Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The First Impression

Considering this was the first week of school, I planned on my visit this week being an all-day ordeal. I thought that, considering it was Friday, no one would have the time to sit down with me and discuss how the first week went. I was wrong.

I went to the front office to sign in and while they called a member of the administration staff to ensure that I was clear to roam the halls, I decided to speak to a couple of students that were office assistants. Both young ladies were Seniors. Savannah was attending Jefferson High for her first year after transferring from Austin while Clarisa was in her fourth year as a Mustang. My interest was peaked by both because I wanted to get the perspective on someone who was coming from a totally different school as well as the perspective of someone who could compare past years at Jefferson to the current one. Surprisingly, I didn’t have to ask many questions at all. Both young ladies were very candid and open about their experiences at Jefferson High so far.

I began by asking how their first week went. They exhibited an amount of excitement that I had not expected. I expected a sigh and complaints about teachers or schoolwork or other students. Instead I got smiles, bright eyes and what I can only describe as a ‘sense of relief’ as they spoke about how helpful their teachers, counselors and principals have been with helping them throughout the first days of their Senior year. They informed me that everything was very organized, which made their first week nearly completely absent of any of the typical stress.

I then inquired about their thoughts about Principal Cockrell. When a student begins a description of their principal with “she’s very strict and doesn’t play games”, it is usually followed with complaints about how no one likes the principal and the amount of disdain for them around the school. Instead, these young ladies told me how “approachable” and “encouraging” that Principal Cockrell is. I asked Clarisa how she would compare the years before Cockrell to her time since Cockrell has taken over. She automatically lit up even further about how much more discipline there was at the school and how much better she felt about coming to school. It wasn’t a fearful type of description coming from this young lady; it was instead, a sincerely respectful description. One that you have for a family member who keeps you in line, yet makes you feel like you can come to them for anything.

Another thing the young ladies caused me to realize was that they didn’t feel like prisoners in school. They held respect for the admin and staff, but at the same time they were treated like equals. They weren’t looked down upon in a condescending manner. It seemed that the Jefferson staff truly practiced the motto “if you act like an adult, we’ll treat you like an adult”. But they also went a step further and seemed to groom students, who weren’t already adults, into the adults they were sure to be before Senior year.

Now you have to remember that I randomly met these two young ladies. I was waiting for my visitor’s pass when I introduced myself to them. These were not some ‘model students’ placed in front of me by the administration. So I was very surprised when I found out that one of the young ladies was in the process of establishing a Young Women’s Advocacy Camp…singlehandedly! If that wasn’t impressive enough, she informed me that she has already met with the SAISD Superintendent Dr. Duron and made her proposal for funding. I asked her who led her to Dr. Duron and she let me know that she contacted him herself.

I’ll see throughout the rest of the year whether these two young ladies enthusiasm stays at such a high level. I’ll also determine whether or not this interaction with two stellar students was just a circumstantial run-in, or whether this actually is a representation of what Jefferson High is developing as a whole. I pray for the latter, but if the former turns out true, I’ll write about that as well.

I sat in the front office for nearly an hour talking with these two young ladies. Turned out I didn’t even need a visitors pass because I never left that office. It’s funny how a simple hello can turn into such an impressionable interaction.

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