And I think this positivity was contagious. Nearly every person I saw waved at me, as if they knew me. I was walking towards the high school, and coming the opposite direction was a very intimidating person. This person, seemingly homeless, was rolling an empty cart straight for me, and mumbling things to an imaginary person on his left. As I drew near, he looked straight at me, and as he opened his mouth, I could only guess what was coming next.
- “Good morning to yah,” he belched. “Have a great day!”
I guess images can be deceiving. He might have been delusional, but he sure made me feel good as I walked past the Wendy’s and past the construction. After signing in at the front door, I went down to Mr. Spike’s room without a single wrong turn. On the way there, I received two “hello”s and one “Sup.” This was really turning out to be a great day. Things turned negative as the day continued.
The first class had the typical attendance of 5 to 7 people. The class was relatively boring, especially for the teaching assistants who had the thrilling job of watching the students silently work with headphones in their ears. The students were working on placing titles over film clips, by watching an online instructional video on it. The skills are practical, but at the same time, they have basically nothing to do with journalism.
Spikes said that this teaching style was no accident. He says that the classes get moved around so much, that it becomes pointless to try and think of this class in a traditional way. He said that his class becomes more like a trade-school session every semester. In other words, the students come in, learn basic skills, replicate them, and then leave for their next class.
When I started to question his methods, Spikes went to his closet and pulled out a colorful poster board with a giant triangle on it, and said that this was the reason traditional education methods wouldn’t work. The triangle had different vertical bars going across it, each with a different word written across it.
At the bottom was Knowledge, followed by comprehension, then Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and finally Evaluation. He slammed his finger down on the second row, knowledge.
- “At Roosevelt, they’re stuck here, at Knowledge,” he said to me. “Some reach comprehension. Basically never past that.”
He says that the kids have become very good at simply copying down what the teacher or book tells them to do, but rarely have the ability to think critically about a topic on their own. Spikes said that most classroom exercises included walking into a class, receiving a worksheet, and getting started. He says that this is why it is so difficult to ask the students to sit down and write an essay. They are far better stenographers than philosophers.
During my break, I went over to the Pizza Hut across the street, and ordered a personal pizza through the bullet-proof glass blockade which surrounded the cash registers. While waiting, I realized something that I thought was kinda beautiful. I was sitting next to a Asian man, while a Hispanic female employee took the order of a black man, and a person from the Middle East placed my order into the oven. God Bless America.
I returned to Roosevelt for my third period class, and started doing manual labor for Ms. Quik, so as to help set up for an event their class was doing the following Tuesday. They were getting ready to put on a show for a nursing home, in which they would show literary skills they had performed. While they practiced their material, I went into the recording booth, and worked the video, and tested out various edits. The class went smoothly, and the students seemed to have fun, although they didn’t learn anything, relating to a writer’s workshop class. Another day at Roosevelt.
During the next class, the girl I have previously referred to as the devil was excused for half the period because she was eating lunch. I was upset by the teacher allowing this to happen, and so after the class, I questioned Ms. Quik about the girl. She explained some things to me, which put it in perspective. This girl, was troubled, to say the least. According to her, this kid was reading at an elementary school level, and would have been in a special education program at most other schools. Its not anything genetic, but rather, her elementary school experience that put her in this position, she said.
Spikes said its like this is in a lot of different classes at Roosevelt. He says that there always seems to be children peppered into the crowd who have no place being there, but get thrown in there anyways. Students that are under-prepared, are never given a chance to get back on track, but rather just fall deeper and deeper. Spikes said that it was like quicksand, the way the students get trapped, and slowly fall under. He says that what they really need is a rope. By this he meant, they need services that can help them again a quality education. I think back to my high school, and remember the various programs such as English-as-Second-Language (ESL), Opportunity For Change (OFC), and interactive guidance counseling programs. I have no doubt that had this girl gone to my high school, even with her limited elementary education, she would be at a far greater level today.
An education at Roosevelt is limited, but it is especially limited for those who were already disadvantaged from the beginning. There is no getting back up here. Once you are down, you typically stay down.
- Evan Koslof