This week is insanely busy but I just wanted to share some recent observations about schools here, based on the 6th grade class that I’m volunteering with and my time at UBA and Ditella.
Today, for the second consecutive week, I forgot my DiTella Student id. This is only the third week I’ve had a DiTella student Id as they just got a swipe in system last month. I took it out of my wallet before my trip to Salta and just forgot to put it back. When I got the ID in the first place, they took my name from a list IFSA had sent and asked no questions, just told me where to stand for the photo. When I forgot it the first time, I went around to the main entrance, and said I forgot my id. My hands were on my driver’s license ready to show it. Instead she asked for my name, glanced at a list and waved me through. Today, they didn’t even ask for a name. This is very different than the system at Penn, though you don’t have to swipe in to most classrooms during regular hours, just dorms. I’m just accustomed to using my ID all the time.
The security system at the K-8 school where I volunteer once a week is similarly lax. It reminds me of my elementary school in lots of ways. Some good teachers, some bad teachers but special programs (kids learn hebrew and english) and relaxed atmosphere that make people stick around. It’s a pretty commercial area that’s not the nicest but the building is clean and comfortable. When I was first setting up my volunteer work, I was asked for a bunch of paperwork. Passport copies, proof of a return ticket to the US, the stamp from immigration at the airport etc. I collected all of this stuff and have not been asked for it since. I walk into the school, on a busy street, without more than a glance at the security guards. Even at the high school in a bad part of town I visited earlier this semester, I was not asked for id. I don’t know whether to attribute this to how non menacing I appear or whether it’s indicative of a broader approach. In my UBA seminar, I’ve described how schools in the US can have metal detectors or police officers at the front and been met with shock from my classmates. Indeed when I think about charter schools that discipline students for not sitting a certain way or for having a small part of uniform out of order, it is ridiculous. The kids at the school I volunteer at are very privileged yes. As I saw in a special activity we did to simulate traveling to an english speaking country, they have involved and supportive parents and I presume home environments. They are also nurtured, in and out of school. The boy sneaking crackers in class is asked if he had time to eat breakfast (no, he overslept) rather than yelled at. The girl coughing is asked if the change of season gave her a cold too. I think this kind of interaction sets a very different tone than yelling and yet all of the kids still have their homework done.
All of these questions are very complicated and it’s hard to generalize and compare such different populations and cultures. But any school that doesn’t yell at kids for trying to eat breakfast comes out ahead in my book. Although, the security issue remains mildly concerning.