This guest post is by author, educator, and consultant Ray Golarz. For almost 20 years, Dr. Golarz directed work with at-risk children and gangs near Chicago. In addition, he did extensive work with juvenile courts, probation offices, and police departments.
There’s no way to know of some of the marvelous things that principals and teachers do…unless, of course, you stumble upon such accidentally.
It was a spectacular spring day. From my office, I could see Johnny, the Director of Buildings and Grounds, walking briskly through the sun-filled hallway.
“Johnny, found that portable classroom yet?”
I was having a little fun with him. Last year we were using ten of the portable classrooms. Two were sitting idle—well, one was sitting idle. The whereabouts of the second was unknown.
In the school business you get used to having some things occasionally disappear: library books, computers, basketballs, baseball equipment, even once a fairly sizable, portable soccer backstop—but a portable classroom? Never before lost a portable classroom.
I knew it was a sensitive spot for Johnny, so I let up, laughed and said, “Johnny, don’t worry. We’ll find it. I mean, really. How far can you get with a hot portable? Where would you fence it?”
Later that week, Johnny and I were visiting some elementary schools. Teachers never get enough visitors and I always found it to be an uplifting experience. We drove to the last school on our list and as we circled the school grounds, we marveled at the beautiful flower beds surrounding the new parent center behind the school. The new parent center—what an attractive gift to the poor parents of this community.
We stopped. As we sat there, not looking at one another, Johnny asked, “Ray, what would you estimate the size of that freshly painted, one-room parent center, surrounded by beautiful flowers, to be?”
“You mean is it possible that the parent center with the flower boxes under the windows and new white gutters and down spouts is about the same size as a missing classroom portable?”
We went into the building to find Nancy the principal. In the hallway we ran into her. Surprised, she exclaimed. “Oh, I’m so glad you’re here. Have you time to stop at the parent center?”
“Nancy, that’s what we need to talk to you about.”
“Great, let’s talk in the parent center; it’s not as full now as in the morning. Can’t even find elbow room in there in the mornings.”
“Full? What are you talking about, Nancy?”
“Well, we opened the center about six weeks ago. Within a week, by 6:30 a.m. it was full of young mothers. They found out that a number of our teachers were coming in early to teach a few mothers how to read. Well, they all wanted to learn to read. Run three morning classes now, an hour each, starting at 5 a.m., about twenty in a class. Teachers rotate the teaching of the classes.”
“They come at 5 a.m.?”
“Some would come earlier. If they stay at home, their drunken exes or boyfriends coming in from the bars look to beat them up, then rape ‘em unless they consent. It’s a bad situation for these young women. Poor is not a good thing to be in America. But, I’m sorry. Here I am running off at the mouth, and you wanted to talk to me about something.”
I looked at Johnny, then said, “It can wait, Nancy. It can wait.”
We had our visit. Even enjoyed doughnuts made by the teachers. As we passed the center in our car, we stopped for a final look.
“What do you think, Johnny?”
Johnny quietly responded, “Think the portable we’re lookin’ for is smaller. I’m sure it’s smaller.”
I smiled, winked and responded, “Think you’re right, Johnny. Think you’re right.”