Monday, September 7

A Tale of Two Schools

I spent three years teaching in Boston Public Schools and I loved and hated it all at the same time. Now I am teaching in Fairfax County Public Schools, and my feelings toward it are much more middle of the road (but still on the loving side of the road). Let's discuss. (**This is a lot longer than I intended, and the words to picture ratio is low. If you read the whole thing, you are a trooper and you must love me. Like Evita.**)

Here is me in both classrooms.

I know, who gave me bangs, right? The one in BPS was taken in 2005, a couple weeks into my first year of teaching. And the one in FCPS was taken last week, as I prepared to start year 5 of my illustrious teaching career.

Ok, let's break it down.

Boston was my first teaching job after coming from Kansas. Before I was hired by my school, they made me teach a demo lesson (which I don't think they ever do) and there were bets as to how long I would make it. But I defied all odds and made it three years. If Sol hadn't been relocated to Fairfax, I may have stayed forever. He was moved in January and I stayed until June to finish out the year.

The main reason I loved my school in Boston so much were the kids. Even though they were a challenge every day, they just needed some love (and math). And those kids--man, they were something else. I learned much about rap and their funny slang and fashion and how to break up a fight. Standing in front of 25 tough looking kids was intimidating, but when I got to talk to them one on one I realized how precious they were and how much I loved them. I don't think I can adequately describe how much I miss and adore those kids.

I loved it because of my colleagues. I don't know if I will ever teach with a group so committed to their kids and so fun to be around. Dawn, Marie, Nik, Elaine and I had so much fun and I like to think that we made a difference for those kiddos. We were a great team.

I loved my classroom. I mean, look at it. Wood floors, paint peeling from the walls, toxic water, a full wall of sunny windows, no AC, ceilings a million feet high. It was charming. I was on the 3rd floor and spent many days running to the 5th floor for lunch or the 1st to make copies. Even in the midst of training for marathons, those stairs made me out of breath.

I loved the adventure. From taking kids on field trips using public transportation--Marie and I would sing rap songs really loudly to embarrass them--to learning to snowboard with them. It was something else.

Let me tell you though, the school was crazy. It was disorganized and chaotic and people rarely knew what was going on. It got to the point where we would look at each other and shrug our shoulders in understanding when something ridiculous happened--we expected it. But I think that added to it's charm.

Now I am in Fairfax which is as far as you can imagine from Boston. And I like it--my school is newly renovated (see lovely painted cinder block walls and tile floor) and oozes with fancy technology. In Boston, my computer and printer regularly broke and took months to fix. Anything not working in Fairfax is fixed in HOURS. Magic. Anything I need for my classroom, they buy for me. And sometimes it's DELIVERED to my classroom. Seriously, magic. The teachers are all excited about teaching and totally committed to what they do. They volunteer for committees and regularly give extra time to the school (no union--crazy!). The kids are nice and sweet--they bring presents on Christmas and say thank you.

But there's just something about Boston--something that I'm still not sure I can name. I know I'm going to have a great year here, really, I teach in an almost ideal school. But how can you not love the adventure of the inner city? Boston has the rights to a big piece of my heart, but I am SO excited for the kids I get to meet tomorrow. It's math time.

Two more things:

1. You are welcome for this. Get ready.

2. Finley is a mobile dude. He barrel rolls across the floor and under furniture and can scoot himself in an entire circle. Yikes. And the sleeping at night is still terrible. I'm calling our pediatrician because the only thing that is helping at night is Tylenol... poor little baby.


  1. We drove by the Argentina embassy this morning, and I sang "Don't Cry for Me Argentina!" Weird coincidence - it was before I read your blog.

  2. I read the whole thing AND I love you!

  3. Rachel you have a big heart. Come to Appalachia and teach because we sorely need teachers like you here. Our literacy rate is low... our school got only a rate of "Improving". And that is the better schools. These children are almost the lost inner city glam to attract attention and with the same problems including hunger. 10,000 children are fed every summer with free lunches in Ohio. I could go on...


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