Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What makes a school great?

Anyways, well, as I mentioned before, I grew up in an unincorporated suburb of Glendale and I went to Crescenta Valley High School for a couple years -- it's a nice public school for the most part as you can see from the standardized scores, it was also a Blue Ribbon School, and I believe the school sends roughly twenty students a year to UC Berkeley. Those from my high school class that have graduated from UC Berkeley all seem to have graduated from Haas and seem to all be doing rather nice at least financially), but anyways, I went to this school for a little more than two years. And there's definitely a small town atmosphere here (though I wonder if this sense of community will remain intact with the rather large and continuous influx of Korean-Americans into this community -- in the past ten years, at least a couple new Korean supermarkets opened up, the bus stands have Korean language advertisements, and there are even Korean newspaper stands at the local Ralphs (like a Safeway, a regular supermarket). The liquor store that's been here for probably a couple generations now sells soju (as I guess the Korean supermarket that opened up next to it couldn't get a liquor license). Anyways, that's something I would not want to get into, but there might be lessons to be taken from neighboring La Canada-Flintridge.

Anyways, I grew up pretty close to a park with a basketball court; my brother and I and our neighbors would often go down there and at times we would run into this bald man who was probably 30 at the time I'm guessing, who just never ever missed a three pointer. We thought he was probably the best basketball player we had ever seen. When I went to high school, he was my history teacher and was also the head coach of the high school basketball team. Another neighbor, who I believe still lives a couple houses down, was this one couple who would pay me and my brother to water their garden for a week each summer as they would take their yearly vacation. But, this was no ordinary task for two pre-teens. We are talking about a Secret Garden here. It was extensive to put it mildly. Anyways, we did well for a few years until one unfortunate summer, where most of his plants, flowers, and grass died. He became my high school counselor at CVHS, ironically, and not by choice either -- it just my happened that my last name began with a letter in between A and G?

And, while even back in 1996-1999 or so, there were still significant Korean miniorities -- perhaps a fifth at that time, it still had this small town feeling. And, this is what I'd like to talk about. You see, I was one of those delinquents as they say in high school. In between periods, you'd most likely find me in the bathroom having a cigarette or hopping over the fence to cut class or something... And, of course, there was the "evil" security guard to avoid. And, of course, there was the sheriff on campus.

But, nonetheless, I remember in my junior year I was doing fairly well academically; I was taking probably all advanced placement courses or honors courses and had largeley recovered from a freshman gpa that rounds to zero.

When I would get caught for doing something I probably shouldn't have done, especially for smoking, I would come up with some pretty ridiculous excuses. But, I never realized what a great dean I had (I can't remember his name) until, well, I got kicked out and as I think back about high school now. Whenever, the sheriff (and this man just got around; one moment he would be walking in the middle of campus and -- way past his bed time -- he'd be breaking parties up in neighboring La Canada-Flintridge) or the security guard or a teacher would send me to the deans' office I would come up with some pretty ridiculous stories.
In particular,

I remember the dean saying, "So, Joe were you smoking in the bathroom again?"

And, I would go off for about five or ten minutes with some ridiculous no... absurd..excuse. In particular, one time I remember saying, "We live in a great country. But, unfortunately the thing about living in a society as great as ours is since everyone is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty that there are times when it's the case that even when you're absolutely sure that somebody did something wrong unless you have definitive proof (like a pack of cigarettes or a lighter), we, unfortunately, have to let these people go. I can't believe I said this, but yes, I said this type of stuff all the time and the crazier thing is actually listened (and probably laughed) and would even comment on things I would say. If I was in a school, in say, Korea, I would've probably gotten beat with a stick until I confessed the truth.

By the way, no, these excuses almost never worked. He suspended me here and there and harshly, especially if it was more severe than smoking cigarettes, but if I think back about it now. He was a great dean and teacher and I doubt that if I grew up in another country I would've come across a dean like this (or teachers like him). I would have literally gotten beat with a stick on an everyday basis probably. But, here's a dean that actually treated with respect as young adults  and there were a lot of other teachers like him too. And, I bet all over the country as well.

Unfortunately for me, and a lot of other students, the dean got promoted in my junior year. And, in his place, was a new guy in a suit -- literally. He would wear a suit and glasses every single day. After two encounters with this new dean, he thought it was a good idea for me to go to continuation school. Though the school offered not a single course that I was taking at the time --- (AP American Literature/AP US History/AP Chemistry/Spanish/Pre-Calculus, etc etc)... Though I didn't go directly to continuation school, when I did get there they said pre-calculus was not offered and that I should take Algebra I. Of course, the teacher there said this fully aware that I didn't need to take Algebra I as most college bound students would either take Algebra I in middle school or skip it entirely, so, naturally, it's a course that wouldn't show up in our high school transcripts. What was the point of me taking a class that I should've taken in middle school? It didn't look like I was college bound. I dropped out in a week

(I did take all those courses again at the junior collge level), but I mean I'm not writing this to point out the dean in the suit, but here to point out the dean, who would listen to a kid give him a speech about the way society is after he pretty much got caught smoking a cigarette. And, I wonder if this is something that is unique to America's school system and suppose if this is what makes America's schools great.

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