What it's like to teach in the new high school
I knew my way around the old high school extremely well. I grew up a few streets away and remember hitting tennis balls against one of the gym walls, which then led to climbing all over the roof of the building to retrieve the balls. One time I got stuck while exploring the roof of the high school and ended up climbing in an open window to a room on the third floor. My other exploits included the times my sister and I went through lockers after school was out for the summer to collect supplies for the following year. It was like a treasure hunt.
I spent three years as a student in the high school, so I became even more familiar with the building, including the stage area, tunnels and more. So, when I started teaching at the high school it was easy for me to navigate the odd-numbered side versus the even-numbered side of the building that confused most new teachers, new students and visitors.
I already knew the science rooms were in their own wing, and the GO2 and GO3 were rooms over different gyms. The GO rooms were then changed to 282 and 283 to make it more confusing for everyone who figured they would be on the second floor even though there was no way to get to them from the second floor.
This school year I am getting a lot of questions about what it is like being in the new high school. Frankly, it is like a completely different building except that the old auditorium and fourth floor are intact. Literally everything else is new except for the red tiles and two stairwells. From the classrooms to the mini-auditorium and offices, it is not the building I knew.
For many reasons this is a good thing. There is a lot of natural light in the new building. The layout is simple. The rooms are comfortable and the heating/air conditioning works without having to use an Allen wrench to tamper with the mechanism. The rooms where I teach are on a carpeted side hallway that dampens the noise. Teacher workrooms are now on both sides of the building on both the second and third floors, which is convenient for many teachers.
We are into the second quarter at the point I am writing this article, and I believe the students are more respectful and calm this year. I don’t know if that is due to being in a new building or perhaps the great leadership shown by our interim administrative principal, Dr. Williams. The students seem to be respectful of the new space that our community has provided them. Even the lunch periods seem to be easygoing, which has not always been the case.
There are still a lot of issues to be solved in this new building—things are not perfect. There were a lot of details ignored or overlooked. I am pretty sure that this is the way all new construction goes. I look forward to the time when we put up familiar mementos on the walls, decorated in a way that will make everyone feel at home, and for me to remember how to get to my room from the parking lot without having to think about how to navigate stairs and halls.
Ari Klein is a lifelong community member, math teacher at Cleveland Heights High School, and president of the Cleveland Heights Teachers Union.