Me at age 16, the day I got my driver’s license.
On March 14, students across the nation are planning a walkout to honor the victims of the Parkland, Florida shooting. The recent surge of student voice has gotten me thinking about how much responsibility and trust we give, or don’t give, to teenagers. How capable are teenagers? How reliable are their opinions? How smart are their decisions?
In high school when I was 16, I had a Driver’s Education class which meant that I got to practice driving once a week instead of going to one of my regular classes. At first, my instructor just had me drive around the school parking lot, but as I got more experienced, we’d drive on highways and busier roads.
One day when I got into the car, my instructor asked me, “Do you have your learner’s permit?” Continue reading
Our school is a school for newcomer immigrant students who are learning English for the first time. Lots of students struggle at the beginning, and passing state exams can be daunting. Despite hard work, many students fail exams the first time.
On top of all of that, they are teenagers, and sometimes they fail because they’re distracted and despite our best efforts, take longer to be fully engaged in school. This was the case for one of our students, Stiven.
Kids—and people in general—have a hunger to be of service. I’m reminded of this hunger on Martin Luther King, Jr Day.
I saw this hunger recently when I peered into a classroom at 3:30 on a Friday afternoon. It was almost an hour after school had ended when I would expect kids to be out eating pizza, or on their way home to play video games, or buried in SnapChat.
And yet, fifteen of our 12th graders were clustered around tables discussing a piece of text. Continue reading
“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
“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
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
“If you elect me, you can bring your cell phones to class.”
With that, the crowd erupted and I witnessed the power of political temptation in our student government elections. David, a quiet student from Guinea, was delivering his speech to be an Eleventh Grade Senator.
Why did David’s promise get such a big reaction? Because the administration collects students’ phones to minimize distraction.*