This morning, after countless e-mails and security clearances, I finally stepped foot in a maximum security classroom at juvenile hall. It was for a story about Lauren Bishop, a 2009 Alameda County Teacher of the Year (and an Oakland Tech mom).
As I walked into Bishop’s science classroom and scanned the young faces sitting before her, I knew that most of them had been charged with a “707 B” offense: one of 23 crimes including murder, kidnapping, gang activity and discharge of a firearm.
I also learned from one of the supervisors that more than half of the boys in Unit 2 might eventually be shipped from the center to a prison — quite possibly, on their 18th birthdays.
Whatever their histories, Bishop said, she sees each kid as just that — a kid. After observing her class and interviewing a couple of the older students, I can see why.
I noticed that they seemed quite attentive to a relatively dry review session on ionic and covalent bonds. Then they picked teams for Game Show Friday, a weekly event in which they’re quizzed on the lessons of the week. It was Thursday, their last chance to cram.
Wayne, one of Bishop’s students, told me later that it wasn’t just the chance to win Game Show Friday that made everyone so competitive, but the prize: “Candy, you know, Snickers.”