Hawthorne High School -- must I wear a badge of dishonor for the crap and corruption that I had to tolerate at this school near El Segundo, yet in many ways more like Compton or perhaps Washington Prep?
Hawthorne High School -- you may look so-so on the outside, but I know so otherwise for what goes on on the inside. The students will always deserve better, and I do not care how many times the teaching staff on campus claim that the campus has fewer drug problems than the beach cities. Such puffery is just superficial nonsense compared to the substandard education which many students are expected to tolerate.
If only I had read about the maligned "Music Man" Donald Flaherty much sooner, perhaps I too would have ran screaming off of the campus before setting foot their for one day more. Then again, I both know and believe that all things, all, work together for good, and nothing can shake or take that away from me.
No, no one ever got shot there, to the best of my recollection. Race riots broke out long ago. The campus has gotten quieter, I suppose, at least when the powers that be are watching.
A principal who asks students to behave when a lot of substitutes are on campus, a principal who seems to placate more than delegate, teachers who send out students at length to neighboring classrooms rather than sending them to the dean, where very little will probably take place to get the student back on the right track.
I was back, and in fighting form. After the downs of Lawndale and then the ups of Leuzinger High School, which had better leadership, and a more diligent staff.
I returned to the class that I had covered the first day at Hawthorne: those "emotionally disturbed" kids. When I returned, I noticed that most of the students did not recognize me, at first, in part because I had decided to shave my head all the way.
I also had the referrals that I needed, I knew that I did not have to put up with anything, I was not worried about not having a job if the staff refused to let me return. Half the students from the first day I was there were there in the class now. The students who had been the most difficult, the most oppositional, were gone. I knew that I could not depend on the deans to "protect" me, they could hardly protect themselves, either. No matter what would happen that day, I chose to believe that I was going to have a good day, no matter what happened.
That day was a testing day, too. Easy for me, all I had to do was sit back and relax. But then two or three students refused to be quiet during the whole administration. One of the teacher's aides even recommended that I write a referral. "These kids fall back on their illness and use it as an excuse to act up," one of the aides told me under my breath.
Took out the referral, wrote him up, off he went. Problem solved.
The rest of the day was smooth, a much-deserved repeat for me so that everything could go much better the second time around.
I had my tiffs with the secretary, but this time around I had no problem standing my ground. She finally got shook up with me, when I refused just to take her crap. It was invigorating, standing up to one of the rudest secretaries in recent memory, and the teacher that I covered the day before witnessed the whole thing.
I took over a math class later that week. That was the first time that I covered a class of freshmen. They were not a rebellious bunch, certainly, but they certainly were unmotivated. Most of them just sat around and did nothing. Some of them were skaters who loved talking about the highways and byways in and around the South Bay where they used to roll.
But then two freshmen from one of the morning classes caught me off-guard somewhat.
"Hey! Remember me? You kicked me out!"
This kid was smiling at me. I didn't know him, or at least recognize him.
"You worked at Jane Addams, right?" He asked me. The slight kid was convinced that he recognized me.
"Yes, I did," I replied.
"Yeah, I remember you. You kicked me out of class once. I was in sixth grade, I was a really bad kid in those days."
It's not every day that a kids remembers me, but I did not reciprocate the memory, but he was smiling. I guess sending him out that day had an effect for the better.
The period went by quickly enough. Students sit around, do very little, we visit, talked about life and times at Jane Addams - the BEST school for substitute teachers, in my humbled opinion.
The bell rang, the students started to file out.
"It was good to see you again," I said to the kid that I had kicked out so many years ago."
"Yeah, you too," he calmly answered.