Sunday, April 6, 2008

In the Ghetto

"Liz, what is it like teaching at an inner city high school?"

Well, let me tell you. But before I say anything I must say I LOVE IT!!! I wouldn't change it for anything.

The things that will shock you:
I now know what Marijuana smells like. Students smoke it in the stairways daily.
Last week three of my best students were locked up for a fight they got in at school. They were beating on a girl who is 8 months pregnant.
One of my students got locked up for stabbing someone, and she's such a sweet girl.
Their excuses for missing class are "I had to go visit my dad in jail."
They write papers about drugs and sex and how everyone is doing it.
Not a day goes by that I don't here the "F-bomb." They have gotten better though.
In each of my classes I have had a teenage mother. One girl was as young as 14 when she got pregnant. Some of them are great mothers who work full time and plan to still graduate high school, others . . .

The chaos:
There are no walls. That's right. I teach in a school with no walls. Only scattered partitions divide one classroom space from another. Who ever thought that was a good idea had obviously never met a teenager.
Last week there was a gas leak and so they quarantined us all the auditorium (we smelled marijuana that day too, lucky the school didn't blow up). After 3 hours of just sitting in the auditorium they bussed us to a near by Church where we had lunchables and a discussion about the restructuring process.
Fire bells sound almost daily. We do not evacuate the building. We wait for a voice in the main office to come over the intercom and shout "Please disregard the fire bell, please disregard the fire bell." If there ever is a fire we will all die.

The heartbreaks:
I have a student who doesn't even know the letters in the alphabet.
When tested for reading levels 37% of my students were placed on an elementary school reading level.
They write papers about their brother getting killed on the streets.
They write brilliant poems about the disadvantages of being Black in America. I should post some of them. It would blow your mind. Poetry is their thing.

The rewards:
Their elegant poems.
Their excitement over a B or A paper.
Their "your so white" comments with a laugh as I try to sing Chris Brown.
Their surprise when I tell them I've never drank or smoked.
Their being recruited by great colleges to go play football, volleyball, basketball, and track.
Their daily smiles and laughter.

I love my job. It's the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Even harder than serving a LDS mission in a third world country. But just like a mission, it is the most rewarding job I've ever had. I love my students more than they will ever know. I have so much faith and hope for them. I pray they'll rise above their circumstances and show America that they were wronged. That Black kids from the ghetto are just as powerful as anyone else.


Alison said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alison said...

Your post gave me the chills and actually brought tears to my eyes. I love you Liz and I think its wonderful what you do and the heart that you do it with. I think the world of you! XOXO!!!!!!

Jenny Kay said...

I have to say that there is no better person for the job than you! You are an amazing person and they are so lucky to have you bless their lives everyday! They need you! Awesome blog!

Whitney Blake said...

Liz you are so amazing!! Seriously. Reading your post just made me smile. I am so grateful for awesome teachers like yourself. Give yourself an extra pat on the back because you deserve it!

Kelli said...

Liz, that's so awesome! You are a GREAT teacher. You're the kind of teacher kids will think back about years from now and say, "That teacher made a difference in my life!"

Good luck with it all! I thought teaching junior high in Utah was hard. :)

Casie said...

Hey Liz, I saw your blog through Jamie's and I wanted to see what you have been up to. You really sound like an amazing teacher. I am a teacher too, but of young kids (3rd grade). But I do know that it takes a special kind of person to teach effectively in the high school setting and you sound amazing! It sounds hard, but I'm glad those students have at least one person in their lives that truly care about them the way you do! I loved your blog and I hope you don't care I took a peek at it! Good luck out there!

Casie (Black) Dekker

Casie said...

Yep, Josh and I are hitched. We never dated in high school though. We started dating a few months prior to his mission and no other guys were cool enough to hang around while he was gone, so I waited forever it felt like and when he got home, the rest is history! Thanks for the comment on the blog. It'll be nice to look you up now!

Anonymous said...

You're awesome! Those kids are so lucky to have you. I they realize how cool you are. :)

Anonymous said...

That should be "I hope they realize..."

Alison said...

Do you have Ali-fever or what?!?! (weekly background template change, its contagious I know!!)..I'll try to find that picture for you. Its at my parents' house but I know right where to look. I'll mail you a copy? Or e-mail?

brian & jodi atkinson said...

That was really inspiring. I can't believe some of the things that people actually go through in this world. It is amazing to think about the love that Heavenly Father has for EACH of His children, no matter their color, education, or economic circumstances. You also realize how the gospel can bless your life through the principles that you live. Anyway, I just admire you for what you do. It takes strength and I don't think I could do it. And I had forgotten about sowing my finger, wow, you think that I would definitely remember that one! It was really good seeing you too! Hope all is going good.

Dave & Marie said...

Liz, You are so the woman for the job. I'm sure it's tough, but you are probably very effective, and you can reach them with your love. Gosh! It's so heartbreaking to know we all come into this world a little baby and if they were just given more love growing up what a difference it would be. I'm so glad you see their light.
I feel silly but i just noticed your comment about the books. I was like" o.k. I guess Liz doesn't want to do it that is o.k." lol I notice you are reading 1984, how far are you, maybe I could catch up since you are also reading two other books. I know some of the books are monstrous. I'm just finishing Anna Karenina, oh you are gonna love it and hate it all at the same time. Atleast I do. Dave laughs because every night I say something different, "I hate this book it's Horrible" then "Oh this book makes me laugh and I love Levin!"

T&HDunkley said...

Wow, Liz. That really amazes me. I feel like I'm in a completely different world out in little sheltered Utah. You sound like an amzing teacher! Those kids are so lucky to have you to look up to. You are an inspiration!

The Nurse said...

liz- this is totally amazing what you do every day. keep it up- it sounds like they need you.

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