“Miss, can I leave at 1:30 to go to a job interview at McDonald’s?”
We have 370 students, and while that is small for a school, I normally can’t spend a lot of time with a single student. However, there was something so compelling about Alonso’s deep, resolute desire to go to this job interview that reminded me of what teenagers crave most: independence and responsibility. Continue reading
The 55-25 retirement option
In my third year of teaching when I was 24 years old, there was an option to sign up for “55-25.” “55-25” was an early retirement option for educators, which meant that once you turned 55 and had been teaching in the system for 25 years, you could retire early and receive 50% of your average salary.
I remember several veteran teachers asking me if I had signed up for 55-25. I barely registered their question. I figured, there’s no way I’ll still be in education in 25 years. Continue reading
“Miss, I need to talk to you,” said Adil urgently, stopping me in the hallway.
Adil, who is originally from Yemen, was elected a Tenth Grade Senator by his classmates.
Adil looked intense. “When can we start the animal care class? And the French class?” Continue reading
Awa sobbed in our office. “Can’t you just let me try?” she pleaded.
Awa, an 11th grader who came from Senegal in 9th grade, was begging to take the New York State English Regents exam in January. We told her she’d take it in June when she had completed the coursework for the exam. She left in tears.
When I started our school in 2011,* I thought that the experience of taking a state exam was so valuable that it was worth letting a student try, even if they weren’t 100% prepared. Continue reading
“That’s my butterfly!”
Marcus pointed to a butterfly drawing, part of an elaborate book project displayed in the 9th grade hallway.
Marcus is a 9th grader with a semi-permanent frown who had recently been suspended for fighting. He’s originally from Honduras, has lived in New York for two years, and is self-conscious about his English– too self-conscious to notice that his English is far better than most of his classmates.* He gives the impression, “I’m a loner– don’t mess with me.” Continue reading
“We just cancelled Saturday school,” said an assistant principal from another school as he walked to his car. Sleet pecked us as we paused to talk in front of our shared Bronx campus. “Only two kids showed up, and most of the teachers had to call out because of the roads.”
So to cancel or not to cancel? As a principal, I normally don’t have this power, and the mayor of New York City decides whether or not to cancel school. However, this was Saturday school, which we start running in December to give students extra tutoring before January exams, and it was my call. Continue reading
Usman is an adorable 10th grader originally from Pakistan, smaller than the other kids. He has huge eyes, straight bangs, and a lopsided smile, and whenever he sees me, he waves and says, “Hi Principal!” He also has an older brother, Saad, in 11th grade who now barely attends school, and is inches away from becoming a Code 39.
A “Code 39” is the code schools use for a dropout. Back in the first two years of our school’s existence, I remember when Code 39 wasn’t a part of my vocabulary. Now, we have more Code 39s than we’d like. We’ve started to watch for early signs of Code 39s, as in the case of Usman at our after-school Thanksgiving Potluck. Continue reading