Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Naming the Problem, Part III: On My Own

On My Own

When I finished school, my wife and I moved to Reading, PA, where I got hired as a sub.  Nothing could have prepared me for what I would see there.  Reading was a small industrial city that took a dive when manufacturing up and left.  When I arrived the inner-portions of town were largely populated by the poor and immigrants.  There were shootings almost nightly.  The median family income was around $25k, half the state average.  The crime rate was twice the national average.

I'll never forget what I - even now - consider the worst assignment I have ever been given.  It was a second grade classroom, at a school located smack in the middle of one of Reading's most violent neighborhoods.  Granted, this was still my first year, and I no doubt made many rookie mistakes.  But I simply could not control the class.  They refused to listen to me.  No matter how many students I gave warnings to, or sent to the office, no one was interested in listening.  When one disruptive student put his head down to sleep on his desk I simply allowed him, thankfully that he was no longer making any noise.  At lunch, I learned that already that year they had had 2 teachers quit.  They were on their 3rd and she was out with laryngitis.

What was going on?  I began to notice a profound contrast between schools based solely on the socioeconomic make-up of the demographic.  In more affluent parts of the city (what few there were), the students were much better behaved and seemed more eager to learn.  

next time: Other Coast, Same Story.  I return to my native California, and find a similar pattern.

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