As I climb the steps and enter the South Boston Educational Complex, the first thing I notice is a metal detector – a not-so-subtle reminder of the violence that pervades the lives of many students and the safe haven provided by our schools. Large signs direct visitors to the two schools housed here: Excel High School shares this imposing building with Boston Green Academy, a newly created in-district charter that occupies the third floor.
This year Excel High School has a new headmaster (Stephanie Sibley) and has nearly doubled in size, incorporating Monument HS students into its student body. Thanks to Ruthie Aframe, the school’s Community Relations Manager, for her warm welcome and for escorting me around. Students drop by her office and greet her in the hallways; one wants to find out if she can leave early to be on time to a new job, another needs to charge his cell phone! All receive a friendly greeting and encouragement to stay focused on their education.
I was invited to visit Excel by science teacher Michael Harris, whose Forensic Science class was analyzing blood spatter patterns when we came in. His class is an elective, serving students across the grades, as are physical education activities such as martial arts and Zumba. Students learning French are having paired conversations to practice vocabulary, while next door is a beginning Spanish class. A recent immigrant from Vietnam is making an oral presentation in his ESL class, and two students are working on a science fair project during their lunch period.
I’m impressed by the variety of programs offered during the school day, from AP classes to internships at local businesses. After school clubs in Drama, Robotics, JROTC, Model U.N. and more also enrich students’ academic experience. I particularly enjoyed my conversation with Fartun Mohamed, a young woman who told me that her World Literature class has inspired her to join the Debate Club after school. Every time I talk with students about what they’re learning, I’m reminded of how rarely we provide time for reflection and how valuable it can be – for ourselves, as well as for our students.
Please invite me to visit your school!
Amika Kemmler Ernst is a recently retired BPS New Teacher Developer with extensive experience as a classroom teacher, curriculum developer, and graphic artist. Her “We’re Learning Here” Project features images of everyday learning in our public schools, along with the words of the students pictured.
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