The woman performing the show, Nilaja Sun, was (might still be for part of the year) a "teaching artist" teaching theater in a Bronx high school. I won't review it because it has already been reviewed eloquently in many places, including the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. If you have the chance to see it - anywhere - do so. It is the best portrayal of teaching in the inner-city that I have ever seen/heard/read.
A few similarities between third graders in the East Bay and tenth graders in the Bronx:
- The curious phrasing of questions: "What time it is?" "What page it's on?"**
- Kids kicking over chairs because they have no outlet for their feelings and their feelings are too overwhelming
- Surprise expressed when a student mentions having a father
- Teachers wanting to quit or quitting on a regular basis
- Unreasonable expectations; I think in the show it was the kids having to pass 5 Regent's Exams in 3 days, at my school it was an 80% pass rate on the tests
- Not enough time to teach things: in the show, a play was being prepared in 10 weeks, once a week, with some of the days taken over for various reasons. I was told one year that I needed to provide 3 hours of testing each day and "You'd better not cheat those children. I still expect you to provide 3 1/2 hours of language arts, 1 1/2 of math and 20 minutes of PE every day!!" In a 6 hour school day? Are you that unreasonable or just pretending?
- Kids losing family members to violent deaths and other kids not even being surprised
- The fact that no matter how ghetto the kids are, once you earn their trust, they'll do anything for you