New Schools for Baton Rouge’s Paige Roberts sits down with Sydney Brooks, an LSU undergraduate and Brothers Empowered to Teach corps member at Baton Rouge Bridge Academy, to discuss her experience and passion for education in Baton Rouge.
Why did you choose education? Honestly, I always thought, “Oh, I will never be a teacher. I don’t have the patience for that.” Then I ended up working for an organization where I was coaching kids in soccer, and I loved it. I didn’t like the private school setting as much, but I really liked the kids. Then this opportunity arose and I was like, “Oh, I guess I’ll do it. No big deal.” I got here and just completely fell in love with the program and what it means to be here. I’m actually doing my own research project on this school as well.
That’s awesome. What’s the project about? It’s about stereotypes of inner city kids and how they can grow from that.
That’s great. Tell me a little more about how you ended up at Baton Rouge Bridge Academy. I work for Brothers Empowered to Teach. It is an organization that prides itself on building more of an African-American base in education. They place tutors at inner city schools to work in the classroom and, in general, get an idea of what it’s like to be at an inner city school. We are able to see what the teachers here are doing to better the situation for these kids, who essentially without places like Baton Rouge College Preparatory and Baton Rouge Bridge Academy, would have no chance. It’s making us aware of what is going on in the education world.
Tell me what makes this school unique. Everything. From the way they teach them to the way they interact with them. Disciplinary wise it is very different than other schools that I’ve seen. In some schools, you get in trouble and they just send you on your way. Here, Ms. Peterson will talk to them:“Write for me what happened from the time you were in class to the time you got upset, and write for me how we are going to fix it.” They pull them out of class to make that experience a teaching opportunity because they truly want them at school. I’ve noticed at other schools I’ve worked at the first time a student gets in trouble they are suspended or expelled. There is no point where they actually stop to see what the root of the issue is. I’ve noticed here that a child might be acting out because he or she has something going on at home. Other schools [may not] really care enough to figure out what the problem is so the kid can stay in school…Some kids, like these kids, in particular, don’t have that opportunity at home or the foundation at home to be successful at school.
So like the restorative practices? Yeah, it’s literally breaking every stereotype that there is as far as inner city schools go, and that’s amazing. I love that. I was a tad bit concerned when I first started, but when I got here I was like, “Oh, this is a whole new line of schools.” It was awesome. Really refreshing to see actually.
Tell me one of your favorite moments from being here. I work with LSU [classes are named after universities] a lot, the first-grade class, and I have repeat offenders of disciplinary action. [One student] got in trouble the first month I was here. He was in trouble almost every day. As I spent more one-on-one time with him and got to know him better we got through some of his issues at home. Now he makes better grades, he’s a better kid, and I love that. Yesterday actually, I helped them learn subtraction which was super awesome. Seeing them finally figure it out is so fun for me to watch because I get to be a part of that, and that’s just fun.
What else do you want people to know about this school, the teachers, or the students? These kids, sometimes they have disciplinary problems and they rake your nerves – they really do – but they just want to be loved on. They want to be cared for and they want to feel like they have just as much a chance as any other kid to be something great. The other day we were asking them what they want to be when they grow up. They were like, “I want to be a doctor. I want to be a firefighter. I want to be a nurse.” They have these dreams, so who are we to take that from them because we refuse to stop and begin fixing the problem.
Sydney Brooks is a Texas native. She moved to Moss Bluff, Louisiana in fifth grade where she finished high school. Sydney is a junior at Louisiana State University where she is earning a dual degree in communication studies and sociology with minors in human resource education and philosophy.