The first course of the MAT@USC was an eye-opening experience for me. I started out observing at the same high school that I graduated from, so I had many pre-conceived notions about the school, the surrounding community, and the students. Our assignments for the first four weeks of classes included interviews with community members, parents, and the school principal. This was where I began to incorporate other points of view into my understanding of what it means to be a part of that particular school. In my next course, Understanding the Social Context for Urban Schools: The Community, we had an assignment to revisit our notes and analysis of these interviews and to re-evaluate the school and its community through the information we had learned since conducting the interviews. This was a particularly poignant assignment for me. Suddenly I was seeing my own high school through dramatically different lenses. Yes, the school has a 97% graduation rate, but what differences in graduation rates do we see when we break the students into groups based on race? Gender? Socio-economics? What reasons might exist for disparities in state and national test scores for students of different races and income brackets? What does the school do to address these differences?
I just moved last week, so I will no longer be working at my old high school. Now I have an opportunity to walk into a school with a blank(ish!) slate. I still plan to research the school’s Accountability Report and peruse the school’s website, but I am looking forward to getting into the classroom and observing the students and teachers and learning from them.