Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Whole New World

I knew from the very beginning that the school I volunteered and worked at in Geneva was exceptional in virtually every way. Tuition for kindergarten started slightly above 15,000 Swiss Franc a year. While not every parent was abundantly wealthy, it was not uncommon to see a handful of Porsche Cayennes in the parking lot. Designer-clad eight-year-olds sporting cell phones were not unusual. But the kids were still kids and, with as many as 18 different mother-tongues in any given classroom, their proper education was a challenge. The teachers were outstanding: respectful, caring, highly skilled and responsive. Support services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy and special education were at the ready. Field trips were a regular occurrence as were invited guests that included theatre troops and published authors. The library was extensive. It was an ideal world I wonder if I'll ever see again.

This week I began my field experience in the public schools of P-town. From now until the end of term I will spend one to two mornings a week at an area high school and two afternoons in kindergarten. The kindergarten class serves an exceptionally poor population. The school itself was established to help the most at-risk families in the area. Most children live at or below the poverty line, therefore qualify to receive breakfast, lunch and two snacks at school. I've been told that, for some, this may be the only food they receive all day. The high school is the institution that these kindergarteners will eventually attend. There I've been assigned to the Behavioral and Emotional Disorders classes: rooms filled with some of the biggest personalities I have ever met. (Considering I worked three years at an inner-city hospital, that's saying something.) It should make for an interesting ten weeks, to say the least.

Stay tuned: I'll share what I can here.


  1. This should be interesting! In a way I feel these kids need someone like you more than other better off kids do. Keep blogging about your experiences during this ten-week period.

  2. Wow, sounds intimidating. However, you may learn more in those classrooms than you will learn in any at Bradley. Soak up the experiences and use them to make you a more empathetic and in-tuned teacher (not that you need much help in those areas xx).
    Keep us informed!

  3. that sounds exciting M. I just watched the film Freedom Writers on tv this weekend your post reminded me of the movie you should rent it.. i think you would enjoy the story. Actually i think there is a book too you could read rather then the movie but the movie was good. I hope it's not to scary at those schools.

    I'm sending you big ((HUGS))

  4. This post speaks volumes. Not just the state of the education system you are in, but your writing is so powerful it is simply superb. I hope your pupils appreciate how lucky they are to have you.