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

What's your school's dropout rate, and what percent of graduates go to college? Have you ever had a student go to an Ivy League school?

Asked by corneal over 11 years ago

Our school dropout rate is approximately 16%. Most of our graduates go to a two-year community college, or technical schools. I have honestly never known one of our graduates to ever have gotten into an Ivy League school. It's even so difficult for a suburban kid to be accepted to one, let alone one of ours. But I am forever hopeful....

I appreciate what you do, and actually argue with friends about this Q a lot: do you think FUNDING alone would cure your school's ills? Like, if u got $20M tomorrow, how would you spend it? Isn't the root of the problem how kids are raised at HOME?

Asked by phunter over 11 years ago

Great question! I definitely do not think that funding alone can cure the ills of our school and schools like us...if kids aren't read to at an early age, if parents don't take an active role in monitoring their kids' homework, if parents do not make sure that their kids can break the cycle of illiteracy, domestic violence, teenage pregnancy, then all the money in the world can't cure it. Sure, money would help in obtaining better resources, better technology, etc., but if things don't change in the home, then all we are doing is spinning our wheels. Maybe that's being blunt, but I'm being truthful who make it and succeed, do so becuase they have parental guidance and an amazing inner strength that insists that they succeed, no matter what. Doesn't happen too often, sadly. And it IS very sad...even as I type this I am so wiped out I can barely keep my head up...It's so emotionally draining because I want them to succeed so badly, it's demoralizing when they don't, due to the lack of support I mentioned earlier. It's sad for them, because they didn't ask to be born in this type of environment. My admiration for the ones that do get out knows no bounds...they are my heroes. Seriously.

I admire your dedication to your students. I too, am a teacher in an urban district. I work w/ elementary age kids...and I understand the baggage they bring to school. Have you ever considered becoming a guidance counselor? You'd be great!

Asked by Sam25 over 11 years ago

Thanks for your kind words! So you can also understand the trials and tribulations we deal with every day. A very close friend of mine is a guidance counselor, and she had also made the same suggestion. Many colleagues are also going for their administrative certification, to get out of the classroom. I have thoughht about going a different route, but my heart really belongs in the classroom. I can watch their progression, make the connection and still spend quality time with the kids who are really struggling. Being a counselor has become so much more than the psychology end...scheduling, transcripts, etc. which really doesn't interest me. Funny, though, my son wants to be a counselor (he's in high school) so maybe I can live vicariously through him someday! I admire elementary school teachers so much; I taught third grade for one year and that was all I could take, so kudos to you as well! :)

If you weren't teaching, what would you be doing? Would it still be something with underprivileged youth?

Asked by Mama Minette over 11 years ago

Right now I'm already feeling the burnout of the beginning of the year craziness, so it's probably not the best time, lol...but I've always wanted to become a novelist; I love writing and expressing myself in prose. That's really my dream. But of course I would always like to stay in a profession that would involve needy kids and teens. Mainly teens, I feel much more comfortable with teens and having a teen myself, it's the age group that I love. I love teaching writing as well, and perhaps I would do something with that. They really energize me and keep me young! But I must say, being a published writer is my ultimate dream...ah, maybe some day!!!

What percentage of your students don't have a father figure in their lives?

Asked by corneal over 11 years ago

I couldn't tell you the exact percentage, but it is high. Many fathers are in jail, abusing their wives, doing drugs, etc. When you meet parents on back to school night, you can see the difference between the kids who have a father present in the home and those who don't. Many coaches and administrators serve as father figures to many of our kids, and those involved in sports provide them with a male figure to whom they can confide and feel safe. Many of my students are amazed that I am married and had a child AFTER we got married. Rather than ask me if I am married, they ask me who my son's father is. It's very, very sad.

Are teachers like yourself pressured by school administrators to pass kids that aren't ready yet?

