Larkin High School 219 Urban School Reflexive


I have gone to Catholic schools for my entire life and never had an experience with a a public school, let alone an urban setting, before being and upper class (wo)man at Illinois State University. I only worked at U-High for one semester and more recently began working with the Regional Alternative School in Bloomington, which gave me a better understanding of students who really don't want to be in the classroom. The only thing I knew prior to my work is that classroom management is rather difficult no matter where you teach, but particularly with students who don't want to be there which I believed would be encountered no matter which high school you enter.

My main concern when entering an urban setting is my personal safety. With the many different shootings and events that have been happening in schools in this day and age that has spread from just an urban setting to any school. My initial fear for my own safety was from the stories that I heard and videos seen online of grisly fights and just violence of students on students. My fear is greatly influenced from where I grew up: Riverside, a cozy little suburb made up of almost entirely white, upper middle class families. My journey with diversity was put into full force when I entered college at a public institution which I am ultimately grateful for the experiences I have had here.

I've found most of my preconceptions about an urban setting to come from the stories I hear on the news from uniforms being instituted to block out gang paraphernalia within the classrooms to stories I have heard from my best friend in highs school whose father worked as the head of homicides on the south side. Needless to say my safety was always, and still is, a priority when I am in the city or just in a school setting.


I went to Larkin High School in Elgin, Illinois on April, 28th as our final performance for the Illinois Shakespeare Touring Company's performance of Romeo and Juliet Abridged. We have been practicing and performing this piece for the entirety of the semester, and I was excited to get my Fridays back yet sad to leave this whole group of goof balls. (Above video from rehearsal)

We all met bright eyed and bushy tailed at 8:00 am to get started on our two and a half hour trek up to the suburbs from Illinois State University's campus. We typically do a line through before we pile into the van, but since this was such a long trip we did the line through in the car. (Above video from said line through in the car)

Elgin, Illinois

I have spent a decent amount of time in Elgin from earlier in college having friends who lived there as well as participating in Students Today Leaders Forever High School Pay-It-Forward-Tour, and I heard about my friends experiences in high school as well as these students from the Elgin area.

Elgin High School Pay-It-Forward Tour

Each school has a reputation within Elgin: South Elgin, Elgin, and Larkin. There is a large population of undocumented immigrants living in Elgin. The area is almost half Hispanic which is reflected in restaurants like El Paraiso as well as there diversity within the high schools.

I now really want a steak burrito.

When we finally made it to our destination, one of the actors fell out of the car in her haste to get to work. (And just general clumsiness) We were running a little late due to suburban traffic. However, we made it just in time.

When we entered the school, (and of course we parked by the wrong door so we had to run around the school looking for the correct entrance) we were all signed in, per usual, the only thing different was that all if not most of the staff seemed to have a walkie talkie on their belt. We were escorted through the school to their black box theatre, noting along the route that the lunch room would be perfect for a food fight. An adult with a walkie talkie had to be with us as we made our way to the space.

The lunch room was crowed and noisy but we were quickly taken through the twisty hallways to their theatre wing. They provided a wonderful lunch from a local sandwich place, and we had to eat really quick while we walked the space before our performance since we were cutting it close. This group of high schoolers were theatre students, all familiar with the play, and we were hoping for a good audience and response to the show.

Walkie Talkies

I have become used to Walkie Talkies while observing at the Regional Alternative School in Bloomington. When I worked as a Day Camp Coordinator at a YMCA in Manitowish Waters, WI, we also used them but for basic communication between locations and for safety reasons. They are a great way of communicating to be sure that everything is running smoothly particularly when you have students moving from locations and you have to be in contact immediately if information needs to be immediately shared. I was confused as to why some of the teachers had walkies and others did not.

When we entered the space, the students were all seated waiting for us to arrive before they could go up to eat as well. I was surprised to see them already in the space because they all usually wander in ten minutes after the bell and we get started even later.

Larkin Drama Logo

There was an excited buzz in the air as we settled and started to do warm ups. I was busy taking in all of their posters and upcoming events!

We began the performance and they were all munching quietly on their lunches. The real characters did not come out until the workshop after the performance.

During the workshop, we went over three mini sessions: warm up (vocal and physical,) some basic fight choreography, and interpretation of Shakespeare's text. Everyone was excited to give the fake slap a shot but pretty nervous to share their modern interpretation of Shakespeare's balcony scene.

Language Use

The improvisation of text for a fight is always interesting, but in this setting it particularly sparked my ears because of the reaction of the room. The students performing chose the phrase "Bitch, don't steal my lunch." which I related back to the noisy lunch room and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) percentage, ~74% who participate in NSLP, which I came across when researching Larkin's report card.

The interpretation of the balcony scene was also interesting to hear; one pair of upper class men, who were hitting on mercilessly after the show, started every line with "Daaammmmnnnn (fill in pick up line)" It was endearing but also showed the debasement of women that these girls are experiencing already from their peers and the overload of hormones that goes along with high school.

They had so many different events going on! I was jealous of their New York Trip coming up as well as their Disney trip, which was for band. Those trips were never something I got to do with my high school.

Their Spring Musical was Fame: the Musical which is a great show to showcase many different actors talents. It also lead me to looking into the Drama Classes offered at Larkin.


After coming back to campus and jumping straight back into my other classwork, I reflected that these students want to play like any other kids we have worked with. There hasn't been a huge different or shift between the urban setting we experienced earlier this year in Muncie, Indiana and Elgin, Illinois both of which are classified as urban settings.

I know that these student's vernacular is much different from my own and that I need to consider it part of the vocalization of ones self even with the slight hesitation with the word choices of "damn" and "bitch." My perspective has shifted slightly in understanding that there are procedures in place within school systems to protect the teachers and the students even though we must prepare for the worst.

culturally relevant pedagogy

The choice of Fame is a great choice for these Hispanic students, not only does it relate to their age group but it also was adapted by a José Fernandez. This gives the students the opportunity to look forward in their theatre artist careers and see someone who has already published. I cannot stress the importance of the many faceted characters giving many students the opportunity to play a supporting role and that they are the correct ages. This will allow them to pull from their own lives and experiences and engage in their work.

This entire semester's experience has taught me many things. The most important that I am adding to my well of knowledge is getting to read more plays by playwrights that are non-European. This will broaden my horizons and my students through immersing ourselves in different culture whilst tackling major problems that all humanity faces.

VPAA - Visual and Performing Arts Academy is the specialized program done through Larkin which pipelines students with an interest in the arts into higher level classes; they have dance, drama, instrument, visual, and vocal.

Created By
Hannah Spohnholtz

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.