Normally, I do not sleep the night before school starts because I am so excited about starting a new year. This year, I did not sleep the night before because I was so worried about how school would actually open the next day because I felt we were so ill-prepared. I quickly realized there were very few routines and procedures in place from record keeping to starting the day. In a meeting with the teachers, I referred to our district policy on student transportation and I was introduced to a phrase that I hear too often, “This is Brighton and that does not work here.” I call this dysfunctional attitude the snake of Brighton.
Two years ago, when I first visited Brighton, there was actually a kindergarten classroom that had a problem with snakes. I was in this room one day with a teacher from Federal Programs when we begin finding small snakes. After we found the fourth snake, she and I looked at each other and said we are closing this room. We went to the office to talk to the principal and discovered she was at a meeting. We told the school secretary our plans and she informed us that the snakes had been a problem in this classroom for two years! We found the custodian, who actually had a snake catcher for one of his tools, and the three of us went to the room where we began to sack up everything. Over a period of two days, 16 snakes were found in this room. I was relieved when I was told the snakes were not poisonous. However, this was not the issue, the issue was that children do not need to be in classrooms with snakes! Someone said to me “ I guess it took the Teacher of the Year to do something about the snakes.” This annoyed me because this should have been taken care of two years earlier for the sake of the children not because I was there. District maintenance workers came that day and repaired the hole in the wall where the snakes were entering the room. An exterminator was called to come set off a snake balm and children were moved to the music room. The children stayed in the music room for three weeks with no chairs and tables. I am astonished when people wonder why the children in this school are not achieving at the expected level.
The snake situation is very symbolic of the gap in the standards we have for schools with high poverty. I live in area where we have four very affluent school systems nearby. I am sure if there was ever a snake in any of these schools, the problem would immediately be addressed. Parents would simply not allow this situation. Yet, in my school this was tolerated because- “This is Brighton.”
Ironically this year. I was placed in “the snake room”. I felt like this was probably my just reward for telling this story. However, I was moved the third week of school because we added an additional kindergarten class and I am happy to report it has been a snake-free year.
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