, they know what’s coming.
What I will take from this particular experience is the reassured belief that I belong in a diverse High school; submerged within a variety of cultures so I may learn and gain new perspective. I will keep the overall focus upon my student’s futures, and encourage and guide them to be working towards one that they may be successful in. I will do this through constant reminders of their infinite potential and keeping perpetual positivity in the classroom. I will remember the enthusiasm the homeroom teacher brought to her students, even in tasks such as filling out a Vespa form! I will remember the curiosity students brought to the classes that Christina, John and I spoke to, and remain clear and articulate in my future classroom, as well as open and willing. The fact the students we saw at Mathers were of a more diverse nature doesn’t change the facts that they are kids, they are curious and they have ambitions, as does any High school student, and that treating them like a person, with respect, care and empathy is of utmost importance.