Today was our first day at John Bartram High School. We left the First Presbyterian Church at 9:00 and arrived at Bartram at 10:00 to meet our community partners, Naas and Demitrius, who gave us a tour of the building. The school was built to hold 3000 students, but only 700 are enrolled and attendance is usually only 80%. Because of this, the school building feels very large and empty. The size of the building and the old-fashioned architectural style make it seem imposing from the outside.
On our tour of Bartram, we met various teachers, counselors, and administrators, each of whom spoke candidly about the school and its students. Unfortunately, the school library did not have many books (as one student put it, “I have more books in my house”) and there was no librarian, so students effectively had no library.
After our tour, we convened for lunch, then went to our assigned classrooms. I was placed in Ms. Boyd’s science class with Jeff and Kissairy. I was very impressed to see how much Ms. Boyd cares about her students. She uses her own money to buy a variety of supplies for her classroom, including pipe-cleaners and model kits to demonstrate the process of DNA replication. She’s had her students do projects on the scientists featured in “Hidden Figures” and displayed the products around the classroom.
Ms. Boyd told us that she is taking a course in environmental science in addition to her full-time job so she can be a better environmental science teacher. A humorous and endearing moment was when she told us that she makes an effort to listen to trap music in order to better connect with her students.
The students respected Ms. Boyd, but her classroom was not without problems. Whenever a student talked back or had earbuds in while she was teaching, she would complain that today’s generation does not care about education. She attributed the students’ behavior to parenting and lectured her students about improving their manners and attitudes. At one point, two students seemed ready to fight each other, but Ms. Boyd deterred them by warning that she would not hesitate to physically intervene if necessary.
After school, we stayed in Ms. Boyd’s classroom for the credit recovery program, which gave struggling students an opportunity to improve their grades. This was our first opportunity to interact with the students as we guided them in completing online assignments.
We then worked on some mural painting and played games with some students in the after-school program. We enjoyed having the chance to get to know the students.
After that, it was time to go home, have dinner (spaghetti), and reflect on the day’s experiences. Many of us were frustrated to see the school’s struggles with resources and the burnout of some of the teachers. However, we will continue the week with a positive attitude and open mind as we learn more about John Bartram and its many students and teachers.
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) in Serving
Walk with Open Arms
Selflessness and Dignity