Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pat Wingert writes about his experience at Cardozo

Newsweek writer Pat Wingert writes about his experience as a part time teacher at Cardozo Senior High School a couple of years ago.
As a reporter covering education on and off for more than 20 years, I had visited a fair number of urban high schools. Yet I was unprepared for life inside Cardozo. Two weeks after my arrival, a substitute teacher was beaten by three freshman girls during an all-school assembly. They were mad because she'd shushed them. Two weeks before I arrived, a varsity basketball player shot another member of his team, just outside the school. The classroom next to mine was thoroughly trashed—holes punched through the walls, furniture upended—after it was abandoned by a new teacher who felt intimidated by her pupils.

Cardozo had hundreds of students, yet the administration decided to lock all the student bathrooms except one girls' and one boys' on the first floor, as a security measure. (Even so, vandals often stuffed the toilets till they overflowed.) The school's fire alarm was pulled as a prank so regularly that students always assumed it was a hoax, including one day when a real fire was set in a bathroom. The school allegedly had a security force, but with the exception of the officer stationed by the metal detector, they were not in evidence. I saw others only once--three of them were hanging out together, in a corner of the basement.

I was assigned to work alongside a "real" teacher, George Telzrow, who had requested my presence through a journalism education program run by George Washington University. Telzrow, who had recently volunteered to take over the school newspaper, was one of several inspiring teachers I met. He did his best to create a bunker of sanity and productivity within his classroom, and regularly came in early and stayed late. Nonetheless, most of his students were DCPS lifers who were convinced that daily attendance was as optional as homework. That may help explain why less than 20 percent of Cardozo's students score at or above "proficient" in reading and math on D.C.'s annual test.
Read the whole thing.

No comments: