Interview on the Outside the Loop show on WGN Radio

I was interviewed by the Outside the Loop show on WGN radio about the blog I wrote Lessons I Learned in Englewood.

I got to talk about some of my favorite things; teaching, race, and the brilliance of Englewood students. I am the first interview of the show.

Radio Interview about Educational Funding on Outside the Loop Radio

Last week I wrote a piece in support of the idea proposed by Karen Lewis to place a small tax on the Mercantile Exchange to generate revenue for schools (since the Merc gets millions in tax breaks).

I was interviewed on Outside the Loop Radio this week about school funding and how the lack of funding impacts schools in Chicago, but specifically my school in Englewood.

The interview is about the first twelve minutes of the show.

Outside the Loop Radio Interview

I’m interviewed on Outside the Loop radio about the TEAM Englewood Spoken Word group piece from Louder Than A Bomb 2014 in which our poets wrote the piece “Hide Your Schools, Hide Your Children, Hide Your Homes, Cause He’s Wrecking it All“. This is a poem written entirely by four Englewood public high school students about all Rahm Emanuel is doing to harm this city.

The interview is from 12:00-22:00

The Power of Spoken Word Poetry

Growing up I never had a love much less an appreciation for poetry. In high school and college there was nothing that drew me to admire, care for, or even really even respect the words from the typical canon of poets. It wasn’t until a few years into my teaching career when I went to a Louder Than A Bomb poetry event and heard students from all across our city and the Chicago land region putting their words out there for everyone to hear, that I realized the true power that spoken word possessed.

For the many of us fortunate enough to already know about Louder Than A Bomb or more commonly LTAB we know that it is one of the best things that Chicago has going for it.

You see, LTAB is put on by Young Chicago Authors which brings over 1,000 kids from nearly every neighborhood of our city, the suburbs, Indiana, and the greater Chicago land area together. As we know Chicago is one of the most racially and economically segregated cities in the United States. LTAB one of the few events that actually works to desegregate our students and our city. This “competition” of poetry gives students from every possible neighborhood, suburb, or region a chance for kids to listen, share, and build a community with each other through the simple ancient act of sharing their stories.

I could go on and explain the profound impact this event has had on me and my co-coach Missy Hughes for the past six years, but just read what students from TEAM Englewood High School feel about the importance of LTAB ,two years after they last took part in the event. All of the quotes are from graduated former students of ours who are nearly all in their second year of college. (By clicking on the students names below you will see their spoken word performances from their senior year in high school)

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From left to right: Melana Bass, Myara Robinson, Jeremey Johnson and Keith Warfield performing in the 2012 National Grudge Match Poetry Slam at Young Chicago Authors

Jonathan Nesbitt (Western Illinois University)- “What it means to me to be a part of TEAM Englewood spoken word is like being a part of a big family. We bumped heads, we argued, we loved and we always came together at the end of the day. Spoken word has changed my life around. You get to hear what people/ friends are going through and it makes me feel so blessed because you never know what people have been through until they spit their piece. Spoken word brought out a very very important skill which is writing and rewriting and editing. And then the adrenaline rush you get when you step out on stage and tell to your story to the world, the feeling is just amazing. I wish I could just go back to high school for one day to compete in LTAB!!! “

Jeremey Johnson (Columbia College-Chicago)- “Poetry gave me a positive outlet for some of my anger. It taught me that I not only had a voice, but that it was one worth listening to. I didn’t need to run from my problems because I could write them down. I could master them. Spoken word gave me courage to face the world and myself. I never would’ve gotten that if it weren’t for the Team Englewood spoken word team.”

Myara Robinson(St. Xavier University)- “Being on the poetry team has helped me to find my voice. I’ve made amazing friends and professional connections through spoken word performances. I have a better appreciation for literary devices because of it. By being engulfed in the world of poetry my ear has become a magnet to metaphors and deeper meanings. If my teachers had never seen something in me and my writing I would still be oblivious to the artistic and creative part of life. Also, being a member of the poetry team and being apart of the LTAB Festival was one of the reasons high school was so fun for me, very memorable. My writing has changed, gotten better thanks to spoken word. It’s kinda like I’ve been freed or saved in a way. Writing liberates me and gives me yet another artful way to express myself. It’s something that will forever be apart of me.”

Montrel Marks (Harold Washington College)- “Being on the Team Englewood spoken word team helped me realize what I can be and push me past my limits. I was lazy with school and I always used to pick the easy way out of things. The coaches pushed me to pull my grades up. I built a love for poetry. My team(Englewood) showed me how to truly love someone that didn’t come from the same parents. They showed me how to understand and relate to people. Now today my bonds and connection that I made are strong. I love poetry so much that I’m becoming a teacher to give back, what was given to me.”

