(Editor's note: Entirely Secondary is written by San Leandro High School English teacher Jerry Heverly. The title is inspired by education blogger Joe Bower who says that when his students do a science experiment, learning is the priority. Getting the correct answer is entirely secondary.)
By Jerry Heverly
There is something occult about a modern public high school. Mysterious things go on there. It is not a place that suffers visitors gladly.
It has always shocked me that you pay taxes to maintain our school but you never come around to kick the tires, to see if your investment is being used wisely. And that bothers me.
Realistically I know that most of you won’t be coming by any time soon. People have jobs. And most of us wouldn’t feel comfortable just barging in on a classroom.
So my ambition here is to show how a few of you—retired folks, self-employed people--might use a free morning or afternoon to change one of society’s most intractable institutions.
You’ll probably have to leave your car at home. There is no place to park your car at San Leandro High School. There’s a small circular lot in front that looks like a good place to stash your vehicle, but several signs say: “No Parking 7 a.m. to 5 p.m: Loading Zone”. Same thing on the street facing the school, Bancroft Avenue.
If you drive by slowly you might notice a parking lot on the south side of the campus but that one says, “Unauthorized vehicles parked in designated accessible space will be towed.”
I spent a few minutes looking for visitor parking. There isn’t any. And don’t try parking in the neighborhood; students take up all those spots, much to the chagrin of the neighbors.
There is a bus stop in front.
Let’s assume you find some way to get yourself to the front door. You’re ready to bound up the few steps to one of the six front doors. You step inside.
You’ve prepared your explanation: “I’m a citizen and I just want to look around, see how things are at my hometown high school.”
Unfortunately there is no one to explain yourself to. Inside the front door you’ll find a comfortable, wood-paneled lobby with a memorial to San Leandro alums who were killed in the Vietnam War (notice the odd 60’s crewcuts).
What you won’t find is anyone to talk with. More than likely you will find silence. Directly ahead and to your right are two long, probably empty, hallways. There’s a staircase to the second floor. But no receptionist to direct you.
But you are determined to visit so you plunge straight ahead. It’s 32 steps (I counted) before you get to a tiny sign announcing the Principal’s Office. Walk in. There will probably be a student there at a desk, but he or she will probably look at you like you just arrived from Jupiter. We aren’t really set up to handle strangers. Expect the old third degree.
“What do you want here?”
“What is your business?”
But your broad smile and disarming manner can overcome our natural suspicion. You get a visitor’s badge. Now you’re in. Where to now? I hope to answer that question in Part II.