(Editor’s note: Second in an occasional In Their Own Words series that seeks to share candid perspective from inside the walls of the city’s schools.)
Interviews conducted by Sun contributor Ashleigh LaRose
Will, sophomore, South High Community School
AL: How has the school year been for you this year so far?
W: We’ve only been back for a couple weeks but it’s been OK so far. I mean, it’s school so it’s never really something I’m all excited about.
I have friends of all types, like Puerto Rican, black, white, literally everything, but I feel bad for [my cousin] sometimes because I know those schools don’t have a big mixture of people. It’s mostly white kids and a few minorities here and there, and I think I would feel weird, like maybe I would stand out, or the other kids wouldn’t like me.
AL: Do you think there’s something Worcester Public Schools could do that would make you excited?
W: I’m not a big fan of school in general, so I’m probably never going to be too excited about it, but I think maybe if we had more technology, it might make things more interesting to me.
AL: Like what kind of technology?
W: Like, I have a cousin who goes to school in Auburn and I’ve been in the school a couple times and they have all these crazy projectors and computers in every classroom and the school is pretty new. It’s like, I know it’s a different town, but our schools are 15 minutes away from each other. They get to use iPads in the classrooms all day and practice on turf fields, and we’re not even allowed to have pens and markers in case we try to use them as weapons or try to get high off them.
AL: Do you feel like you have less of an advantage going to school in Worcester than maybe a suburban school?
W: I like going to school in Worcester because all my friends are here and I’m used to it, but I do feel like maybe sometimes we don’t get as much as other towns. But I know other towns have their own things that kids don’t like. Like my cousin I was talking about before, we’re Puerto Rican. I have friends of all types, like Puerto Rican, black, white, literally everything, but I feel bad for her sometimes because I know those schools don’t have a big mixture of people. It’s mostly white kids and a few minorities here and there, and I think I would feel weird, like maybe I would stand out, or the other kids wouldn’t like me.
AL: And is racism something you feel like you deal a lot with at school?
W: I mean, me personally, no. I don’t care what race people are. If I like you and I think you’re cool, I’ll just hang out with you.
AL: What about other people?
W: There are some kids that will only hang with black kids or Dominican kids or whatever, but I don’t think it’s a huge issue. Sometimes I hear people complain that their teachers are racist but I never really see it.
Emily, junior, Doherty Memorial High School
AL: How do you like attending Doherty?
E: Overall, I’ve had mostly good experiences. I just started my junior year and I know that junior and senior year will be a lot different and a lot more stressful than my first two years, but I’m looking forward to them.
I can tell some teachers don’t like their jobs or don’t want to be here or can’t handle some of their classes. But if you want to do well and you want to learn, there are definitely teachers that will be right there to help you.
AL: So does that mean you’re going to be looking into college?
E: Yes, I’m definitely planning on going to college. I don’t know if I’ll go to a big school or if I’ll end up at a state school but either way, I’m starting to get ready for it.
AL: And do you feel like Doherty is accurately preparing you to make that transition?
E: Doherty definitely has its strengths and weaknesses, like I’m very happy with the education I get here, but I think it comes down to what you do with the things you’re given.
AL: Could you expand on what you mean by that?
E: I can tell some teachers don’t like their jobs or don’t want to be here or can’t handle some of their classes. But if you want to do well and you want to learn, there are definitely teachers that will be right there to help you, but I think you have to make the decision that you want to be successful. It would definitely be easy for me to get caught up in a bunch of other stuff.
AL: And when a teacher can’t handle their class, what does that look like?
E: Usually it’s just kids acting up and yelling and saying things that shouldn’t be said in school, and then the teachers usually just yell, which never works, or they’ll send kids down to the office and it does take out of class time sometimes.
AL: And are there any changes you’re hoping to see this year?
E: Well, I know it won’t happen, but I’d like to see some of the smaller clubs get more attention. Everybody at Doherty is really into sports, especially football, since we have a pretty good team. I feel like all the time and money gets spent on sports and it sucks when the technology in our classrooms isn’t where it should be unless you’re in the engineering technology academy. And we have so many other clubs that do good things, like the gay-straight alliance. Or even the kids that do the school plays kind of get shafted. Oh! And I hear the lunches are gross, I can’t even eat them most days because I’m a vegetarian and they don’t really cater to that type of diet.
AL: And overall, do you feel that the staff does a good job making sure everybody’s safe? Like if there’s bullying or fighting going on, does that get addressed?
E: Me, personally, I’ve never had any issues with safety and I don’t really see kids getting bullied too much. If they do, it might be a joke here and there. And I know if I ever had any issues that there are teachers I could go to that would be more than happy to help me or anyone out.
Aaliyah, eighth grade, East Middle School
AL: How has the school year been for you so far?
A: It’s been good so far. It’s cool because we’re in eighth grade so we’re finally the oldest, so it’s like we’re in charge of things now, and I’m looking forward to high school next year.
We have a lot of crazy kids that go here and a lot of teachers can’t handle them. I do see a lot of fights but if you mind your own business then people will just leave you alone.
AL: And do you know what high school you’ll be going to next year?
A: I’m not sure yet. My mom wants me to go to Worcester Tech, but I’m not sure if I’ll get in and the school in my neighborhood is South, but my mom doesn’t want me to go there because I went to Sullivan for sixth grade but all my teachers were racist, so I transferred to East.
AL: What did your teachers do that made you think they were racist?
A: You could tell by the way [they] would talk to us or treat us, I just didn’t really like any of my teachers. I mean, like, this is Worcester so we have all types of kids from every race, and just because a few of us are bad or act up, we shouldn’t all get grouped together.
AL: But things are better at East Middle?
A: East has its own problems, but I like it better here. I’ve gotten some bad teachers but I’ve also had teachers that taught really well and kept the class in control which is probably hard sometimes.
AL: Why is it hard sometimes?
A: We have a lot of crazy kids that go here and a lot of teachers can’t handle them. I do see a lot of fights but if you mind your own business then people will just leave you alone. Some kids don’t respect teachers and will just try and act up and disrupt class because they’re bored or have nothing else to do, I guess.
AL: And what do the teachers do about it?
A: Kids mostly just get suspended a lot, but that’s what kids want because it’s a free day off from school.
AL: And is it hard to learn in an environment like that?
A: It does get annoying when my teachers have to stop every two seconds to yell at kids and stuff, but I still learn a lot and if you really want, you can apply to be in the academy upstairs, they don’t really have to worry about this stuff as much.
AL: And if you could make changes at East Middle this year, what would you change?
A: I would probably try and hire more teachers that are good at handling our classes and are good at teaching us.