(Editor's note: This column is written by San Leandro High School English teacher Jerry Heverly. Its tag line is inspired by education blogger Joe Bower who says that when his students do an experiment, learning is the priority. Getting the correct answer is entirely secondary.)
By Jerry Heverly
I started this column last spring with the idea that I was writing it for the average citizen. I began with the assumption that our schools consciously and unconsciously discourage taxpayers and parents from taking a day-to-day role in the school system.
My thinking was that I could provide a service by giving you a guidebook to . I wanted to give the citizenry enough inside information to make it possible for anyone with the time and motivation to stick their nose into our hallways and classrooms and not feel like an alien being.
Today marks the first day of the 2012-2013 school year.
It seems fitting to revisit my original intentions by describing some practical steps you can take to enter the world of the local high school.
Let’s assume, firstly, that you have a child attending the high school. You are extra motivated.
The first thing to do is to get yourself into the ABI system. (I don’t know what the letters stand for.) ABI has all sorts of valuable information.
Want to know about your child’s grade in Physical Education? It’s there on ABI.
Want to know the name of your child’s Spanish teacher? It’s there.
You’ll need a password. The school website (www.slhs.net) has a place that guides you through the whole process.
Once you are inside the ABI system you can find out the names and email addresses of every teacher who has your child in his or her classroom. All you really need is one friendly teacher who is willing to go out of their way to lead you into the inner sanctum. If no one else will do it then email me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Next thing to do is to pay us a visit. Schedule a meeting with a teacher. Everyone will be busy the first week but there will surely be someone willing to chat with you after school one day. Ask the teacher for a syllabus. This is a short document that we are all obligated to provide that details our grading system, classroom rules, and such. Pretend you are interviewing the teacher for a job.
But why stop with the teacher? Ask the teacher to introduce you to the school principal (you might have to settle for an assistant principal). If you can get on a first-name basis with one of these folks, you now have a ticket to influence.
And it is important for you to know that you, the parent, have incredible power here. Most administrators will move heaven and earth to make a parent happy.
For the ordinary citizen without a child in the school the story is not quite so clear cut. I have little doubt that you would receive the same deference from administrators, but gaining access is more difficult.
My recommendation, as I wrote a few months ago, is to simply barge into the building and seek out the principal’s office.
Schools have a legitimate fear of strangers. Expect to get the third degree at first. Make sure you have a ready answer to the obvious question: “What are you doing here?” You will likely be the first citizen-visitor ever to cross our threshold.
One of the great things about schools is that we all get a fresh start each year. I keep hoping that this year will be the one where we are besieged by hordes of eager parents and citizens wishing to play a part in this public institution.
Read other columns from the Entirely Secondary archive.
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