"I am currently teaching in inner-city Chicago Public Schools and I am extremely encouraged by your essays. I am not encouraged that there is hope, but I am encouraged to know that my experience is not unique."
From: Nevets4321 (Nevets4321@aol.com)
Date: Mon, 29 Dec 1997 02:44:20 EST
To: Richard Geib (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: inner-city teaching
Organization: AOL (http://www.aol.com)
I am currently teaching in inner-city Chicago Public Schools and I am extremely encouraged by your essays. I am not encouraged that there is hope, but I am encouraged to know that my experience is not unique. I have been teaching for only 4 months in one of the worst schools on the Southside of Chicago in a completely African-American neighborhood, but I find my experiences strikingly similar to yours. The futility is the worst. You have really put my whole experience into words. Thank you for not sugar-coating the experience or providing some false sense of hope because I haven't been able to find any either. I think that even one year will be enough for me.
Wat are you doing these days? Are you still teaching?
I am glad you found my essay to be personally helpful - a problem shared is a problem halved, they claim. My heart goes out to you starting your teaching career in such an inclement environment. The first year of teaching is notoriously difficult in the best case scenario; trying to figure it all out in the blackboard jungle of inner-city schools can take years off your life, as I discovered. From almost the very beginning I also figured I would not last very long - although I lasted almost three long years. I now take pride in having stuck it out and having left on my own terms. "That which does not kill me makes me stronger," claimed Nietzsche. Perhaps there is some truth in that.
I now teach in a private college prep school which is paradise compared to what I taught before. At my present school, I look at the students straining and complaining under the weight of two hours of homework every night. I look at the teachers pushing, pleading, cajoling, threatening their students to do better and achieve more. I finally feel like I am just one more scholar (in my own humble way) in a learning community. I feel like I am in a place devoted to learning and the life of the mind. In my last school, many of the teachers were more youth counselors or social activists than independently curious scholars pursuing the truth. Only now am I learning the guts of really teaching to students who actually want to learn.
Leaving Berendo Middle School of the less than illustrious Los Angeles Unified School District was the best career decision I have yet made. Once you have a year or two experience and your "sea legs" underneath you as a teacher, I heartily suggest the same course of action.
I hope this e-mail finds you well.
Very Truly Yours,
From: Nevets431 (Nevets4321@aol.com)
Date: Sun, 4 Jan 1998 22:52:26 EST
Subject: Re: inner-city teaching
Organization: AOL (http://www.aol.com)
Thanks for your reply. It's the last day of Christmas vacation and I'm getting ready to go back into the fray tomorrow. I'm really dreading it, but I am also going in with a much better attitude than I started the year. I am really going to work on finding small bits of hope and sucess, as well as not blaming myself for my students poor effort, behavior or achievement. I have now decided not to return for another year and my goal for the next 5 months will simply be to provide opportunities for learning for those who want it and not letting myself get to emotionally involved. I am disappointed in myself for even writing this but I think it's necessary for my own health. I really want to get out will I am still only disillusioned and not yet embittered. Well I'm glad you are enjoying your current teaching situation and I hope I will find one for next year as well.