Culture shock

A Filipinio teacher finishes her first year at a Baltimore middle school in a Baltimore Sun series.

At the school in the Philippines where Aileen Mercado used to teach, students got dressed up for the last day of classes, which they spent singing and dancing for their parents and celebrating the year’s accomplishments.

At Mercado’s school in Baltimore, there was no such closure.

During the Filipino teacher’s final weeks at Highlandtown Middle School, the children just stopped coming. Some already knew they had failed. Others were tired of sitting in the heat, tired of school in general.

On the fifth-to-last day, only 11 sixth-grade pupils showed up for a language arts class with 37 on the roll. On the second-to-last day, the two kids present helped Mercado pack. On the final day, about a dozen wandered in and out.

Baltimore is hiring several hundred Filipino teachers to teach math, science and special education. Mercado was hired as a special education teacher but spent half the year filling in for a math teacher, who wasn’t allowed in the classroom while a complaint he’d hit a student was investigated. She had 40 regular and special education students in a class, but typically only 30 showed up.

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  1. A year ago, I would’ve been shocked by that.

    However, this year, my son’s middle school pretty much shut down the last week. Emails were sent to the parents that all lockers were to be cleaned out a week ahead, and that “absolutely no backpacks” were to be brought to school the last week. It was never exactly stated why, but it was implied that it was to prevent pranks and vandalism.

    I guess students carried their lunches around all day that last week, and stuck a pencil behind their ear. Their books had been collected the week before, so that wasn’t an issue. I don’t know for sure, though, because I called my son’s teachers and found out they were just going to be hanging out in his classes. I asked if it made a difference if he came, and the response was, “no I guess not”. He stayed home the last week of school and got A’s on his report card.

    (Full disclosure: My son only takes 2 classes there.)

  2. mike from oregon says:

    Just another reason that I sacrifice a bit now so that my daughter can go to a private, Christian high school. The story SHOULD be shocking, but it isn’t; at my daughter’s school, they had homework and still had their books right up till the last day. On Thursday they didn’t have homework, on Friday books were collected and they got out after a half day. Pity what public schools have degenerated to.

  3. Alex Bensky says:

    I realize that class size isn’t the golden key to educational success, but this sounds like a pretty toughload for any teacher, much less one in these circumstances.