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

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 almost 12 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.

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 almost 12 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 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 almost 12 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 almost 12 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 almost 12 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 almost 12 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 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 almost 12 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.