Asked by Helena over 11 years ago

Great question, Helena! There are a number of rationales for passing kids that frankly should not pass. One would be a bi-lingual student (my school is almost 70% Hispanic) who may be trying very hard but finds the language barrier too daunting. Or a student who plays sports who would otherwise be out on the streets. I have given students an "F" for a final grade, only to be overridden by the administration for whatever reason. Truth be told, once a kid is a senior and is already approaching 19 or 20, they will do whatever it takes to pass them, even if it is just an "attendance" diploma. I don't necessarily feel pressured to pass an unworthy student, and have turned down requests in the past by guidance counselors to pass a particular kid. However, there are definitely instances where an administrator will come to me and in no uncertain terms, declare that a student MUST pass. That's when I feel like a sell-out. As an educator, it is extremely frustrating, to say the least.

How prevalent are teen pregnancies in your school? Does your school aggressively try to combat this?

Asked by oops over 11 years ago

Teen pregnancies are way too prevalent. Last year I had four freshman girls who were pregnant. The problem lies in the culture of the community. Because it is accepted and not frowned upon, it can almost be a "right of passage" in families. Despite the immense efforts of our administration to try and curtail this, you will still see girls who you would least expect, become pregnant. Many of these girls' mothers were having babies before age 16, so the cycle still has not stopped. Many kids are amazed that I have only one son, and that I had him in my 30's. It's unfathomable based on how I grew up, but you have to remember the mindset in their community is totally different, and unfortunately, doesn't seem to be on the decline. It's frustrating, to say the least. Last year I had a top student, interning at a hospital to become a nurse, working two jobs to save money for college, become pregnant. She was almost 6 months pregnant before she would come to me and admit that she was. Naturally I was devastated, but what could I do? It just is what it is, I wish I could change things; I try to speak to my girls and they nod their heads in agreement, but then it happens.

How do the tone and temperament of your school's administrators compare to those of cushier schools? Are yours more intimidating, enforcer types?

Asked by Mr. Clark over 11 years ago

The administrators are pretty hard core. They are no-nonsense, intimidating types. They really need to be, I suppose, because the culture of the school warrants it. Unfortunately, much of this behavior is what the kids respond to. They are even that way with us at times. The administrators in the schools I taught at in the suburbs give much more slack and are so much more lenient than the ones in my school. And maybe that's why that adds to the sense of entitlement at the cushier schools. Mommy and Daddy are very litigious in cushier schools and the administrators are always walking on eggshells. Many of the thuggish boys in our school respond to the harder type behavior and often seek it out due to the lack of paternal guidance in the home. Personally, I am never that way and I am able to bond and connect with my kids on a much different level. That hard core stuff is not in my nature, and I don't feel comfortable with it, to be perfectly honest.

Do inner city teachers get paid more than teachers at safer, suburban schools?

Asked by Jaclyn R. over 11 years ago

I'm not sure about that, but if we do get a higher salary, it's not by much. High schools in more suburban, wealthy districts probably make about the same as we do.

Have you ever been physically threatened or attacked by a kid you didn't pass?

Asked by 808-N8 over 11 years ago

I have never been physically threatened or attacked by a kid I didn't pass, rather the other way around. If a student crosses the line, as has happened quite a few times, then I will fail them. Just this past summer, in summer school, a student called me an obscenity and not only did I kick her out of summer school, but she automatically failed. (she had been spoken to a number of times and was given multiple chances to get her act together). When teaching these kids, you tend to let things slide sometimes, depending on their personal situations and their frame of mind, but fortunately my school takes threats VERY seriously and will not tolerate a teacher ever feeling unsafe, which has happened to me. (Now you know why I'm sooo tired, lol!) There have been instances where a student is acting irresponsibly or inappropriately and until you find out why, it's better not to jump to conclusions. For example, a very cranky student came into class exhausted every day and always had his head on his desk; it turns out that drug dealers had taken over his building and he was afraid to close his eyes at night. Some of the situations are unimaginable, but that's what keeps me motivated to help them as much as I can!

What was the saddest or most shocking journal entry you've read?

