Days like yesterday give me faith in the American High School. Yeah, I really just wrote that. I can’t believe it, either. I have lots of faith in teenagers and good teachers, but I have been in way too many schools where administration was a weak link, and the kids suffered from a lack of vision and compassionate adults who were willing to fight for them.
Let me tell you about Timken High School in Canton, OH.
If you look at the statistics, you’d sigh. Many of the kids in this school come from what is politely called “underserved” areas, meaning their families struggle with poverty, unemployment, and a host of other concerns. These are the kids that are usually forced to accept the bottom of the barrel. Not at Timken. It has brilliant administrators (yes, I put those two words next to each other!) who have crafted a high school that offers all kinds of academic and vocational programs for their students. The school is divided into academies: a Technology Academy, an Arts Academy, and a Service Academy. Along with the elements of a traditional secondary curriculum, kids are given loads of opportunities for real-world education, and can take classes that will feed directly into post-secondary training to prepare them for jobs. I really hope some smart reporter looks into the innovative and practical things that are going on there.
My presentations were unique, thanks to the handiwork of Lynn Rudd, who coordinated my visit. Speak was chosen as an “all-school reads” book. Yep – everybody read it, including the guys in the auto body classes. Students made magnificent artwork based on the book and discussed it all over the place. Instead of just having me blather on in the auditorium, Lynn set up an extravaganza. The jazz band played while students took their seats. A beloved principal and one of their top seniors (who will study broadcasting) interviewed me on stage. And when the show was over, a punk/rock band played as students left. If any of you teachers out there are looking for information about this innovative format, or how to pull off a whole school reading the same book, please give Lynn a call.
Yes, like many schools in America, Timken is struggling. They have received a lot of attention because of the number of pregnant students at the school, an issue which they are addressing head-on. (Many of the administrative and curricular changes are recent.) Resources are stretched. But the faculty there is committed to their students in a degree which I rarely see. The kids are fantastic. People there are all working hard so that every student has the chance to grow, strive, and become the best person they can be – regardless of income or background. I left there feeling energized and uplifted by the people I met. So thank you, Timken!!! Thank you very, very much!
Oh, and when I was in the Canton/Akron area, I got to drive past the NFL Football Hall of Fame. It does not look as imposing as the photos make it look. In fact, it looks rather like the kitchen tool you use to squeeze lemon juice from a lemon, or maybe a painful medical device. I was amused.
Now I am in Columbus for a couple more days. I think I’m going to get to see the house where they filmed the Speak movie tonight. Will take photos.
(Note to a couple friends of mine who are trying to reach me by email – these hotel internet services are weird and I can’t send email out, plus I am really busy. Call me at home on Friday afternoon, or I will email you back then.)