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Teachers On MySpace: Mr. Lincoln's First Three Weeks

Logodotcom
It's not just high school and college kids who love the online networks like MySpace and Facebook.  Here's an excerpt from one new Chicago teacher's MySpace page that gives an example (I think you have to register to see the whole thing) of what one new teacher's first few weeks have been like:

"My name is Bobby (alias Mr. Lincoln) and I recently moved from the
greater St. Louis area to Chicago to begin my career as a high school
English teacher.  I graduated college in 2004, but after student
teaching (in very rural southern Illinois) I decided I was too close in
age to my students, so I ran away to Australia and New Zealand for 5
1/2 months.  My students don't seem as interested in this information
as I thought, and maybe you aren't either, but still I find it fully
relevant to my current situation."

Read the full post - he teaches regular and AP courses in a South Side high school -- by clicking below.  Let's hope he hangs in there and doesn't turn into another Fast Times At Regnef burnout.

Here's an entry from earlier this week:

* I teach in one of the
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in a less-than-safe neighborhood on the
south side.  Gangs are ever present and the students have to walk
through metal detectors and scan their bags through X-ray machines so,
presumably, they won't open fire in the building.  Every floor is
watched over by security guards as well as Chicago police officers.

*
Rumor has it that yesterday (Friday) there was a shooting about 2
blocks from school, and it involved at least one of the gangs that has
infiltrated the school.  There was talk that one or more of our
students may have been involved, but as of yet nothing has been
confirmed.  Already this schoolyear (reminder: we are 3 weeks into the
year) one student has been killed.

* Many of my students are
very apathetic about their futures, let alone their education.  In my
first-hour class, for instance, I regularly see 12 of my 33 enrolled
students.  The others simply don't bother coming to school on time, if
at all.  When they are there, the overwhelming majority are simply
disinterested in learning; some are disruptive (talking, throwing
paper, cursing at each other or, lately, me) and some just sleep.  This
weekend I need to add up grades to this point: although I know nothing
officially, I am guessing an alarming number are failing by a wide,
wide margin.

* On the flip side, my two senior-AP classes and my
first-hour class (the 12 that regularly come) do seem to care about
being in school, and I find I can relate to them and laugh with them a
great deal.  It might seem strange (and justifiably so) that a school
like this would offer AP classes, and that a first-year teacher would
be given that responsibility.  (In truth, there are three first-year
teachers in the AP program.)  It's a relatively new program that was
introduced with the hope that it would motivate students to come to
school, succeed in class, and go on to college.  So far, it's been very
effective.  Most of the scores on the AP exam still wallow in the 1's
and 2's (a 3, 4, or 5 will get you college credit for that course), but
still, we're making progress.  At a school that boasts a 48% graduation
rate, anything that differs from the status quo is a step in the right
direction.

* So far I have kicked students out of my class 6
times, for everything from repeatedly throwing paper across the room
while my back is turned to telling me I'd better get my "fucking" class
under control so the other kids would "fucking" quit leaving her the
"fuck" alone.  However, when they leave my room there is very little
that happens to them: there is no detention or in-school suspension
system in place, and the school can't legally kick them out until next
week.  (Not that kicking students out is a viable solution, as it robs
them of their necessary education and puts them in a situation to get
in more trouble on the streets.)

* With all that goes on -- gang
warfare, widespread disrespect, piss-poor attendance -- I find my
greatest frustration is the bureaucracy that is the CPS.  The school's
administration is great, and they have made great strides in a school
that has previously been overrun by people who probably shouldn't have
been in that position.  But with all of the paperwork I have to
complete and submit weekly (if not daily), very little of which
actually pertains to my performance or value as a teacher, I find I
have far less time and energy to do my job.  The system desparately
needs to be revamped, but seeing as that won't happen any time soon
(too many people are making too much money to want to fix the wrongs; I
am not one of those people), I have a lot of pride to swallow.

I
am a new white teacher in a nearly-all-black school (99.9%
officially).  I have been called Ashton Kutcher and Tom Cruise (even
though I'm a foot taller than he is) multiple times because,
apparently, all white people look the same.  I refuse to harbor ill
feelings toward my students who act out the most because it's very
clear where many of them are coming from: broken homes, poverty,
homelessness, crime, drugs, a lifetime of mistrust.  One of my best
students has 4 brothers, all of whom are in jail (one for a very, very
long time).  About a half dozen of my students alone are pregnant, and
those are just the ones I know about.  It would be a great
understatement to say I have my work cut out for me.  The beginning of
the schoolyear has been a shock.  Somehow I have a feeling the worst is
yet to come.

This is my life now.  These are my challenges.  I
get the impression most of my students don't think I will stay there
for more than 2 years, as most of the new teachers, black or white,
rarely stick around.  But my determination is resolute.  I have made a
commitment to the school and to the students.  I will not back down.  I
will succeed; they will succeed.

Just watch.

Link: blog.myspace.com/vegemite_sandwich.

Comments

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  • To be fair to Marilyn, her comment was made about increasing the budget ( a huge amount) for the Quest program. While I feel that Quest is wonderful and have attended classes, I agree with Marilyn that the primary job of the Union is political action and to represent us in disagreements on a school and Board level. I have taught enough years that I know what it was like when we had to strike most years and the strikes became longer and longer. The Union worked hard to make sure that we had rights which could not be taken away at the whim of the administration (which happens in many alternative schools). Unfortunately the Union has become weaker and we are again seeing thousands of teachers let go at the end of the school year and the administration does not have to give a reason. We are seeing huge cutbacks in SPED which is affecting both teachers and students. The SPED committee is no longer open to SPED teachers who are interested as it was in the past and I don't even think that most teachers know that the committee still exists.

    I hope that Mr. Lincoln hangs in there. He seems to have a lot to offer his students. Remember that you have the right to criticize especially constructively in this country.

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