Keith Warfield (Proud father-returning to college soon)- “Being apart of “NO DOUBT BABY!” (A.K.A. TEAM Englewood) was one of the best things that ever happened to me. We were able to build relationships aside from just being students and teachers and I honestly feel like that was the most important part. To all of my former teammates, I appreciate and respect you guys even more after watching you open your hearts up to complete strangers and showing them how valuable our voices are. To the coaches I just really want to thank you guys for doing more than just coaching and teaching because you actually became our best friends and I’ve NEVER been legitimate friends with any of my teachers. I love you all and every single one of you has played a very important and inspirational role in my life contributing to the man I am today!”

Melana Bass (University of Wisconsin-Madison)- “Being on this team was everything to me. I learned so many social skills that I didn’t have. I learned how to articulate everything through a creative lens. I was able to develop spoken word into a craft that helped me attain an online reputation, job opportunities, and connections to other great gigs. I created lifetime bonds with my coaches and teammates and even others that I met through the slam. Being on the team also taught me a great deal of creative discipline and how to hustle artistically and how to use resources to create shows or other artistic endeavors. This was at first a team I ran from and now this gift of spoken is paying for my college education!! I couldn’t be more grateful.”

The amazing thing is I guarantee of all the kids who have taken part and “competed” in LTAB there are thousands of stories just like these.

So if you have never seen this event before do yourself a favor and go watch and listen. The youth of Chicago are speaking and they have spent days, weeks, and months preparing their messages to be heard.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dave-stieber/the-power-of-spoken-word-_b_4763981.html

http://gapersblock.com/ac/2014/02/12/the-power-of-spoken-word-poetry/#.Uvvf6V71vOg

“Englewood! Those Kids Are Animals”

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.

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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)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dave-stieber/englewood-chicago-students_b_4282347.html?utm_hp_ref=chicago

http://gapersblock.com/mechanics/2013/11/19/englewood-those-kids-are-animals/

Featured in The Guardian: A Day’s Work

I was featured in The Guardian in the “A Day’s Work” section. I had to answer 6 questions then live respond to questions from the readers.

Please make sure to read the comments as that was the most fun part of the whole thing.

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http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/03/chicago-teacher-south-side

Chicago Students Always Lead the Way

Those of us who work with students day in and day out know the brilliance and potential that our students have. We also find ourselves as educators, parents, and tax payers becoming increasingly frustrated by a mayor, “CEO” and appointed school board that consistently and blatantly does not have the best interest of our students at heart.

Have no fear our students will lead the way. Yes, our students that the media far too often labels as “gang bangers” “thugs” or “criminals” will lead the way against the harming polices implemented by CPS.

Students have been organizing to fight the ill proposed school closings and over testing taking place in our schools. This student led group made up of hundreds of students from various schools across the city goes by the name Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools or CSOSOS.

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This student led group meets weekly, creates agendas, plans and organizes. These students from various parts of the city cross gang lines, racial lines, to come together to improve this city from the inside out. CSOSOS has organized a walkout/protest of Day 2 of the PSAE testing. Students from other schools have followed in their footsteps and walked out of school to protest the unfair firing of their teachers like what happened at Lincoln Park High School last week.

These student groups and student actions aren’t just happening out of thin air, there is a long historical precedent of students leading this city.

As a history teacher I decided to do some research and find out as many examples of student actions in Chicago as I could. The following list is not conclusive, but it is a start to give us all the understanding that our students are not only brilliant but are capable of leading this city. The student actions are well rehearsed and organized. Their actions cannot be measured with a multiple choice bubble test.

1.Freedom Day 1963 : 200,000 students walk out city wide to protest funding cuts to education

2.Equal Rights Walkouts 1968 : City wide student demand for equal rights for all students led by African American & Latino students

3.Anti-Immigration Law Walkouts 1995 : City wide student protests against legislation that would take away basic human rights for immigrants.

4.Iraq War Protest Walkout 2003: City wide students walked out of class to protest the U.S. led war in Iraq.

5.Senn High School Student Walkout 2004: Students and community protesting becoming a Military School .

6.School Closing Walkout 2009: City wide walkouts against the proposed school closings.

7.System Wide Proposed Funding Cuts Walkout April 2010: CPS was thinking about cutting extra curricular activities and programs.

8.Social Justice HS Students protest firing of teachers & principal Aug. 2012

9.King High School Student Sit In to Protest Principal Dec. 2012

10.Lane Tech Students Protest Banning of Persepolis March 2013

11.Day 2 PSAE walkout April 2013: Students walked out on the 2nd day of PSAE testing against school closings and over testing.

