Last Monday, I began my year with Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. Kelly, my housemate working at Cristo Rey with me, and I were fortunate enough to get a ride from a group of carpooling teachers in Charles Village. When we arrived and after meeting various staff members, we met with the principal. He ran us through our week full of meetings, paper work, and getting accustomed to life as a teacher and gave us some more information on our responsibilities and how to work best with students.
After meeting with the principal, we walked to the administrative offices down the street. We filled out several pieces of paperwork and met more staff people. We also wanted to meet the president of CRJ, and stuck our heads into is office. To our surprise and despite our impromptu visit, he graciously invited us into his office to sit and talk with him. We spoke about how far the Cristo Rey and, more importantly, its students had come since the school’s start in August 2007. Both The principal and the school’s president are genuine and helpful men who made it clear that they were both happy to have us and willing to help us in whatever way we needed this year. Having that support from the top definitely goes a long way!
Next, we walked back to the school. The school itself is a converted elementary school next to a church in Fells Point. The building is wonderful. It’s in a neighborhood-type area with a view of the Harbor. It’s older, but not too old. When you walk in, there’s a lobby, not too big or too small, that leads to both the main office (always a bevy of activity) and the gymnasium/cafeteria/auditorium (cafegymatorium?). As you walk up the stairs to the two main classroom hallways, you’re bound to run into some friendly students or other faculty members on their way to the main lobby. The hallways themselves are lined with lockers and doorways to classrooms decorated by each of the teachers. There’s an art room, teacher’s work area, reading lab, computer lab, and library. My mother noted that it reminded her of her Catholic elementary/high school in the Bronx. The school isn’t glamorous, but one can feel that it’s truly a great place for students learn, not just about reading, writing, and arithmetic, but about becoming a well rounded, well spoken, and college-ready young person.
The principal next took us to where our desks were located. I’ll be in the computer lab, where writing lab is held, and will be responsible for keeping the room neat and clean.
In the next few days, I met with the assistant principal and freshman writing lab instructor to discuss more of my responsibilities and writing lab curriculum. I had heard through various sources that she was an asset to the school and its students and meeting with her further cemented this notion. She encouraged me and gave me some valuable tips on how to speak with and work with students during class. She also offered her help whenever I should need it. I was also able to meet the various members of the faculty and staff. Everyone communicated how happy they were to have Kelly and I and had encouraging words of wisdom for each of us.
On Thursday, the staff met at Loyola Blakefield in north Baltimore along with staff from other Jesuit middle and high schools in the area to hear Cedric Jennings, subject of Ron Suskind’s A Hope in the Unseen. I’ll write another post to describe more of the speech and the subsequent small group discussions this week!
Friday was the Freshman in Training (FIT) graduation. The FIT program prepares the incoming freshman class for their internships at Baltimore area businesses and nonprofits (more on the Corporate Internship Program here and here). The principal, the CIP director, the dean of students, and a guest speaker all spoke to inspire and encourage the freshman as they embark on what will hopefully be a life-changing four years of hard work, learning, and positive experiences.
And with that, week one was over. It was a great first week of work and I’m already beginning to feel at home. As I had suspected, Cristo Rey is a special place full of smart and positive people devoted to the lives of its students.