Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Broken Windows, Shattered Expectations

So... today was kind of weird. Not bad. But definitely weird.

I was at a school I had never been to before, although I have driven past it on my way to other schools. (There is nothing worse than sitting in traffic and seeing three or four schools that you could be at if the fates had aligned differently.) I rarely even see this school listed on Smartfind, which usually means they have a small list of regular subs and only post assignments to the pool when desperate. I don't actually know much about the residential parts of the area, but I assumed that this school was fairly well-to-do since it's by a large professional establishment (I'm omitting further details to protect privacy, sorry for vagueness). This is why I should never play "First Impressions" for money. 

I enter the school. It is huge. And sad. It has those shiny white walls that make the standard institutional carpet seem even more drab and dingy. Okay, so they haven't renovated in a while. It happens, right? Then you walk into the classroom and notice that none of the furniture matches. In any given room there are three different types of desks and several different types of chairs (including the wooden ones that must be a throwback to the seventies). The desks aren't even the same height, so the kids are all sitting at drastically levels. This school clearly received whatever odds and ends the rest of the county was ditching. 

You know how in the movies young, idealistic teachers go to inner city schools and do a room makeover and suddenly the students feel at home and everything is better? It seems a little farfetched, doesn't it? But here's the thing: it's based on the same theory that Giuliani applied to crime during his time as governor of New York. The idea is that evidence of small crimes (broken windows, graffiti, etc.) gives the impression that no one really cares, so small crimes escalate into larger crimes. I think about this theory a lot in school. Budget limitations suck, but what are kids supposed to think when their supplies are collected from everyone else's unwanted odds and ends? I was depressed being there, and I'm a lot older and a lot more tolerant of crappy environs than your average six year old. I truly believe that school should be a warm, friendly environment where all students feel welcome and wanted. Most of that comes down to the faculty (more on this particular staff later), but I think physical surroundings play a large role as well. 

My suspicions were confirmed when I met the woman for whom I was subbing: she told me that she never has outside subs come in. The school has four permanent subs working for them (they're just like me... only they make more money and receive benefits), and for the most part those four individuals cover everything. When the morning announcements came on, a faculty member listed all of the teachers who were out and who was covering them (I'm guessing this practice is more for the staff than the students), and I was mentioned--by full name--as a "special guest" in the building. Wait, what? Apparently I was that much of a specimen. It was nice of them to make me feel welcome, and you could tell that this school was very close-knit and enthusiastic. But isn't that sort of like blurting out on a first date, "I don't date at all and it's most likely because I scare everyone off!" Just saying, schools: you're more likely to score someone's digits if you play it cool. 

Honestly, I could go on and on about today and the headaches and heartaches, but I think I will leave it for now. Maybe tomorrow I'll post a part 2... maybe not. For tonight, I am going to think very carefully about how the broken windows theory applies to my home. Anyone want to come over for a painting party?

1 comment:

  1. Painting party...that's exactly what I was thinking of for the school. I think you're absolutely right that it makes a difference.