Every so often, I get a reminder of how completely different this independent school world is to the rest of the universe of schools out there. I guess after my first year in this microcosm, the shock and infinitude of differences have become so naturalized that I fail to recognize the weirdness, except when something jars me out of this strange reality.
Then you’ll usually hear me mutter “back when I was in school…”
And Sarah and Jackie’s comments to my last post did exactly that. I spoke about letting students out of my classes a few (not many) minutes early, if they finished and checked over a quiz. How is that even possible?
Let me paint a scene for you.
A school where there are no hall passes, no late passes, no detentions, no bathroom passes . Students, when they have a free period or two, can sign out and leave the building. To get lunch, to get coffee, to enjoy some fresh New York air. Sometimes students sign out three our four times a day. We send our official attendance to the main office only once daily — after homeroom — and then teachers are responsible for keeping track of their classes attendance. Students are trusted that they’ll be where they need to be.
Not that there aren’t the occasional breaches of trust. A substitute comes and a student sneaks out of class. A student skips out on a gradewide meeting. Students who aren’t allowed to sign out — because of being late to school too many times or being put on academic probation — sometimes do sneak out. (Not on my watch, mind you.)
But they are occasional, and definitely the exception.
Right now, as I type, I’m sitting with my laptop at the sign out table in the front entrance. Students come by to say hi as they walk to Chipotle for lunch. I often get to have really nice conversations with teachers who walk by.
It’s a different world from what I grew up in, where our bathroom passes were toilet seat covers spraypainted in neon colors, where we had official pink hall passes, and where there were detentions for being late to class too many times. I guess that’s my “back when I was in school…” moment.
There are amazing benefits to working at my New York City independent school. And, as you would suspect even though I don’t write about them here, there are problems too. I don’t see my school through rose-tinted glasses. Seriously, I don’t. Still, I have a lot of admiration for this community that has been cultivated over the past hundred and some years. This school does something right… a lot of somethings right.