12.Lincoln Park High School students walkout May 2013: Students protesting the wrongful firing of many of their teachers.

Needless to say our students are intelligent and partake in the democratic process that this country was founded on. So if our students feel forced to have a protest to make their voices heard, join them. They are teaching all of us what Democracy looks like, sounds like, and feels like.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dave-stieber/chicago-students-always-l_b_3244417.html

http://gapersblock.com/mechanics/2013/05/10/chicago-students-always-lead-the-way/

BROWN: Protesting teachers say closings among roadblocks to central mission: educating students

Written by Mark Brown for the Chicago Sun-Times
March 27, 2013 9:00PM

Dave Stieber and Jessica Marshall are high school history teachers in the Chicago Public Schools, and I have it on good authority that they are excellent ones.

They also are among many young and dedicated CPS teachers who have grown so weary of the education reform wars that they find themselves questioning their own futures in the profession they love.

As teachers and other union members led a demonstration outside City Hall on Wednesday in protest of proposed mass school closings, I sought out these two young teachers to discuss how this latest CPS initiative is contributing to dispirited morale — even at schools not in the direct line of fire.

“At what point does it become too much?”
That’s the question that Stieber, 31, a teacher for six years at TEAM Englewood, says he increasingly asks himself.
“It’s like: why are we doing this?” he said. “What gives me strength is knowing it’s not just me.”
Stieber is a Chicago Teachers Union activist who questions the wisdom of closing any schools at this time without further study and preparation. He was in the thick of Wednesday’s protest, even going so far as to get himself ticketed for civil disobedience by sitting down in the middle of LaSalle Street to block traffic.

But Stieber’s real passion is working with his students, including as a coach for his school’s spoken word poetry club, participants in the acclaimed Louder Than a Bomb program. (If you’ve never listened to the kids at a Louder Than a Bomb poetry slam, you’re missing something.)

What bothers Stieber and so many other teachers is how the hassles of working for CPS keep encroaching on that mission—from a lack of resources to constantly changing directives and mandates.

The school closings are just the latest and, in Stieber’s view, probably the most significant of these disruptions.
While no high schools were closed in this round, many of TEAM Englewood’s feeder schools are slated for closing. The handwriting is definitely on the wall.

Stieber said the closings cause students to question themselves.
“To them, it’s like, maybe I AM a failure,” he said.

Marshall, 33, in her third year at Louisa May Alcott School in Roscoe Village, tells much the same story.
A CPS graduate herself, Marshall taught four years in New York after college but said she felt compelled to return to her hometown to contribute to the school system that gave so much to her.

“I’m in that moment when I’m starting to question whether this is the right thing for me. Can I hang on? I feel like a lot of us are in that position,” said Marshall, who is part of a pilot program developing a civics education curriculum for CPS high schools.
“It’s been a very difficult transition into CPS. It’s sad,” she said.

She’s apparently good enough at her job that her class was selected for a recent visit by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
With Alcott on an earlier list of “underutilized” schools, the school closing list created tensions there as well, she said.
“As if the kids don’t have enough to deal with, it’s one more thing on their plates,” Marshall said. “It makes them feel there is something wrong about their school.”
The process breeds insecurity for teachers and students, she said.

“Even if your school isn’t on the chopping block, you wonder if I’m going to be next,” Marshall told me.
Although she also is a union rep at her school, Marshall was not at the protest rally. She called me back from a spring break trip to Arizona that she said had put her in a much sunnier mood than if I’d caught her a few days earlier.

For the record, I did not go through the union to identify Stieber or Marshall. I asked a friend who knows good teachers and worries about the prospect of CPS losing dedicated individuals like these.
For this day, at least, these two aren’t going anywhere.
“I really love my kids. When I can shut out all the craziness from CPS and just concentrate on them, I’m golden,” Marshall said. “I do think I’m going to stick with it.”

http://www.suntimes.com/19135193-761/brown-protesting-teachers-say-closings-among-roadblocks-to-central-mission-educating-students.html

The Night That We Were Shocked, That We Were Shocked….By CPS

Performed at the LTAB 2013 Coaches Slam

Our skin has become thicker
From Chicago
Thicker from the winters
Thicker from the corruption
The lies and double speak
From sacrifices demanded by our city
The violence
The violent sacrifices of our students
Of spirit — Antoine, Terrell, Dre
Of body—Patrice
Of life—Trevell

We know our skin is thicker
It has to be
We know you CPS
Perpetuators of Educational Apartheid
Our Chief Officer
“Graduation Rates?
College Acceptance & Persistence?
Those matter less
Standardized test scores that’s what shows a quality school.
Our CEO says
Trust Us
I come from people like you
I am you
We will listen to you
We are with you
She baptizes Englewood with her lies:
Like she did Detroit

