Jeetu, a 12th-grade boy, sat in my office, eager to talk.
“You’re the principal, so I can tell you anything, right?”
I was tickled by Jeetu’s question. A lot of kids might have the opposite thought: You’re the principal so let me choose my words carefully and make sure you don’t find out whatever I’m hiding.
Jeetu took New York State Regents exams* in January. I was meeting with every 12th grader who had taken exams and experienced at least one disappointment in failing an exam. Continue reading
My school, the High School of Language and Innovation, is a school for newcomer immigrant English Language Learners that was founded in 2011. We had our first graduating class in 2015. This week, we graduated our fourth class, the class of 2018.
As I listened to the students’ speeches at graduation, I was struck by how many of the students had experienced our intended vision for the school: “We learned to work together as a team in order to learn English,” “We got to make friends with people from diverse cultures.”
However, even as I enjoyed the graduation, something was on my mind: 90% of our girls graduated. 51% of our boys graduated.*
My school is a school for newcomer immigrant English Language Learners. With recent events at the Mexican border, I have been thinking about the parents of my students and their journeys in coming to the United States with their children. This past week, I had the opportunity to speak with the father of Marcos. * Marcos is a student from Peru who came to the U.S. when he was in the 9th grade.
This past week, Marcos won an award for graduating seniors from the Bronx United Federation of Teachers. Marcos and 30 other students each won a laptop, a wireless printer and a backpack full of supplies, all to set them up for success in their first year of college. At the awards ceremony, I sat next to Marcos’s father and learned more about him. 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
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
Last year, our graduation rate was 68% in June, and increased to 73% in August.
This year, our graduation rate is 60% in June, eight points below last year.
I confess, I would love to have handed diplomas to every student. For a week or so, I’ve felt as though the dog ate my optimism. I would like it back, please.
Yet it’s hard to stay uninspired for long when I come into contact with students, or listen to just about anyone. The other day, an 11th grade student from another high school in the Bronx called me on my cell phone to ask if she could take geometry in my school over the summer. I didn’t know her and don’t know how she got my number but was inspired by her research, resourcefulness, and chutzpah. Continue reading