Options Charter School in Noblesville is an alternative charter school. It’s small, with less than 150 students total when you include the students in the Juvenile Detention Center. It shares a small building with a State Farm Agency office, and has one hallway, a lunchroom that doubles as the gym, and a staff of just ten people.
The students who attend Options are the students who could not fit into traditional schools.
These are the students who were expelled after being arrested for dealing drugs, habitually put on suspension for missing weeks of school with no excuse for their absence, and kicked out after starting fights or lashing out at other students.
These are also the students who couldn’t put up with the torment of listening to the insults and ridicule from their peers, with teachers who didn’t seem to care about them, and the constant pressures of school on top of their life at home.
One of the teachers here said that he thinks we’re almost too late in the students’ lives to get them caught up, to get them back to where they should be. By now, they’re too stubborn. They won’t put any effort into trying anything new, and spend all day surrounded by people who are stuck in the same place they are. They attend a school that they all know is different, a school plenty of them refer to as the “retard school”. These kids have been given no reason to believe that they can succeed, and many of them don’t see why a high school diploma is worth the effort.
For their entire lives, the students at my school have been taught that hostility gets you what you want, that accepting help and change are signs of weakness, and that running away from responsibility and hurting others is easier than dealing with the problem at hand.
The problems we as teachers are trying to fight in this school are not poor reading or math skills, but the student’s own identities. Fixing problems that arise from abusive relationships, parental neglect, teen pregnancy, addiction, and homelessness is not part of the English curriculum. We are trying to fight the things that made - and still make - them who they are.
For many of the students, all we can do is hold them here at Options and keep trying to get them to learn until they finally mature into someone new who can overcome whatever was holding them back before.
Student teaching at Options is less about learning to become a better English teacher and more about broadening my own view on people who I previously could not relate to and could not even try to understand. I am learning to become someone who sits down and honestly cares while talking to the straight-A student who can’t stop cussing in class and the student who hasn’t turned anything in since the first week and the student who skips class every other day to get high.
Despite all the crazy stuff I deal with while teaching at Options, I don’t think I could have been given a better student teaching placement.