Sunday, April 10, 2011

Location, location, location (#apr13)

In the second of this ongoing series of blog posts with topics chosen by my wife and son, I will share some ideas about facilities.

When I started teaching in Medford, I worked in the old Roberts Middle School. The building was built in the 1920s and had very little maintenance over the years. It was so bad that there were cracks in the walls large enough for me to see clearly through to the exterior brick. Within a few minutes of sweeping, there would be a new layer of plaster dust on the floor. We tried not to think about what we might have been breathing. Worst of all, I learned the hard way that my bulletin board would get wet in a heavy rain - more than a few pieces of student work were ruined that way.

It got worse. Because the building was in such bad shape and allowed to remain that way, the attitudes of some staff (especially the custodians) and many children were pretty lousy. The lack of care of the building was palpable in many ways around the building. From the supply-hoarding principal to the kids who regularly destroyed the 8th grade hall bathrooms, the place was not a happy one.

So, it was a weird feeling when the new building project actually neared completion. Would we really get brand new buildings?

We did our first day of school in the new buildings was September 10, 2001. Our first fire drill came on September 11, 9:30am. While few of the systems in the school were working yet, someone had a radio.

That fateful day aside, the first year in the new building saw a great change in many of the ways that middle school worked in Medford. We had the good fortune to welcome a new, progressive principal to the new buildings. Most importantly, you could feel the optimism in the air. The building felt mostly happy.

We faced many challenges that year. The building wasn't really finished until January, but we moved in in August. The new principal tried to shake things up and met resistance from some of my colleagues. We had to merge staff cultures from three previous middle school buildings.

All in all, it was a tough year, but a great one. The kids and staff of Medford, were proud to have the new buildings. We all felt hopeful.

Maybe it is all about location.

photo credit: nate'sgirl cc not the actual Roberts building. ;)

cross posted on Connected Principals