Asked by P.J. over 11 years ago

Unfortunately, there have been several. One journal entry concerned a girl who was cutting herself and was at the point where she pleaded for help (we did get her help). Another dealt with a male student who missed his dad who was in jail for drug dealing. (it's amazing how forgiving these kids are...they often declare their love despite what a parent or sibling has done). But probably the most shocking entry concerned a girl who was getting sexually abused by her uncle, and was afraid to tell anyone because he was helping the mom with the bills. Many girls in my school have issues with sexual abuse by a family member, which is the most shocking to me. Once we find out, of course, we are compelled to contact social services, although some beg us not to. There are days I come home so depressed and deflated that many of the kids fall through the cracks and we may never know what is truly going on at home. Some students have even asked me to come live with me, their situations at home are so dire. From the first day of school we talk about expressing our feelings and how their entries are "safe" with me; however, I do stress that if I read something that requires some sort of intervention, then I will do that. They are very open and safe at school, sometimes the only place they do feel safe. I wish I could save them all.

Is there a particular book that you find really resonates with inner city kids, even those who aren't fond of reading?

Asked by Frogstomp2323 over 11 years ago

A couple of books come to mind: "The Pact", a book about three young men who got out of the Newark, NJ slums to become successful doctors. It is a wonderful book that not only reveals the power of friendship, but gives the reader hope and inspiration about three men who overcame all odds to become successful and educated. Not only that, but they choose to give back to their community which resonates with me. Another book they love is "Angela's Ashes," by Frank McCourt, that tells about the journey of a young boy, growing up in abject poverty in Limerick, Ireland, and comes to America to become a successful high school English teacher and ultimately a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. The kids really relate to these types of inspriational tomes; they sometimes forget that there are other people out there living in the same situations they do, who manage to stay focused to forge ahead to not play the victim and do something special with their lives!

Do you think "No Child Left Behind" does more harm than good? Does it affect teachers at the high school level?

Asked by Mister Clark over 11 years ago

No Child Left Behind is and was a disasterous program. I am a firm believer that if a student does not deserve to move on to the next grade, then he/she should not. Because of the wide array of reading/learning levels that students possess, some are, frankly, not able to keep up, despite the attempts we make. We end up "teaching to the test" and relinquishing our creativity and ability to be the best we can be. We are becoming Stepford teachers, following specific directions and requirements by our administrators, instead of using our good judgment and innate sense of what is right for the kids. People don't realize what goes into a typical day in school. My classes are huge, with different abilities, behaviors and issues. Today I was actually crying in school, both from exhaustion and frustration! And it's only September. NCLB definitely affects teachers at the high school level because it disables the teachers' trust in themselves as qualified educators. This year my state waived NCLB and I, for one, am doing the happy dance because there was nothing positive I can say about it. I recently saw Tony Danza on TV talking up his book about being a teacher in Philadelphia. Yeah, Tony Danza. He gets to write a book and talk about the difficulties and hardships of being a "teacher." But if it brings attention to what we do on a daily basis in the trenches, then I guess it's a good thing. But, uh, Tony Danza??????

Does your school give self-defense instruction to teachers? Do you keep pepper spray or anything similar in your desk?

Asked by I_A_M_S_A_M over 11 years ago

Our school does not give self-defense instruction to teachers. When I first started here, I carried mace in my purse. I never used it and eventually threw it out. I have been in school first thing in the morning and very late at night and have never felt unsafe there. The neighborhood is very run down and creepy and you have to be careful where you walk if you want to get a coffee or a slice of pizza, but inside the school is actually very safe. Kids probably feel safer there than anywhere else. When I tell people where I teach their reaction is usually "are you crazy?" but believe me when I tell you I never feel threatened, unsafe or scared. There are so many good kids that they don't want to feel scared, either. The "thuggish" kids usually are expelled before they can cause any real issues.

If you have a kid who you KNOW is super smart but you can tell he's dumbing it down for his friends, what do you do?

