My travels between public and private schools have taught me there is often no difference between the two.
Going to public school in the inner city was quite stressful. There were enormous class sizes and very little one on one time with the teacher. This wasn’t the greatest issue however, it was the students. There were often quarrels between students and teachers mostly from the students irate about being reprimanded for talking in class.
I observed children who didn’t fit in social circles being met with a barrage of insults from others. This can cause anxiety, lowered self-esteem and a phobia of going to school for fear of being teased. Class sizes being what they are in many public schools, this demeaning behavior often goes unnoticed.
What I noticed upon my stay at Philadelphia Mennonite High School, a Christian private school located in Girard was that it was the same if not worse than the public school dilemmas. Not all but many of the students and even staff carried an air of arrogance. The vice principal could be seen sneering at students, looking them up and down in disapproval.
While there were prayer and Bible classes, many things weren’t right – contradictory even. I recall certain students claiming to be Christians but openly gossiping about students well within ear shot of their target. This was not only rude, but vicious.
I recall working in my earth science group when out of nowhere two girls began talking to me about their times in the bedroom with their boyfriends in vivid detail. I couldn’t help but shy away from the conversation. I came there to learn and gain a faith-based education, but so many students’ minds just weren’t there. This occurred quite often. On one occasion the teacher had to intervene and remind them that lewd speech was not the object of the class.
Aside from this, bullying was alive and well in this school. I witnessed a girl in my grade being picked on by two other students—a big burly teen aged boy and a thin girl every day. They would call her names like “freak” and “jacka**” for no reason. In spite of this she became the president of the 10th grade and held regular meetings with the class to discuss fund raisers, but this didn’t stop them. While she addressed the class, these same students would yell “impeach!” and “how about some impeach pie or cobbler?” The teacher immediately sent the disruptive student to the office.
The girl worked hard and was commonly on the honor roll but suffered from the gossip of some of her peers and the verbal and occasional physical abuse of the two bullies who would not leave her alone. Sometimes she was caught crying in the hallway and there was the rare incident when another student stepped in to help her.
Her mother was almost constantly at the school to comfort her daughter and even went as far as to be late for work to make sure her daughter was OK. This was how bad the situation of bullying was for her. I was glad to know that the girl had such strong support from home and that she was not completely alone, but her mother couldn’t be there with her everyday.
Another issue was teacher quality. One Sociology teacher in particular had a very nasty attitude towards students and knew this much about herself because she remarked that, “At first when you meet me you think I’m mean, but I’m not that bad.” The following months put meaning behind those words. She carried an air of bitterness with her and would often snap at students for no reason. It was contradictory to have such a person working in a so-called “Christian” school. It’s is important to maintain a professional attitude characteristic of the environment you are in. Furthermore, all students are not alike and treating them with meanness may harm or even turn them away from the very faith a school seeks to promote. You never know what anyone or student is going through and treating them that way may compound their issues. Some think this type of treatment prepares students for the “real world,” but why take the nastiest of behaviors to imitate? Wouldn’t it fair better to build students up through scripture in a supposedly Christian school? Living the life of a follower of God carries its own trials without adding these types of matters to it.
I learned much from this school as my objective was education, but from what I witnessed, it is a testament that whether or not a school has a shining crest on it doesn’t indicate that it is a safe or conducive environment to thrive in, it may not even be free of verbal abuse from certain teachers.
I went to this “Christian” school to escape stuff like this, not have it magnified. This article is not attempting to degrade any school either public or private, but to bring to light the fact that ill-meaning teachers, low quality curriculum and bullying can occur anywhere, at any schools no matter what the religion, race or creed.
The photo is from Photopin.