My School: John T. Hoggard High School Wilmington - Mohan Sharma (India, 2019/20)
It was the third day of our Fulbright Teaching Excellence and Achievement program 2020, and 22 participants from 19 different countries were highly enthusiastic to be escorted to their respective schools. I along with 8 more participants were escorted to said school. This school is located in the Wilmington town of New Hanover County (district) of North Carolina State. It had 2,163 students enrolled and nearly 150 staff. The students from 9th to 12th-grade study in this high school. Thus the word high school includes 11th and 12th grades in the USA. However, in India high schools are up to 10th grade and schools with 10+1 (11th) and 10+2 (12th) classes are called Senior Secondary Schools. After 10+2 Indian students go for graduation and post-graduation courses but in the US they have undergraduate and graduate courses. Hence no terminology like post-graduation exists there.
There were no boundary walls or huge school gate with the name of the school written on it as I was expecting. There was a big school logo and name on one section of the school buildings. The school building was a double story with different sections called halls. Each hall consisted of 10 to 12 classrooms for a subject, however there are exceptions to it too.
There were nearly 100 classrooms and two indoor stadium type gyms. There were well-equipped labs for nursing, pottery, music (instrumental and vocal), dance and fine arts, etc. The stadium for outdoor games was close to the school with well-maintained tracks for athletes.
I was surprised to see the huge parking blocks for nearly 2,000+ cars. Each car was well parked within the marked lines and at allotted points. There were hardly any two-wheelers. The big question was to whom these vehicles belonged. Then the school's vice-principal Mr. Brad Lewis told us that these belong to students and staff. Also he added that here students above 16 years of age can have a driving license after following strict procedures. Therefore schools have separate student parking.
We were walking through the school campus and suddenly I became scared by the presence of well-equipped police personnel. There were two police cars like we have pilot vehicles in India before VVIP's. We were curious to know what happened on the campus today. Mr. Brad Lewis Assistant Principal smiled and said that it is campus police for the safety of children. If there is any fight among the students (a rare incident) then teachers or staff are not supposed to be involved in that; rather they have to inform the police immediately and the police respond in 2-5 minutes.
The school has a huge canteen with seating capacity for more than 700 students at a time. The timing of lunch was trifurcated in a period of 45 minutes each to avoid crowding. The school lunch was like stalls of various items from non-vegetarian to fruits. Firstly every student has to pay for lunch then move towards stalls. There was also a separate counter for pizza or juices etc.
The touching moments were to see inclusive education in action. The students were behaving very responsibly while supporting and enjoying the company of children with special needs. They were taking them in high esteem whether they were in a game or at the school canteen.
The USA has a large history of racism and they are still working to minimize the trauma of that. The school notice boards, walls, and entrances of classrooms were filled with the great achievements of black individuals in US history and the whole month of February was dedicated to promoting the esteem of black people in the country.
Most US schools do not have daily morning assembly like here in India. They take oaths daily in their respective locations maybe a classroom, gym, labs office, and lobby, etc. It is conducted through the public address system of the school. I observed that every student observes it with full responsibility by standing and putting his/her right hand close to their heart. The students bear no dress. They hardly bother what he or she is wearing, whether half pants or mini skirts. I never saw a student staring at others. The students were confident, well behaved, well mannered, and welcome diversity. They were with their mobiles and scientific calculators. There are strict guidelines about use of these devices and penalties for misuse. Their iPads were on the shelves of each classroom (if needed). Social media wasn't permitted and not available in the school wifi system. But I observed that mostly the students use the internet or mobile in the classroom responsibly. In classrooms, they can access the internet on their mobiles while the teacher is teaching. Also, teachers organize concept-based activities and evaluate them instantaneously with their use. They use tools like Evernote to project a student's work on classroom interactive boards. Also to get the graph of class understanding about a specific concept.
There are drinking water locations in the lobby where students can put their water bottles and the tap starts automatically to fill which also closes as soon as the bottle is taken off. Every staff member to whom we met during our program in this school were very supportive and cordial, especially Mr. Robert Turk, my mentor teacher, who contributed magnanimously to my personal and professional development. We learned many behavioral skills as well as professional skills of our subject from many other excellent teachers of this school. For more details of th school visit https://hoggard.nhcs.net/
Mr. Mohan Sharma is a lecturer in mathematics at the Government Model S.M. Senior Secondary School in Indora, Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. He has 23 years of teaching experience. He has a master’s in mathematics, a bachelor’s in education and a diploma in computer applications from Himachal Pradesh University in Shimla. He is a resource person for conducting training programs for mathematics teachers at the state level. He guides teachers on adopting different strategies to teach difficult mathematical concepts and using ICT in teaching mathematics.
He attended the Fulbright Teaching Excellence and Achievement Program 2020 at University of North Carolina, Wilmington, NC for six weeks.