We know you CPS
Been to your bogus meetings before
Seen people yell at you about your budget and supposed deficit
Saw your arrogance (no questions while god is speaking)
Heard your disrespect (25% of kids won’t amount to anything to Rahm?)
Paternalistic tendencies

That Monday night our skin wasn’t thick enough
School field trips
Yellow busses
100’s of kids/teachers K-8
Thousand parents
In Englewood
On a school night
Going  to church

Picture the alter, elevated , on the stage
Only the CPS anointed are allowed on this alter
Protected by position
By power
By the pastors prayers of appropriate worship
Picture the anointed
Security guarded
Suited up
Salaried up
Faulty dated  up
Walton family funded
Bull shitted up

Picture the congregation, coming to pay homage, or bear witness
To repent for their sins
Being Poor,
Being Black,
Being  from Englewood
They have come to beg for mercy
Their souls must be saved

Forgive us CPS for we have sinned
Is that what you wanted to hear?
You give the people 6 minutes of your holy ear

Picture confession
Confessions of children
“We will find the space you say we have if you let us stay open”
“I’m in the 2nd grade please don’t close my school”
They know their god is a just god
A father says, “I challenge you to let your children walk in our children’s shoes”
Their penance
Confessions of parents & students; teachers
Presentations, speeches
Data, testimony
Just visit our school —-you will see

You demand confessions
But on your time
Just 6 minutes                        ( Fiske, Stagg, Bontemps, Banneker, Davis)
Times up
Next in line
Still not enough
You must tithe 33% of your schools
No more public schools in, Auburn-Gresham, Woodlawn, Lawndale, Englewood
Let the children walk longer to school
It is in god’s hands now
Make them cross major streets, neighborhood lines, gang lines,
Make them bus
If they want it bad enough they will go
Make them pray about it
God will guide them

But last night in Englewood a thousand people
Realized they were not the sinners
Realized you were just playing
Just playing god
They flipped the script
When you asked for two minutes
They gave you ten seconds
They counted you down
10 all the way to 1
They will not listen
Will not stand by
Will not let this happen
God no longer
CPS
Times up

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dave-stieber/the-night-that-we-were-sh_b_2802876.html

I Teach

Performed at the LTAB 2011 Coaches Slam

I teach…
I teach because it pisses me off every time you say you teach where?
With that shocked expression on your face
Thinking damn you’re white how do you survive?
Or
“Those” kids need good teachers too… bless you
Thinking but not asking
Why teach there?
Why teach “those” kids?

I teach because you are probably scared of my kids
even though my kids would probably be the first to help you
when they do… you will probably say something like
Wow they are so well spoken…
Which is code for you didn’t think that black kids could talk how you deem proper

I teach because Englewood… is a part of the city too
because Englewood… produces genius
I teach because you …Media….say Englewood… produces death
because you turn your shoulder on Englewood

To prove you didn’t forget about that part of the city
You…Chico…say the city opened military schools and started ROTC programs for those kids
In case you don’t get it and you don’t…
You’re saying my kids don’t know how to act
That it is okay to have them be the first to die in war

I teach because even though our city is one of the most segregated in America you…Daley… still claim the segregation is by choice alone…
That redlining doesn’t impact us still
That your father didn’t tighten the Black Belt

I teach to prove I can teach…..because my kids have built in bullshit detectors
They can smell your shit as soon as you step into the building
I teach because my kids have heard what you think about them
And because you think your shit so much and control the media
some of my kids started to believe the things you have been thinking about them

I teach because I don’t want you to cross the street, hug your purse, check your wallet when you see my kids
But still I teach because you…Eugenics …say that black people are better in sports
That the NBA is their key out
That sports are a black males only choice
You are not telling them to be teachers, doctors or scientists
You are telling them to reach for that hoop dream
That even though there are only 432 players in the NBA
you are still teaching all black males to go for it

I teach because you say racism is gone…
That what I am saying is outdated…
That race is equal….
That America has a black president

Well I know my skin still cashes checks…
That my history is still legal to teach in Arizona….
That I am not speaking for all white people because I am in front of a mic…
That society is still duped into believing that Jesus is white….

You like your role of eternal helper
Saving the Savage
Manifest… Destiny
“Helping” those you deem less fortunate
Because you say it is their choice to live like that
Because your right… is right
Because your right… is white
That if they work really hard they can still go to the top
That there is no ceiling….
Just because you can’t see how clean the glass is
The ceiling is still there

I teach because even this whole conversation about race makes you uncomfortable…
You don’t see color……
Then I teach…
So you can