Asked by ( - ^ - ) over 11 years ago

Actually that has happened quite a few times, because in my school, being smart is nerdy and definitely not cool. I often pull them aside, even track them down in another classroom and have a long chat with them. I explain to them that they are wasting their potential and instead of acting all "street" they can use their intelligence to be a leader and show their friends that this is a ticket out of the nighborhood. In fact, this past summer I had a long coversation with a boy who was borderline failing and I pulled him out into the hall and we spoke about how he is wasting his time and my time if he continues to act out. He looked down at the floor and I kept insisting he look me in the eyes and admit to me that I am right. Well, this hard-core show off boy started to bawl like a baby...the last day of school he gave me a hug and thanked me for my advice. I told him I would check up on him throughout the school year and make sure he is optimizing his abilities. It's funny how sometimes (but not all) a real heart-to-heart with them and their mother goes a long way. It shows them that I really care and want them to succeed. I just wish it worked all of the time!

What's the biggest success story you've seen from one of your former students?

Asked by Calico81 over 11 years ago

The first thing that comes to mind is a girl who I'll call Maria (not her real name). Maria was a very shy, withdrawn student when I had her as a freshman. She was bright, but you could see that issues at home were preventing her from coming out of her shell. She would come to my room during her lunch period to sit with me, have lunch together, and just talk about life. She was very guarded about her home situation but I could tell she had an absentee mother and devoted, hard-working father. We spoke about life, family, school and the concept of staying the course and not ever giving up. As Maria progressed through school, even though I no longer had her as a student, I had her in homeroom one year and we would catch up every day. She was joining clubs, getting active in volunteering and maintaining an A average. I remember after returning from a trip to Washington DC, she excitedly told me, "Miss, can you believe that when I took a shower at the hotel, the hot water never ran out." A real eye-opener. To fast forward, we would always stay in contact, as she would visit me in my room, or I would help her with her essays. By senior year, she had succeeded in becoming the valedictorian, obtaining a full scholarship to a terrific, private college. When she gave her graduation speech, we all agreed it was the best we had heard in years. We still stay in touch; she texts me with updates and successes. (and after 4 years, her father saved up to buy her her own laptop!)

Do you get emotionally discouraged when every year you see a new crop of low-income kids? Do you feel like one teacher can make a difference in the face of wave after wave of disadvantaged students?

Asked by liza over 11 years ago

Yes, it is very emotionally discouraging to see a new crop of low-income kids. I wish that things would get better, but each year presents its own set of problems, i.e., drug addiction, pregnancy, illiteracy, etc. However, I do feel that I can make a difference because my kids tell me I do. When you see them graduate, and then they come back to visit you is the ultimate reward. When they text or call you, asking for a reference for a job once they get out of college is a reward. When their parent or guardian wells up when they describe how you encouraged their child or stuck by their child is a reward. You must get in the mindset that there will be many kids who fall through the cracks, who do not succeed, and that is so painful. So you must focus on the positives, or frankly, you wouldn't be able to get up in the morning. Often I feel as though I am spinning my wheels, until a kid comes up to you in the halls and hugs you to tell you that they just got accepted into the college of their choice, then you feel happy again. It's really a true roller coaster on a daily basis, and it's not for the faint of heart, that's for sure!

Even if they're impoverished, do you get the sense that the parents wanna help their kids make a better life for themselves? Or are the parents just absent, indifferent, abusive, etc??

Asked by Dilly Dalia over 11 years ago

One of the biggest problems we face is parent apathy. If more parents were involved in their kids' academic lives, these kids would have a better chance. I also have taught in suburban schools where parent involvement is way over the top, in which case all you do during your prep is answer parent emails asking why Johnnie didn't get an "A" on his last test. On the other side of the coin, my district's population has such a lack of involvement, that we as teachers spend an inordinate amount of time trying to be parents to the kids as well. Don't get me wrong, there are very involved, concerned parents who want their kids to have a better life than they do, but unfortunately, they are in the minority.

Assuming there were no witnesses, if a student in your school attacked a teacher and the teacher injured the student while acting in self-defense, would the teacher be penalized?

