Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Placement, day two

This is my second day at my placement in Belfast (my sole source of internet for the moment), and I have to say, I really like it here. I'm spending most of my time in the 'informal education centre,' which is the part of the school where they engage students who are having difficulties (either academic or behavioural) with the normal school environment. Here, they can do their work on sofas instead of behind desks, and talk to their instructor on a one-on-one basis. In place of exams, students fill up portfolios with a veriety of group or solo projects in community involvement, leadership, and creative expression.

The atmosphere here reminds me in a vague way of the drama room at my middle school. The kids feel like they can talk to the staff, and while they're still called on all the things that matter (namecalling, bullying, etc), no one treats them like a miscreant for busting out a soda while they're working. And it seems to do a lot of good. When the kids come in here, they live up to the standards the staff know know they can reach: they behave themselves just fine and get their work done without complaint. Even the kids who are apparantly on the wrong side of a writeup on a fairly frequent basis treat the youth worker here with respect, because they know they're going to get the same from her. It's very exciting to observe.

I've also found the school itself quite impressive. Most times, people say that the families who send kids to integrated schools 'aren't really the problem,' because they specifically want that kind of environment for their children. But the school I'm at has a lot of working-class students from the local community. They're here because it's nearby, or because the education's better than they could get elsewhere. Especially here in the informal education centre, where students form friendships within their small working groups with people who are very different than they are. These 'problem children,' supposedly at the highest risk for sectarian problems, are the ones who seem most conscious of (and greatful for) the diversity around them.

I should go grab some lunch, or I'll keep right on about this for pages. I hope all's well for everyone in the states.

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