My expectations for the teachers at the alternative school was once again similar to what I had experienced in my schooling. I expected teachers to be nicely dressed, professional yet still kind and understanding, and organized. For the most part, the teachers were very similar to what I had expected.
The teachers, Mrs. Elko and Ms. Quick, dressed professionally. They usually wore slacks, skirts, and dresses. Although, the week the Cubs won the World Series, the teachers and students were able to wear Cubs garb. Other than that they were always dressed nicely. They never wore anything flashy or abnormal that could distract their students. The students themselves had to wear a button down shirt to school. If they did not the school would provide them with one. It was not incredibly strict, though.
The teachers were always kind towards their students. They knew each students circumstances and often times they were much more than teachers. They acted as counselors, friends, and resources for their students. For example, Mrs. Elko knew one of her students did not have a mattress to sleep on so when she saw that there was a business in Bloomington giving away mattresses to qualified citizens she made sure to grab a flyer for that student. The school itself is more than a school. The faculty made a designated room called the Community Resource Room were the students and citizens of Bloomington could come and get food, clothing, and household items for free. The school takes donations and then offers them back to the community. The school and its faculty are always positive. Rarely did I see anyone raise their voice to a student. They tried to be as understanding and accommodating to different situations as they could.
Since the teachers did not verbalize lessons themselves, the majority of the communication between teacher and student were questions about specific lesson content. They tried their hardest to make sure they were available at all times for their students. The two teachers balanced the work between the two of them very well. Mrs. Elko specialized in history and social sciences so she would help students who had questions with those subjects and Ms. Quick specialized in math and science, I believe, so she was more equipped to help students with those subjects. They spoke to the students like people, not kids. This has always been something I appreciated from my parents, teachers, and adults in general. Personally, I am much more likely to listen to and respect someone who respects me and does not treat me like a child. That is something that I would ensure to bring to my own classroom.
Since it was an alternative school, I knew the students would come from a variety of backgrounds and likely they would be in some sort of trouble with either their normal school or the law. I was right about a few things: the students did come from many different backgrounds, and yes, some where in trouble with the law or had been expelled from their regular school, but I was ignorant to how many types of situations would exist within the alternative school.
Some students chose to come to the alternative school because they had severe anxiety and the alternative school allowed them to work alone and communicate through chat or email, or possibly allow them to work from home. Other female students chose to come to the alternative school while they are pregnant to avoid stress. They may also come back to the alternative school after their children born. The alternative school allows them to pick up where they left off and offers a flexible schedule so they can take care of their children. The students were not just "bad kids," the students were people who needed an alternative to a regular high school experience. Looking back at my expectations, I feel guilty that I was so ignorant. I really admire these students. They are striving to create a life for themselves when life dealt them a bad hand. The school and its faculty are very accepting of all types of people. There was no such thing as discrimination or favoritism. They tried their best to accommodate everyone.
On my first day of clinicals, Mrs. Elko sat down with me and explained a lot of the technical processes including attendance policies, behavior policies, etc. It was immediately clear that there were things that took much higher priority than others. For example, there was a specific student who was dealing with a drug addiction. Often times he would miss school because of this. Because she knew that he was dealing with this issue she decided that instead of scolding him for missing school she would get in contact with the student's parents and the local rehabilitation center. It was much more important that he got help than being punished for missing school. Mrs. Elko explained that they often have to "pick their battles" when it comes to their students. I definitely admired this because the majority of their students were dealing with very difficult personal, family, or financial situations so they realized that these small things like attendance sometimes needed to take a back seat. Safety and health are their top priorities.
Management of Physical Environment