Monday, September 02, 2002

The True Story of Signature School

We’re not gifted, we’re not geniuses, and school doesn’t necessarily come easy to us. However, many people would probably argue this point, when it is made about Signature School. It hasn’t even been its own school for a month, and yet rumors and misconceptions surround the school as they have for years. In many cases, people simply have no idea what the school is or how it works, with even more confusion due to Sig’s recently acquired “charter school” status, so allow me to briefly clarify that point.

Signature, now located next to the Victory, opened in 1992 as a half-day alternative school. Up until this year, students were ferried from their home schools—the five public high schools and two private schools—in either the morning or afternoon, to spend three to four periods at Signature (for electives or for the required classes, such as English, history, math, and/or language). The student would eat lunch, have homeroom, and take part in extracurricular activities at the home school. When the School Board voted Signature as a charter school, making it its own institution, little of the actual mode of operation changed.

Now, students have all seven periods at Sig, eat lunch on the Walkway, and all after-school activities go through Signature. All official ties with the home schools are nothing but a memory, though old friends and relationships are still maintained in many cases. The pleasant, independent atmosphere that brought so many students, newcomers and veterans, remains the same for the new charter school, the first such high school in Indiana.

Overall, there is really only one very common mistaken belief about Signature School: “Oh, yeah, isn’t Signature that school for smart kids?” I am aware of how little access most people have to accurate, unbiased information about our school. And that is why I am about to correct this frequent misunderstanding. I am a junior, and have been attending Signature for three years, since ninth grade. And so, for the first time ever, the general public gets to hear about Signature School from someone who actually goes to Signature School.

We are not the smart kids. Some of us are intelligent, but that is not why we are at Signature. Many people at the home schools are bright, and some people at Sig say they are dumb. We don’t go to Signature because we’re smart; we go to Signature because we’re motivated. We are willing to take the harder courses and are willing to do the difficult work, pull all-nighters, do what needs to be done to do the assignment right. And because of that, we learn so much more than we would if we had taken the easy way out, because of the effort we put into learning. For example: history, freshman year. We had to hand-draw and color a scale map of the Earth, complete with about 100 different countries, cities, and geographical features. There was a class map, which we all did together, and we are also each required to do an individual one. We griped, we hated it; we still gripe and hate that project. But it also gave us a better basic understanding of the geography of our world. Another example: First year Spanish. The first day, all of us walked into the classroom, and the teacher was speaking Spanish to us. We kept expecting her to switch into English; we didn’t have a clue what she was saying. But she never did. In the hallway, at Target, on my answering machine, for two years I only hear this woman speak English a handful of times, and usually only if she’s speaking to someone not in her class. And now, with a meager two years of Spanish under my belt, some Spanish teachers have to ask me to slow down when I speak it.

We’re not smart; we’re motivated. And that’s the true story of Signature School.


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