Asked by Mr. Clark over 11 years ago

That's a tricky question, because it would ultimately be the kid's story versus the teacher's. And you always have to be careful that someone isn't lurking with a cell phone and its trusty ubiquitous camera. It's so frustrating, not only to avoid fights but to keep your mouth shut as a kid is cursing you out. My first year here, a girl (who I later found out was on probation for aggravated assault) lunged at me. Luckily, a guard came between us and saved me, literally. Another once yelled at me that she hoped my kid came down with AIDS. Yeah, it's a jungle. As far as I know, though, there is usually some type of penalty against a teacher touching a kid in any way, self-defense or not.

Do you have to speak Spanish to work in an inner city school?

Asked by maya over 11 years ago

We don't have to but believe me, I wish I had paid more attention in my Spanish class in high school. You tend to pick up a lot of Spanish just being around the kids and they are more than happy to help you. One of these days when I'm not so stressed I plan on purchasing a Rosetta Stone guide and try to help myself. The problem is also that there are so many different dialects: Puerto Rican, Dominican, Venezuelan, Peruvian, etc. that they all speak differently to each other. You'd be surprised to know that many of the Spanish-speaking kids struggle in their Spanish classes because of the dialects. Gracias for the questions! :)

Does your school have metal detectors, and do most teachers approve or disapprove of this?

Asked by T-Time over 11 years ago

Our school does not have metal detectors, but we do have security guards who "wand" the kids. Teachers are all for safety, and with the addition of cameras throughout the school, we feel much more comfortable. I can't speak for other staff members, but I'm pretty sure that if they installed metal detectors, there would be no complaints!

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?

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!

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

Asked by td55 about 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...

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 about 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.

I'm teaching at an inner-city school in LA. As an instructor, what are some resources I could get a hold of to offer my students more than what the school can provide (which is very little)? I teach English, Writing, Drama. Thanks

Asked by GMurray over 10 years ago

I have found a great resource in  It's a website that offers teachers resources based on donations from the public.  Here's how it works:  Say you want a class set of August Wilson's "Fences."  You put together a proposal on the website, explaining why you need a class set, your school's lack of resources, etc.  Then you research the price of what a class set would cost, based on the vendors they provide.  Once this is all approved, donors scour the website and donate to causes they feel are worthy.  In fact, just a few months ago, I acquired a class set of "Of Mice and Men."  Not only is it a great way to fill your classroom library, but it's a wonderful way to teach the kids the meaning of altruism. You could also request class supplies, technology, or whatever you feel is needed for your kids...and you can do it again and again.  Try it and let me know how it goes!

Assuming they're the minority in your school, do the white students feel intimidated? Do they get bullied any more or less than other races?

Asked by Al Falfa about 11 years ago

There are no white students in our school. Not one. It's about 75-25 Hispanic to black, which has changed greatly over the past few years with a strong influx of Dominican students to the city. There does seem to be a pecking order, however, within the Hispanic community, and even the black students: who is Dominican, who is Puerto Rican, who is Peruvian, who is Colombian, who is Mexican. With the black population, it's who is Jamaican, who is black who grew up in this country. It gets a bit crazy, and sometimes during the course of the year there are fights between the races, but nothing that really alarms anyone. There still is a large white population amongst the teachers, though. If a light-skinned Hispanic student is mistaken for white, they immediately put that to rest. It truly is a universe unto itself.

do you think home schooling is effective, or a terrible idea?

Asked by mama may i about 11 years ago

I'm not a big fan of home schooling, as it limits the child's socialization skills. I suppose if you come from a very big family and llive in a rural area, it might work, but it's not my thing. By not being in a school setting, I feel that a home-schooler misses out on all the experiences school provides, good and bad.

Do you think African-American and Hispanic students automatically discount white teachers because the students feel the teacher can't relate to them?

