In A Newark school prepares—again—to reinvent itself, the Hechinger Report looks at a new principal’s attempt to remake a Quitman Community School, which serves pre-k through eighth grade. This passage was especially depressing.
One May afternoon on Quitman’s stuffy third floor, a dozen seventh-grade boys in royal blue polo shirts and khaki pants trickle into their English class over a 15-minute period, alternately slamming the door behind them and leaving again to use the bathroom. (Glover has divided the middle grades into single-gender classes, dubbed “kings” and “queens.”)
One boy comes in playfully hitting another; the teacher kicks them out. The students are working on the same assignments as the eighth-grade boys were the prior period: finishing opinion essays on school dress codes, “I Am” poems and color poems. (One boy’s musings on green: Collard greens on a plate / String beans that I never ate / Spinach that I’ll never take / Green soda going down your throat.)
. . . The boy who says he’s done gets up and leaves. “See y’all at gym,” he says on the way out.
A boy in the back row walks over to a bookshelf, picks up an autobiography by the puppeteer behind the Muppet Elmo, returns to his desk and starts reading. Another boy who isn’t doing anything begins to tease him.
One in the front of the room is singing. One in the middle who has been trying to work complains about all the door-slamming. He puts down his pen and goes to talk to a friend working on a computer at the back of the room. The screen shuffles between a grammar assignment (“Which sentence uses correct capitalization?”) and NBA standings.
At 2:05 p.m., the boys charge swiftly out the door, passing a desk where a stack of “I Am” essays from the last class is sitting.
On top is this one: I am tall and smart / … I worry sometimes I won’t make it / … I understand life is hard / I say man is wrong about everything / I dream (of) becoming BIG / I try to do good at all times / I hope life doesn’t end / I am tall and smart.
You see what I mean.
The school is now part of a children’s “zone” that will provide a variety of social services and supports to students and their families.