A little over a year ago I was on the bus headed downtown from the South Side, a lady next to me on the bus struck up a conversation. Eventually she found out that I was a teacher and where I worked. As soon as I finished the last syllable of Englewood, her face showed complete disgust and she promptly said, “Englewood! Those people are animals you should never go there”. I responded, “I’ve worked there 5 years (at the time) I have good kids and parents, have a nice night. “ Thankfully it happened to me by stop.
Sadly, many of the other teachers that I work with have had similar experiences to the one I described. If you’ve never spent time with kids from Englewood and believe the stereotypes about everyone in the neighborhood then I can understand why this lady said what she did.
I could provide many examples during my 7 years of teaching in Englewood to easily disprove the statement made by this person, however let me share my most recent and by far most personal and emotional experience to disprove her mass and faulty generalization.
My partner (also a CPS teacher) and I were expecting our 2nd child. She was 17 weeks pregnant. About a week ago while getting a checkup we found out that we had lost our baby.
I do not have the words nor the desire to describe the pain we felt and the emotions we still feel about our loss.
We took some time off of work to spend time together and with our young son so we as a family could grieve this loss. While going through the grieving process I became upset that we had told so many people about the pregnancy. All of our friends, family, co-workers, and all of my 120 students knew.
Every email we sent to our family and friends explaining there had been a late miscarriage was painful. I had asked my friends at work to tell the students what had happened, because I knew I wouldn’t be strong enough to and I didn’t want them asking about it.
I was hesitant to return to work because my emotions were still all over. My first day back while standing in the hall before the start of the first period, nearly every student I had taught or am teaching this year came and hugged me, gave me a handshake, or just simply asked if I was okay and said they were glad to have me back.
You see these Englewood animals, I mean Englewood kids, I mean kids reached out to me (as they always have) and showed their care and love.
These kids, my kids that are labeled as thugs, gang bangers, and criminals have made the toughest point in my life easier.
The beauty of my students sadly reminded me of the vile spewed by this lady on the bus. If I ran into her now I would just ask her to picture the darkest point in her life and think about who came to her side and supported her.
Because for me during my darkest point, it was 120 “animals from Englewood”.
**And if my personal example was not enough one of our students from our school, TEAM Englewood decided to donate his kidney to a stranger, because his mom has needed a kidney transplant for years and he is not a match for her.
(Feel free to share this piece, but due to the very personal nature of this post, please do not tag me if you share via Facebook)
Thank you for sharing this heartwarming and heartwrenching story which many of us who work in urban schools can relate to. I am glad your students were there for you during your time of need but I am not surprised.
Please watch this brief but powerful video depicting our urban students, their families and our teachers in Philadelphia. We continue to work together against all odds against the tides of education “reformers” across the country. If we could just get passed the racism and classism that so many resort to, our world would benefit beyond measure. Share this video widely if you moved by its message.
A lovely read.
So sorry for your loss. People don’t realize that teachers in challenged communities build trusting emotional relationships with their students. These relationships can support and encourage the students, but the reverse is also true. These relationships support and nurture teachers through difficult times – whether imposed by bad edu policy or a personal loss.