Asked by J. Delson about 11 years ago

What a great question! I think initially white teachers have to prove themselves tenfold to gain their trust and not feel as though they can't relate to them...and some teachers cannot relate to them, which always causes animosity and drama. Many times, word of mouth helps; if you have freshmen one year, they might hear from upper classmen that you are "cool" or that you aren't. The funny thing is that I hear all the time from the kids that they think I live in a "mansion" in a "white" town and I have to explain to them that I have trouble paying my bills, just like everyone may be on a different scale but typically they think that we have no issues with money or owning luxury items. I mean, I drive a ten year old car and haven't taken a vacation in many years. They enjoy teaching you the "lingo" that they speak and if you are open and honest and don't try to be "down", then they seem, at least in my case, to readily accept you. Growing up in NYC, I think, helps me to relate to them, whereas when I tell my friends strories of what goes on everyday, they are appalled at what I tell them. I guess after awhile, race and color go out the window and we are all alike, in many respects. That has been one of the best lessons I have learned...we ARE the same in MANY repsects. Because I don't add "yo" in every other sentence doesn't mean I can't relate to them and have them trust me. The best compliment is if you are considered "cool" which simply means you have no preconceived notions about them, and they of you.

Has working with students ever given you any *business* ideas? Have you thought of pursuing any on the side? Gotta think working w/teens all day would allow you to identify all kinds of trends that the average office worker isn't privy to.

Asked by smokey jones about 11 years ago

The school in which I work is an entity unto itself. I feel as though they are so isolated in their own environment, that I really don't see any trends they they start. In fact, I've waited years for the trend of sagging pants to go away, and I do think that is starting to diminish, thank goodness!! I do, however, write everyday and feel as though my experiences would make a phenomenal HBO series or book. When I show my writings to friends, they constantly tell me that "What? That really happened? You HAVE to write a book!" Any screenwriters out there??? :) The things I see everyday would make your toes curl. (and I'm not just talking about the kids...the faculty and administration are literally from another realm, too)

You mentioned Hispanic kids using the n-word. Do black students ever take offense to that?

Asked by K.G. about 11 years ago

Unbelievably's more of an accepted noun that seems incredible to me and probably to anyone else who doesn't live in this environment. You don't hear it as much from the Hispanic kids, but I have heard it enough and have never seen a black kid take offense to it. Crazy, right???

Do you have a lot of kids who talk all ghetto but when they write, they write with stellar grammar, spelling, and structure?

Asked by brokenarrow about 11 years ago

If only that would be true...the truth is that if they speak ghetto, they write ghetto. Even the "upper crust" kids write with incorrect grammar, which drives me crazy. I haven't seen anything "stellar" in any classroom, ever. They just get pushed trhough grade after grade, when in a perfect world, they would get the instruction they need and teachers would not be pressured by administration to pass kids through.

If a student walks into your classroom smelling like marijuana, do you (a) ignore it unless his behavior becomes problematic, or (b) immediately take disciplinary action?

Asked by Mr. Hand about 11 years ago

It is our obligation to never ignore it. In fact, we are told that even if we are suspicious that a student is high, we need to send them to the nurse and fill out forms with the drug counselor at school, who will in turn test them. It is a rare occurance, believe it or not, yet there have been times when I have sent a student out and then contacted the proper administrators in school.

Does your school push its students toward more vocational training ("shop classes") than other schools?

Asked by phunter over 11 years ago

I wish they did! They push kids into going to college who are obviously not equipped to be a college student! There are vocational schools in the district, which attract the kids who already know what they want to do...surprisingly, quite a few kids I know learn their vocations from apprenticing with uncles, fathers, etc. It's ludicrous to think that my school doesn't offer more vo-tech type classes. Ugh!!!

When you meet parents on parent-teacher nights, do some of them make you go: jesus, this kid never stood a chance!?

Asked by whoru about 11 years ago

ABSOLUTELY!!! That is one of the aspects of this job that is so maddening...the last parent/teacher night, one mother lliterally started to climb over the desk to get to me because I gave her daughter a detention for calling me "ignorant." Can you imagine? Our school has a lot of immigrant parents who truly want the best for their kids; however, if you saw some of these parents, your skin would crawl. Using foul language, disrespectful, and the worst part is that you KNOW once they get their kid home, they will beat the crap out of the kid to "teach them a lesson." The thinnest line we have to cross is when to accept bad behavior due to their environment, or put our collective feet down and stop making excuses for the kid. It's the toughest part of the job. Some of these kids are plainly doomed to repeat the sins of the parents and there is not a lot we can do. We try to guide, listen, and steer them in the right direction, but man oh man, is it ever trying!!!!

