Just another day at Creekside High School
Report from the classroom
Dani is on Ken Brown’s morning show talking about issues surrounding teen moms. Miguel comes in upset with a story of being pulled over because of the tattoo on his neck. Jamie gets removed from class for calling a classmate a scrap. Jim refuses to do an assignment and won’t explain why.
The teacher is working through a lesson on the Civil War. Projects work well with the alternative population but they require more prep time and an ability to teach outside the book. The teachers teach six periods each day, short 40-minute classes which agree with the students’ attention spans. There are three full-time teachers and two part time teachers teaching all subjects. One focuses on English another on history and a third on art, science and math. A fourth teacher runs the teen mom program and teaches biology and a fifth does all special education classes.
There is no way to classify the students. Their needs are as varied as their personalities. They come to the school usually deficient in credits and with at least one story of a bad educational experience (teachers who upset them, traumatic personal events, broken homes, parents on drugs, whatever). Most teachers don’t read the student histories – it taints how they feel about the student. Think about the future is a big part of the equation that means working from today forward.
Some students get it, some don’t. Polarization is common in the classes, A’s and F’s, the motivated and the not. The work is not hard; show up, do your work, focus, tolerate others and plenty of opportunities for extra credit. Those who get it take responsibility, make a plan and succeed. Those who don’t, keep blaming others for their problems, argue, disrupt and either drop out or get expelled.
One of the teachers likes to motivate students with cheesy quotes, “You do good, you get stuff.” “Wake up every morning with an honest smile on your face.” “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right.” “Every day above ground is a good day.” He has been to four student funerals in 12 years and doesn’t want to go to any more. Hard work and personal responsibility are what he preaches, simple solutions for difficult times.
The school provides opportunities but the dark side is strong. Outside services are rampant, drug and gang intervention, counseling, vocational training and placement, employment opportunities, DAAC, SAY, SVTS, SRJC, ROTC, KSVY and Job Corps. Anything to get the kids thinking about their future.
Drugs are common, two students have medicinal marijuana cards and a few brag about their growing operations. Many smoke cigarettes, most drink and harder drugs go in cycles depending on availability in the community (“Remember meth month? Man that was ugly.”) They grow up sheltered in a small town where the main economic interest is alcohol-based tourism. People come from around the world to drink wine here and we have one of the only public parks where you can legally drink all day.
Thursday moved along quickly, Dani came to school excited about broadcast journalism, Miguel called his foster mom then settled into his classes, Jamie spent a period working on her own then was counseled by the cheesy teacher who explained, “You don’t have to like everybody but you do have to tolerate them,” and Jim was able to complete an on-line career assessment which includes a pathway to a job as an auto mechanic.
Just another day at Creekside High School.