Mark starts high school tomorrow. He will wander out of here around 8:30 a.m. and is headed towards Bedford Road Collegiate where he will spend the next three and a half years of his life. He is talking about joining the Royal Canadian Navy after that so he can see the world before deciding on a career. We will see if the RCN has any floating ships left before he decides on his next step.
It was a hard decision for him to go to Bedford Road. He had wanted to go to E.D. Feehan High School but the lack of a football team doomed that decision. The lack of many sports made it exciting for him to go. He looked at Mount Royal and Marion M. Graham Collegiate and Bishop James Mahoney as well but the time on the bus was going to be significant. No one wants that long of commute just to go to high school.
The response from teachers and educators over him going to Bedford Road was tepid at best and downright hostile and discouraging at worse. Neighbors and friends had reservations. A friend of the families kid was robbed and then hit hard with a chain. Another kid was robbed at knife point. Saskatoon Public School Board teachers called the kids “rough”, “unteachable”, and talked of physical intimidation in the classroom. Two teachers told me they would resign rather than be appointed to Bedford. I don’t know if that was just talk but there are some polarizing feelings about the school. Considering it wasn’t a decision I was fond of in the first place (bad things always happened to me when I was in Bedford Road when I was a student) we really spent some time looking at our options and deciding what was best for Mark.
In defence of Bedford I was told of crime and thugs everywhere in the city. That may be true but according to Saskatoon Police Service crime maps, there is a propensity of violent and serious property crime in 2014 (and continuing throughout the spring) in Caswell Hill (and Mayfair). Assaults, robberies, drug related offences. It is all there and in a higher concentration then in other surrounding neighbourhoods in the city. Crime happens in the neighbourhood and the neighbourhoods where it’s students come from.
At the end of the day, crime is bad in our neighbourhood which has not been fun for the boys (it was last summer they were accosted by a high prostitute at 2:30 p.m. on a Tuesday) and of course 2013 was the summer of gunshots and prostitutes working our street (which has stopped thankfully).
So yeah there is a basis for teachers to be concerned, I am not sure why all of the negativity that goes around Bedford (well I do actually, I have disliked the school since my friends stereo was stolen and then the guy tried to resell it back to us which there for a basketball game) and from westside teachers in general about being in inner city schools. I have heard the complaints about the lack of fundraising from parents (I was foolish enough to think that taxes paid for my kids education) to school fees not being paid on time (We know of one kid that was picking bottles to pay for his school fees this year), to a lack of school supplies. I am not sure it’s right to hate the kids for the environment that they come from.
I can’t speak to the physical intimidation part. I am 6’4. I am not physically intimidated by much anymore yet Wendy who is a foot shorter doesn’t feel a lot of fear in her workplace and it can and often is violent (shoplifters, drunks, drugs, mental health). Maybe there is a desensitization that happens that I am missing and that some don’t have. Maybe they shouldn’t be teaching on the westside and perhaps it is a flaw of the system that allows teachers to teach kids they don’t like or fear.
I also think the city does it weird with allowing Mark to go to any school he wants. It creates a system where his friends who want to ride the bus or have parents that wish to drive them daily, can go to any high school in the city and creates a weird feeling for those that “have” to go to their neighbourhood schools. In the case of E.D. Feehan, you have a school in a slow death spiral because why would you want to go to a school that has no amenities when you can go the new and cutting edge Bethlehem High School.
Finally, I think the school board has a morale problem when you have teachers speaking so poorly about Bedford Road and about the westside to parents and students. Those teachers are speaking about not just a school but their own colleagues and are prejudging students before the summer is over and the school year has begun.
Oddly enough the extremely poor teachers Mark has had previously makes it easier to disregard the advice about Bedford (he has had more good teachers than bad but he bad one was so bad I don’t think he would have survived a second year). Despite the degree, some people aren’t wired to teach some kids. Hopefully he finds teachers that are wired to teach, coach, and mentor and they out number the ones that don’t want to be there.
Mark will do fine but the process leading up tomorrow left me with a bit of a sick feeling in my stomach.