The New Zealand mosque shooting had particular resonance for my students. My school is for newcomer immigrant English Language Learners and many of our students are Muslim. The day after the shooting, a girl who is not Muslim came in with a poster she had made on her own stating “We stand with our Muslim neighbors.” It was the first of several events last week that showed me a new level of leadership among my students.
Our school is housed in a building with five other public high schools. Students from one of the others schools decided to organize a student walkout on Friday in response to the New Zealand shooting to protest hate crimes, gun violence, and show support for the victims. It would be peaceful, no longer than 40 minutes, and take place on the athletic field. Students from our campus had participated in last year’s walkout around the Parkland school shooting, and it had been safe and organized. All seemed fine.
On Tuesday, my assistant principal called me: “Julie, did you know that our students were planning on walking out tomorrow– Wednesday, not Friday? Apparently there’s a big thing on social media. Continue reading
I find my students touching, and often cute. However, in thinking of them as “cute,” I don’t always see their wisdom.
Three 12th grade students approached me a few weeks ago. I call them my “movers and shakers.” They are active in student government and always looking to plan new activities.
“We want to have a ‘Glow in the Dark’ party,” said Stephanie.*
“Yeah! Kids are getting stressed out studying for Regents exams and this will be fun,” added Hassan.**
I did what I often do with kids: I told them I would think about it and get back to them. Continue reading
Student artwork, High School of Language and Innovation.
As our 12th-grade students are applying for colleges, our staff writes recommendations for them. The students email the recommender a “brag sheet” of their accomplishments, goals, and life experiences. I have had the privilege of writing several recommendations this year, and love how much I learn about our students through the process.
One young man, who I see as a leader, described his only accomplishment as “good at sports.” He was totally unaware of his own greatness. I made sure to describe his leadership, such as the times I’ve seen him guiding 9th graders to do the right thing.
One young lady wrote an assertive brag sheet in organized bullet points. Reading it, I remembered how she had volunteered one summer to organize all of our classroom libraries and then ensured that I wrote a letter documenting her community service. This year, she started a dance club, which has become our most well-attended club. I felt appreciation for her ambition and how she has made the school a better place.
One young man, Samuel, * was a surprise to me. Continue reading
A school is a place where people interact. It’s easy to rush ahead and think these interactions don’t matter. After reading about the staff and students in Parkland, Florida, I was reminded of how much of an impact people can make in each other’s lives. I experienced this impact as I supervised a school dance yesterday.
The student government had planned the dance with a “Glow in the Dark” theme and bought hundreds of plastic glow sticks that students could wear like necklaces or bracelets. However, nothing was glowing, and not many kids were dancing. It was still daylight and sunlight was streaming through the large gym windows. My assistant principal gave a pep talk to the demoralized student government so they could get past their disappointment. It worked. 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
“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.*