Do inner city schools have more bullying than regular schools?

Asked by A. Walczak about 11 years ago

As a matter of fact, I would have to say a resounding no! Strange as that may seem, the kids I have been associated with are far more accepting than suburban school kids. Having taught at both ends of the spectrum, I find that the sense of entitlement that goes along with suburban kids gives them a sense of superiority that prevents them from having more tolerance of the marginalized kids. At my school, the issues fall more along the lines of race, with the black and Hispanic kids at odds; but, overall I would give a thumbs up to my inner city kids over the suburban brats!!

I am currently teaching 8th grade inner city children. I'm looking for highly engaging, can't put down fiction and nonfiction reading. Most of them just don't like to read even though they can.

Asked by Kathy almost 11 years ago

I feel your pain...we just finished reading "To Kill a Mockingbird."  They struggled a bit with Part 1 but couldn't get enough of Part 2.  Then there is "Of Mice and Men," another classic. You could try "Lovely Bones" or anything by Sherman Alexie.  It's a real struggle, I know.  "Raisin in the Sun" is a great play, too.  Hope this helps...let me know if you choose any of these and good luck!  :)

Do you use Facebook? What do you do if students try and friend you or interact with you on the site? Do a lot of teachers avoid Facebook for this reason?

Asked by go wildcats about 11 years ago

I do not have a facebook page.  I am very against interacting with students via social media; some of the younger teachers do it and I feel it is a big mistake.  They post pictures of their personal lives, which I feel, sets them up for disaster.  The younger teachers feel it's cool, but I would never go that route; it's just a personal preference of mine.  Students who have graduated that I helped have my cell phone number, in case of an emergency at college or if they need help with a paper...that has happened often since they are not prepared for what faces them post high school.  But while I am teaching and I have students who I am in contact with, being on facebook is not an option.  I am really adamant about that...they often ask me if I am on facebook, or to look at something on facebook, but no, no, no...not me!  I am extremely discriminating not to cross that can never have a happy ending!  SO not professional, in my opinion.

Hi, I'm a Spanish teacher who teaches 100% immersion to inner city high school kids. I have students who fall asleep, refuse to do work and just talk with their friends, and to me seem like they have very little common sense. What can I do?

Asked by Myohmya over 10 years ago

It's so difficult, isn't it? And the teachers get blamed for not "motivating" the kids...have you tried contacting the parents? When I am at my wits' end, I call the parents and have them come in for a conference with an administrator and the student. The problem we face is that many of our kids work at night to help support the family and by the time they are in school, they can barely stay awake. Perhaps there have been no severe consequences for their in- appropriate behavior...there could be a lot of extenuating circumsances which is when we have to play detective and find out why?  But frankly, some kids are just not motivated and nothing you can do, aside from standing on your head, gets them going.  And that is the truth!!!!

Yes but a student teacher. I have been here all year and noticed a considerable change in the behavior of some of my best students. They are hallucinating in class but admin and security say they are sick. There is no nurse or counselors here.

Asked by Ange about 11 years ago

I'm not quite sure what you mean by "hallucinating." What kind of a school has no nurse or counselors?

Do you think teachers really have no choice but to "teach for the test?"

Asked by billbo jackson about 11 years ago

At this point, I feel that we as teachers do need to teach to the test.  In fact, we barely taught literature this year, as we have a new initiative to teach only non-fiction informational text and instruction on how to identify textual evidence. Boooorrriiinnngggg....everything is based on test scores to the point where kids are so "tested out" they are losing interest in the curriculum....educators are expected to be like Stepford teachers, eliminating any creativity, preventing any blossoming of exposure to the me, if I were older and had more years in, this would be the time to say adios and either retire in the sunshine or find a second career...

The district I work in is very wealthy and with our own money we can afford to buy 400 iPads for us. Recently we got a grant from the State to get Dance Dance Revolution for gym class. Is this upsetting to you? There are much more needy districts.

