My Old School is My New School

While I was in Teachers’ College, I did a practicum at the high school I attended as a teenager. When people ask me how it was, my first reaction is always the same: it ruined the nostalgia of that place. It was an indelible experience for me, but not because of it being my former high school. It was mainly due to the fact that I worked under an amazing teacher that used the method of a gradual release of responsibility that eventually allowed me to design, teach, and grade entire classes for an extended period of time. Those few months there were the reason why I felt competent stepping into my first classroom as a new teacher. Fast forward seven years, I am back teaching at the school I once attended as a middle-schooler. Yup, my old school is my new school.


It’s only been a few days, but so far I have stuck to my plan in terms of the things I wanted to accomplish in the first week. And to cut to the chase, on first thought: the place can never be like the place I remembered as a kid. The reason why is complex, but what I gather so far is that although my old school is my new school, this new school is now just a new school to me. Sure, I once walked the same halls, struggled to learn how to open a lock on my first ever locker, and recognize the layout of the school with a sense of knowing, but beyond the physical aspects of that space, everything else is different. New teachers, new students and, most importantly, a new culture.


This experience, albeit short at this point, has extended my belief that the building itself doesn’t build a school, but instead, the culture of the school does. There have been no changes made to this school in the last twenty years, since I went there. There have probably been very little changes since its inception. But this school has changed over time.


School culture determines schooling and education. Resources, inviting spaces and technology undoubtedly impact education. These improvements affect schooling. But make no mistake, a school climate affects schooling.


Seven years since teaching as a student-teacher at my former high school, people have now begun to ask me, “So, how is it teaching at a school you went to as a kid?” My answer: Fortunately, I am in a situation where I have not had a reason to seriously consider it. That is because buildings may stay the same, communities may stay the same, but culture, especially (and hopefully) a school culture, is always changing. My new school is my old school. But it is not like I’ve never left. It’s like I’ve never been.


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Matthew R. Morris

Educator, Speaker, Writer

Matthew R. Morris is a writer, speaker, and elementary educator in Toronto. He has an M.A. in Social Justice Education from OISE at the University of Toronto and is the author of the forthcoming book, Black Boys Like Me. 

Matthew R. Morris

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