Sladek ’14 Writes About Inner-City Challenges

Nick Sladek ’14 – I am student teaching at Prosser Career Academy. I have primarily been co-teaching in the regular and honors U.S. History classes, but have also gotten to observe the A.P. U.S. History classes that my teacher also leads. Tomorrow I will have the opportunity to see some Psychology and World History classes as well.
Today, I taught the U.S. History classes about the political climate in the 1920s. I taught them about the Russian Revolution and the American reaction that lead to the Red Scare, as well as the Palmer Raids and some Labor Strikes. The students in the regular U.S. History class surprised me by being very responsive to the topics discussed and were very vocal about their opinions. The class discussion we had was very interesting, as I got a good look into the perspective that these students have developed as a result of their background that is so different from my own. One student consistently had very intelligent things to say and made many very good points. At the end of the class I discovered that he was in his third senior year. This amazed me.
I also gave the students an activity to interpret and write about some political cartoons from the era. I was struck by the disparity between the students verbal responses in the class period to the cartoons and their written ones that I graded later in the day. They said excellent things but found it difficult to write them down.
Many times throughout this week I have been frustrated by the school system here. There is a very large number of students that are not engaged and barely scraping by. This was a shock to me and very hard to understand. In my educational background, before college, the students that fit that description were a very small minority. Here, depending on the class, they could be perceived as a small majority. I just couldn’t imagine being a teacher in an environment like that, but I am learning how they cope and work with a student population like that. That has been my biggest question for the week, that I unfortunately only begun to answer. How does a teacher succeed in his role if such a large percentage of the students are opposed to learning?