Asked by 34123 almost 10 years ago

Well, it certainly doesn't thrill me, lol.  How did such a wealthy district get any kind of grant from the state? The suburban kids I tutor after school get these perks as well in their schools and I must admit that I do turn a bit green when they tell me about the resources they are fortunate to get.  It just is what it is, I guess...not too much I can do...I actually went to a local bank who was generous enough to donate hundreds of ball point pens for the kids...that's the kind of thing I am grateful for...but I can dream, can't I????  If only....

Have you ever had a situation where a student wants to go to a good college, but can't afford it?

Asked by Jada almost 10 years ago


Honestly, what I do see are students who qualify for a plethora of scholarships and financial aid that helps them through.  On the other hand, once they get in, I do see many drop out due to their inability to prevail and focus and work hard.  Unfortunately, I do see former students coming back to visit, saying they couldn't cut it in college and are now working jobs that do not require a college degree. My biggest concern is that we do not properly prepare them for the college experience and it takes a rare student who makes it through four years of a higher education. I constantly help former students with their essays, papers, etc. because the expectations in college far surpass anything they are truly prepared for.  And that's the sad reality....               

Have you considered teaching somewhere that was in between upper-class and inner-city? It seems like you've experienced the two extremes.

Asked by Jada almost 10 years ago

I did work for two years in a school that would be considered "in-between" which I loved; however, due to budget cuts, my position, as well as half of the department was eliminated. I would never go back to a suburban school! The parents are too intense and feel they can tell you how to do your job.  That is way too stressful and demoralizing, especially if the parents have "pull" with the board of ed. And frankly, the worst part of being in an inner city school is the administration, not the students!!!  We are micro-managed to the point where you can barely do your job without an administrator coming into your room and making "suggestions" despite the fact that they have never taught English before!!!!

I recently began teaching in an inner city school and if that wasn't challenging enough, I teach middle sch ES. What has worked for motivation for you? I have offered lunches, parties, etc for good behavior but still not really peaking their interest

Asked by Sarah about 10 years ago

That's a great question and a dilemma for all of will take some time to get to have a feel for your school and took me a couple of years before I felt settled and comfortable.  I would try to stay away from rewards as such until you have established what your expectations are and that they need to meet them...don't be a pushover because they can sense that a mile away.  Once they know they can trust and depend on you, it will be smoother sailing.  But unfortunately, they are naturally suspicious of any newbie so that will take some time.  Best of luck and keep me posted!!!

Do you count off on smartass answers?

Asked by Kgskgsktsktdktsktdkyskyskgskgskgskydzfutsdhcgkgdkgzgkzkgzgkxkgdkydkyxkyddkydykydeekydkydykdkgdkydmgxkgdyf over 4 years ago


Hello Mrs. Teacher do teachers lie when they say they don’t have students they don’t like as well as favorites. Being fair is one thing but there has to be some who you like more then others as well as dislike

Asked by Hhh almost 4 years ago


Have you ever had a student fake or dramatize a disability to opt out of stuff and/or get special attention?

Asked by Jw about 5 years ago


Question what do you think the rest of this school year (and possibly next) look like?

Asked by Lola about 4 years ago


What do we do about this disaster of online learning? Many kids can not even get online and so many kids also just wont do the work. Things sometimes get turned in at strange hours and then like I said not at all. Some kids who always did their work and always got it done on time are some of the kids who are not doing anything. ANYTHING NOTHING gets turned in by at least half of the kids, another quarter of them get things done late and somethings don't get done. Then becuase of confuseion someitmes is the issuie. I don't even know what to do anymore. I doubt we will really open in two weeks, month, next year or EVER. I think this is a goverment coo and I always thought those people are crazy but I am pretty sure their right at this point. Where being taken over and no work is being done by students because they don't want to and there is no one to make them.

Asked by Waht now about 4 years ago


What do you think of this?

Asked by Shjsjs over 4 years ago


What do I do if I could not get my opting out of finals turned in because the days to turn them in because of winter weather. The deadline was supposed to be today but Monday and Tuesday was off. So what do I do finals start tomorrow the first daybak

Asked by Dan over 4 years ago