Heaven Ain’t Close In A Place Like This.
In a very circumspect way, I’m going to address last Tuesday. Not the day before this post, but the 18th. Bottom line…there are a lot of things that just can’t make it to the blog, that happen in real public school in South Central. I like to think of myself as a journalist, as someone showing the “man behind the curtain,” but really…this isn’t a newspaper, and the same rules don’t apply.
That having been said, we had a lockdown. We had one right after school, because of serious, active gang activity of the kind you expect to see on the evening news, but because it’s South LA, you don’t. As a teacher, I’m not expected or compelled to do supervision of students, or actually put myself in harm’s way at all. As a person…I need to be able to look at myself in the mirror. I supervise all the time, and am constantly looking out for student safety.
With major gang activity right after dismissal, we had a lockdown. It could have gone better. To be very fair, it could have gone a lot worse. No one was hurt, but I’ve been firing on wrong thrusters since. I was right there, and immediately made myself a supervisor, and a target. I helped to loudly hustle as many students as possible back into the main building, and shut it down. Later, I thought about my own safety, and was pretty shaken. Pretty upset.
I’m not even going to talk about the procedure, or the “he said, she said” about the event. That’s not relevant.
Right afterward…literally, moments after getting all-clear from Law Enforcement, I had to do a presentation to the English department about Lexile levels measurements. It’s an interesting way of rating the reading level of both a student and any book, with interesting pedagogical implications.
Well…interesting implications if I hadn’t just seriously worried about the safety of my students, my friends, and even myself. After a few minutes, I just sat down, and questioned, “What am I doing here?”
That’s at the heart. Tagging on the block that my school is on changes daily, as we are on the border of two rival sets. As the uniform policy degenerates, students represent various factions on campus. Fights are on the rise, being a daily occurrence. In this environment, this descent into chaos, Lexile levels are supposed to matter? Amidst the denial of these truths, these realities above my pay grade, I’m supposed to make a difference of some kind? I don’t see how.
As I supervise in front of school, often without administrative support (they are supposed to do supervision), I can look across the street and read the tags that indicate changes of territory, disputes, new players. I can look southward and see the people that wait to sell to my students, or northward in the direction of DWP, where a security guard watches the premises. More days than I like, the smell of Marijuana openly being used on school grounds will waft forward, and just as often, active police presence is on hand.
That dichotomy drove the art above. Reminiscent of a Punisher cover, with a Skrull logo instead of Frank Castle’s Death’s Head on the bulletproof vest. Our her is bulletproof herself, but you can never be too careful. The wall across the street from school was the inspiration for the wall behind her, with fancier tagging. This is what supervision is..coffee, and watching, patiently waiting for something to go wrong, and knowing it will. Knowing you need to be there to try and make it right when it does.
I could spend time in this post criticizing actions, policies, or even Darths. I could, but I won’t.
At the heart of the real issue is the problem set facing my students. In an environment so crime ridden and dysfunctional, with no other input of any kind, how can I expect them to understand how to rise above, and escape? That is the central problem of the “intensive support school” demographic, and no amount of buzzwords will make it disappear, no amount of revision to events after they occur.
Heaven ain’t all that close to the hood, bro.