Inner City English Teacher

Inner City English Teacher


NY Metro Area, NJ

Female, 37

I teach English to 11th grade inner city students. I love my students and do whatever I can to help them succeed, which is quite a mission. These kids face obstacles most of us cannot even imagine: gangs, incarcerated parents, domestic violence and much more. Everyday I read journal entries that would curl your toes...and often I feel I compromise my ethics to get these kids to pass, which I am very conflicted about. Many pass who, frankly, should not.

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55 Questions


Last Answer on June 01, 2014

Best Rated

If you could transfer tomorrow to a a school in a cushy upper-middle-class suburb, would you do it?

Asked by Mr. Mackey over 11 years ago

Funny you should ask that because I did spend quite a few years teaching at a "cushy, upper-middle class" suburban school. Due to layoffs, I was faced with finding a new job in a new district. Honestly, I much prefer teaching where I do now and I'll tell you why: in a wealthy, suburban school, the parents run everything. A teacher can spend most of their day answering emails from over-protective, hovering parents who constantly question you as a teacher. They feel as though you are at their beck and call. Parents actually come to back to school night making suggestions on how you should teach! There is such a feeling of entitlement, it overshadows why you get into teaching in the first place. Many suburban schools are very political, and I can't tell you how many times a principal will take a parent's side , especially if they have connections to the board of ed or coaches a team. It's unbelievable. I felt very under-appreciated at my suburban school. Despite all the issues an urban school has, I would much rather teach feel you can really make a difference in a kid's life who normally would not have an advocate. Sure, you don't have access to the same technology and resources, but I love it. I guess you have to be a certain type of person to deal with all the issues, but I know it's where I belong!

Do you think the teaching staff at your school is a tighter-knit bunch than those at more privileged schools, since you're all experiencing a such difficult situation together?

Asked by Melissa over 11 years ago

Love your question! I do think that there is a very special bond among our teachers. Only when you have taught in a school like ours, can you ever understand what we experience on a daily basis. I tell my family and friends stories from the trenches, and they are incredulous at what I tell them. There has to be a very high level of empathy and dedication (not detracting from other teachers in other schools; who are a very dedicated bunch) yet burn-out is very prevalent in inner city schools. The frustration and exhaustion levels are out of sight, and this struggle bonds us. I do see, like in any profession, undesirable teachers who are simply collecting a paycheck, and I don't mean to lionize our staff and staffs at other inner city schools. However, there is a sort of "calling" for those of us who work here, and it takes a certain kind of person to prevail despite all the obstacles. Today was our first full day and I am ready for an early night, as I didn't sleep much last night anticipating what our first day would be like. I have been doing this for quite a few years, and I still get butterflies on the first day of school. I guess that's a good thing, right?

Are there ANY teachers at your school who think that arming teachers is a good idea to prevent school shootings?

Asked by td55 over 11 years ago

I can't think of one! We do have security guards on each floor and there are police officers around but in an inconspicuous way. As the teachers I have spoken to were devastated at the news of what happened in Connecticut, not one said that we should go the armed route. We have constant drills and feel safe as anyone can feel...I mean, what happened there really could happen anywhere, right? It's just very sad that we even have to have this discussion...

Was there ever an instance where you thought you might be overstepping a boundary in helping a student in despair, but you were willing to risk it anyway?

Asked by Mr. Clark over 11 years ago

Yes, there have been a number of times. One comes to mind concerning a girl who was cutting herself. She would come to me on a daily basis and show me her scars, and tell me how distressed she was. I went to her counselor who told me that cutting is not considered a "life threatening" situation and that the proper authorities would be contacted to help her. I gave her my cell number and she would text me on occasion telling me she was obsessed with cutting and I would reply with some soothing advice to calm her down and tell her we would speak the next day at school. I was later told that by giving her my number I was putting myself in a precarious situation since it was "stepping over the line." And another time I gave a student a ride to school during a rainstorm who I know was having an especially tough time at home, which is a definite no-no, since the student can always claim that something untoward happened in the car. I am a very trusting person and sometimes you have to just realize that no matter how much you try to help, the unfortunate truth is that you still have to look out for yourself and "CYA" in case it backfires in your face. Sad, but true!

How do you deal with students' use of the n-word? And honestly - does the race of whoever says it have an effect on your disciplinary actions?

Asked by Colonel West over 11 years ago

Students say the n-word all the time. It drives me crazy. Even the Hispanic kids use it. When I hear it in class, I give my speech about the history of that word and how unacceptable it is in my presence. They laugh it off saying "Miss, we all say it, it's no big deal." Whoever says it makes no difference to me...I've never heard it used in a derogatory way towards another kid, like calling them the n-word as an insult; the use of it has become so watered down and endearing in their own community I just don't get it. It seems to bother me more than them... it's inexplicable to me...

What can I do if administration and security turn their heads to drug abuse because it is so common?

Asked by Ange about 11 years ago

Are you a teacher?

Do you think some kids just aren't built for school? they may be smart, talented, etc, but school in the traditional sense just doesn't work for them?

Asked by mama may i about 11 years ago

I think there have been kids who aren't built for school for many years. You'll see famous, successful people talk about how they did terribly in school, yet went on to become very successful. In the setting I work, many kids are not meant for school, but for other reasons: lack of discipline, respect, determination, etc. A colleague's son is definitely an example in the classic sense of not being built for a traditional school setting, and I can guarantee that this kid will really go places. If you think out of the box, I feel school is a difficult environment for some kids, as their differences are not readily accepted by the student body at large. I also think that many of our students should be in more of a vocational setting, than an academic one.