Today, I met with my cooperating teacher (CT) for the first time at the school. It was a pretty incredible experience, even though it was mildly disorganized and hectic. We also got locked into the school at the end of the day, so that was exciting. Luckily, that resulted in my opportunity to meet with the principal, who is such a fantastic guy.
I learned a few things today about this school.
First of all, let me explain. My school is located in a part of unincorporated King County. In other words, no one wants to annex it. The main argument is that the crime rate would jump so much from the annexation that no nearby city is willing to take it on. However, it is also located in one of the most diverse parts of King County. You can be driving down a street and all of a sudden there are signs in Spanish everywhere. Then, all of a sudden, you are surrounded by Vietnamese, then back to English. It's really amazing. There are a lot of cultures that are well-represented here that aren't as much in other parts of Seattle (El Salvador, for example). It's really exciting!
The school is broken into three small school settings, each with their own set of administrators (including principals), teachers, and staff. They are all housed on the same campus, though. The small school that I will be a part of is focused on fine arts, and is therefore a bit more creative and liberal in terms of student rules. The lockers in the main building for my small school, for example, are painted by the students each year. There are lots of murals and other types of artistic expressions located around the small school buildings.
The two science classrooms are located in a "mixed" building, which is shared by two of the small schools. They are totally bizarre science classrooms, in terms of organization. I suppose it's just that they are small, but setting up the classroom is pretty tough.
That's what I did today with my CT. We decided on groups of 6, so there are seats for thirty students in the class. However, there aren't enough chairs for each spot, and on the first few days of school we will probably have about 33 students. So, that will be interesting! Each "desk" is a table that has space for two students. There are very few matching chairs in the classroom. I'm not sure if I will have a desk or not, as I don't have one yet and there might not be space for it anyway.
Lots of old science equipment, like old balances and crazy looking machines that are straight out of the 70s, not sure what they do. There are lots of beakers and stuff like that, though, so I am excited for chemistry.
Oh, yeah, did I not mention that yet? My CT is teaching 3 periods of Integrated Science (basically biology or life science) and 2 periods of Chemistry. So, not only do I get experience the subject in which my background is in, but I also will get experience in the other endorsement I have (Science, which encompasses chemistry, physics, and earth sciences). It's more or less a perfect experience. I'll also get to see what it's like to plan two different classes simultaneously, which is likely what I will get as a new teacher. At least two subjects. Some teachers get three.
So, anyway, on to what I learned today! I learned that in terms of the WASL, the school has improved drastically. I believe that scores are reported with all three small schools combined. The year before last, only 9% of students passed the science WASL. Last year, 24% passed. This is huge! Although 24% is still really small, that is OVER A 200% CLIMB in passing scores. My CT was beaming when she heard that, for the first time, as the principal let us out of the school (which we were locked into). I also looked through her grade book for last year, and saw one class period in which 8 people got a C or above, with the remaining 22 students getting a D or an F. Most of them failed. That was really hard to see, but as she said, it's the way it is. If you superimpose a graph showing attendance and one showing grades, you can see that the students who have 15-30 days of unexcused absence are the ones who also get F grades.
Needless to say, I am so psyched to work in this district, at this school, and with this teacher. The area intrigues me, the diversity excites me, and I think it's going to be a perfect fit. I think it will be really challenging, as well, and I welcome that with open arms. I am going to continue to keep my journal here, in blog form, so that those of you I invite to check it out can keep tabs on my journey to become a teacher. Since this is a public forum, I won't be using any names at all. So, my teacher will always be my CT, and I won't name the school. Some of you know where I am, etc., but I feel obligated to keep names unpublished out of respect for privacy.
I go back tomorrow to hang posters in the classroom and then talk curricula with the other science teacher in the small school and her intern, also someone from my program.