Things I Know 250 of 365: This school almost made me cry

One of the nation’s highest priorities should be to learn from the best practices of these high-performing schools and to insist that all schools serving low-income children aspire to the No Excuses standard of excellence.

– Adam Meyerson

The students are lined up outside the school doors. In matching navy blue sweat suits, sleepiness hangs over them like a morning haze. I attribute their silence to the same tiredness I remember my own students wearing as they entered my eighth grade classroom.

The door to the school opens and the flood of students I remember witnessing as a teacher and experiencing as a student doesn’t happen. The students remain in a single-file line. The groggy morning murmurs have ceased. The line has moved from quiet to silent. Just over the threshold, the principal meets each student and asks them to lift their pant legs so she can see their socks. The few students wearing blue jeans are asked to lift their shirts so the principal can see their belts.

The students file down the hall – still silent – and sit in “community circle” and wait to be dismissed to their classrooms. The teacher overseeing community circle this morning is the only voice to be heard in the room, “I’m sorry eighth grade. Seventh grade is so quiet, I’m going to have to dismiss them first.”

Without a word, the seventh graders gather their backpacks and lunch boxes and file past me back down the hallway. One of my host teachers says, “Don’t be surprised when they don’t speak to your or acknowledge your presence. They’re on silent.” If a student were to turn to look at me or say “hello,” she explains, the student would receive a demerit. I later learn the principal’s spot checking of socks and belts also held the potential of demerits. Anything other than plain white socks or jeans without a belt are grounds for a demerit. “They are symbols of status,” the host teacher explains.

I bite my tongue at this. I am a guest, and it is not my place to point out the school’s treatment of its students is a constant reminder of status.


12 thoughts on “Things I Know 250 of 365: This school almost made me cry

  1. Oh my. This has made me think about how I sometimes think our students need more discipline and structure – and how terribly wrong that could go. You have painted a haunting picture that I will keep in mind. There is simply nothing positive about a school like this. There are no circumstances, situations, or reasons that can support creating such an environment.

  2. I am guessing you bit your tongue so hard it bled.  I've got a lot to say, but I think I'll leave it at that for now….

  3. This sound so familiar to me!  How can we build relationships with students if we are worried about what color their socks are, and if they are afraid to say good morining to us, or share “good news”.  I have worked for a Charter School like this one, and I was so unhappy having to give demerits for things that I wish I could have just said fix that and we move on.

  4. So we made a *FEW* changes to SLA while you were gone… you didn't need to write about it! Seriously… this is heartbreaking. How anyone who would call themselves an educator could so destroy the natural exuberance of children is beyond me.

  5. Wake up folks! This war on children is increasingly the norm. Rich white suburban kids even have to endure protocols like “silent lunch.”

  6. Hello again Mr. Chase,My name is Christopher Reindl and I am a student in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama. I I truly do not understand why this is allowed to go on in America. I understand the need for order, but students have rights too. Basic human rights should not be taken away from anyone especially those there to seek an education. Uniforms and dress codes may seem like good ideas, but it takes away the creativity and drive in students. We should make the school an inviting and comforting place to come and learn. You can not teach through fear. We must not let this become the norm in this ever changing America. We can do better.Thanks,Christopher Reindl

  7. This is Japan, according to my Japanese students.  The sad part is that those who believe education equals comparisons based on test score competition will seek to implement the same “best practice” here.

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