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Baby steps to turning Markham around: a can-do attitude

The Markham corps members served their second day at Markham Middle School on Thursday, which is the day we got to finally meet the teachers we’ll be working with. I was placed in sixth grade with most of the other corps members (that’s a good thing because math might be a little easier for me). I met one of my teachers, who is a math and science teacher, because the other teacher was away for a religious holiday. The math and science teacher I will be working with has been working at Markham for eight years, so it’s fair to assume he’s seen it all – from the amass of layoffs that hit the school recently and also a scandal where the asst. principal, Steven Rooney, was transferred to Markham from Fremont High and Foshay Learning Center after sexually assaulting students and threatening teachers. He sexually assaulted a student at Markham as well. However, the teachers that have been at Markham for a long time voiced their opinion saying that they know that this year will be a turn around year and “hope for no more scandals.” It seriously breaks my heart that schools like this just keep taking the blow. This year’s going to be a positive one, though, because the teachers are so enthusiastic and excited to work with us.

I didn’t get to really have one-on-one time with my teacher just yet, but he was awesome and seems like a very easy person to work with. I know we will be able to build a great relationship to do the best we can do for his students.

We talked a little bit with teachers about implementing after school clubs because one of City Year’s focuses is to creative a positive school climate for children, especially in an area like Watts where walking home on a daily basis kids are pushed to join gangs. Thus, keeping the kids off the streets in the schools untill their parents get off work seems ideal. However, we were hit with a hard reality check when our teachers told us that it will be really hard for us to get students to stick around for after school activities and tutoring because their parents do not want to leave them at Markham past school hours because it is unsafe. Based on our school-specific situation, we might have to start morning clubs and tutoring (which means getting to Markham at probably 6 a.m….and that would mean waking up at 4:15 a.m.). As early as it is, the Markham team is in. We are all so motivated to do whatever it has to take to turn this school around.

I pitched the idea of a school newspaper to the sixth grade teachers and they were stoked about it. They have been wanting to start a sixth grade newsletter, which would be very similar to a newspaper. I wanted to get all the grade levels involved in this production and make it a lunchtime activity, but since Markham is a huge school, all the grade levels have different lunch times. This still won’t stop me from starting a sixth grade newspaper. Kids are so, so, so proud to see their byline in a newspaper (awwww, my little reporters make my heart melt). It’s something they can take home and show to their parents, be motivated to keep writing and even help with their social skills through interviewing. Funding is short at City Year and with Markham, so I might have to raise outside funds. I got my connections at Annenberg though and I know some of my journalism professors would totally back this because it will help change this community (especially the new assistant dean who was a former NYT education reporter and my urban affairs reporting professor last year). When I get the go-ahead from City Year to e-mail my professors about fundraising, or even getting USC Annenberg to sponsor this, I’m going to right away. I’ve also been thinking all over the place of what kind of organizations I can partner with to bring into this school like The South Los Angeles Reporter mentoring program to help out with the newspaper and WYSE (a young woman mentoring program) to maybe do sexual health education to students or something along those lines. Marissa also met someone from the Black Family United initiative, a non-profit in South LA, who wants to work with us too. It’s all about networking baby. Our ideas are great and we’re starting off on a good foot. Now we just have to take the time to execute them.

Speaking of Annenberg, one of the funniest, loudest and welcoming teachers at Markham, Ms. Webster, is an ’81 alum. I knew she was a Trojan from the previous day, but when I asked her what her major was and she said “public relations” I literally jumped out of my seat, gave her a huge hug and she gave me a kiss on the cheek saying, “Oh, it’s that trojan love, baby.” You don’t really know how much the Trojan Family means to you until you’ve graduated, meet someone from your very school (School of Journalism YEA YEAAA) and just instantly want to befriend them. As cheesy as it is, it’s a sign I’m in the right place at the right time. I thought just having a Trojan among a bunch of bruins was cool enough. But an Annenberg grad? Especially right when Annenberg first opened? Now that’s pretty damn amazing.

We’re heading to Markham on Tuesday to meet once again with our teachers then on Wednesday it’s the first day of school! Mentally prepping.

Yours in service,
Liz

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One Comment Post a comment
  1. Tom Warden #

    I realize that I am biased, but I LOVE your blog! 🙂

    September 8, 2011

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