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No Safety, No Homework

Victor Harbison's latest blog post is up at the New York Times, focusing on the effects of fear on students -- at school and now at home.

"Those of us who teach in such urban settings have to acknowledge that it is the rare student who feels safe and secure. That is the reality urban teachers face, day after day after day... People wonder why test scores are so low in urban schools. I’m not looking for an excuse, but it’s hard for me to stop thinking about the violence children experience every day in this city."

Harbison's experiences with urban violence are getting more and more close to home, but he keeps plugging along.

10 comments

Liza wrote 5 years 8 weeks ago

No Safety, No Homework

One of my students hasn’t done any homework for me for five weeks. He saw his older brother perish from gun violence two years ago in front of his house and today is in a constant state of worry about his mother who has cancer.

What should I do?

Today, I asked my students to raise their hands if they knew anyone who had been shot.

Eighteen out of 23 raised their hands. I asked if they had ever been shot themselves and four kept their hands up. Three asked whether they should keep their hands up if they had been shot at but not hit.

Ouch.

These kids, my kids, wondered if being shot at but not hit qualified.

Those of us who teach in such urban settings have to acknowledge that it is the rare student who feels safe and secure. That is the reality urban teachers face, day after day after day.

==========

Liza

[url=http://business.bizoppjunction.com new=true]Home Based Business[/url]

Teacher wrote 5 years 20 weeks ago

No Safety, No Homework

I was one of the teachers that believed if I reported to school rain, snow, sleet or hail never late, good scores and parent repore. I would work until I physically dropped. Until I found myself "fired" along with the other 1099 teachers, called PATs after 8 years of service. After all is'nt it the American way of life, we teach our children to do right, only good things will happen for you? My first teaching position, I substituted for a teacher with a brain tumor, she blamed her principal for giving her the bad kids in her grade level while the principals friend got all the good kids. As a result she screamed at students all day. She died of a heart attack. Principals fail to realize when they show favoritism they empower and corrupt some teachers. We have a teacher that is pleasant when everything goes her way, if she gets angry, she jumps on the cell phone and calls the principal, for back up, this is going to be a good grievance someday, for bias, discrimination, etc. Personally I do'nt think a school should be administered by cell phone, what does that symbolise to the teachers, some are worthy of his attention while others aren't? Who side is he going to be on in an altercation? They teachers not to use cell phones while teaching, unless they are talking to the principal.

Retired Principal wrote 5 years 20 weeks ago

No Safety, No Homework

Students can't learn if they don't feel safe! Teachers can't teach if they don't feel safe! The CPS motto should be "Safety First"!

George N. Schmidt wrote 5 years 21 weeks ago

No Safety, No Homework

Since the Robot here just ate my longer post to here, I'll just suggest that people Google to

Joseph Hillebrand + Substance

to get my main point, and its relevance to this particular thread.

George N. Schmidt wrote 5 years 21 weeks ago

No Safety, No Homework

When we talk about "violence," we need to remember some of the teacher victims.

For today, I'll just leave us with one name: Joseph Hillebrand.

He was murdered by CPS when Eduardo Guerra was given totalitarian power over staffing at Farragut High School, although the actual cause of death was that Joe walked in front of a Metra Train. There are others, too numerous to mention, who were naive enough to believe that if you worked hard and put all of your energies and talents into Chicago's classrooms, there would be some reward.

Instead, the ruling class gave us frauds too numerous to mention, from Arne Duncan and Barbara Eason Watkins to Josh Edelman and just about everyone being paid obscenely on the fifth floor of 125 S. Clark St.

The jokes on us.

We let it happen.

Wishful wrote 5 years 21 weeks ago

No Safety, No Homework

The stories of violence my students share are astounding. I try to have conversation time with my students because I feel so often they are rarely spoken to with kindness at home. When we do have class conversations, students go around the circle telling the class stories of someone getting shot or brutally hurt. Should I continue this practice or does this lead to more fear? Giving homework seems pointless most of the time because no one helps them or it is never returned. Who can blame them? And yet CPS wants us to grade the students using a conventional report card! Huh? Coming to school and getting through the day is an A+ day for most of my kids. Many are angry or so quiet it makes me feel they just want to disappear. I cannot imagine how they are spending Thanksgiving day. Joy to the World.

1.04 wrote 5 years 21 weeks ago

No Safety, No Homework

Mary’s Spoon

I said “HI Mary†at the lunch table in the old Simeon about
1985 and the usual 3 or 4 ladies named Mary, we had 7 at one time,
Said hi 1.04.
We had Mary Ellen, Mary Beth, Mary Ann, Big Mary, Little Mary,
And just plane Mary. All white, mostly Irish, all graduates of Catholic
Education through high school .About half single. But all dedicated to
The Black Kids they taught.
On this day we had soup. I was carrying on with somebody across
from me when something warm splashed on my arm .
Little Mary was trying to get her hand steady enough to
Lift a spoon of soup from the bowl to her mouth. The first
Try didn’t work. I watched her try four times before giving up.
She was out a week before a different Mary called her husband who
Confirmed what we already knew, Break Down.
Mary was lucky she had a family and friends to help her through
the daily terror of her own classroom. Lots of other people I know
weren’t as lucky. Some of the stories are tragic others so
bazaar the average person thinks we are lying. One I will never
tell is the kid who lived under his front porch.
For all the Little Mary’s we have to stop this crap.

George N. Schmidt wrote 5 years 21 weeks ago

No Safety, No Homework

The major "violence" issue in Chicago's inner city schools (more so at Gage Park than at King) is not "violence" or "anger management" in the abstract, but the specific organized terroristic violence of Chicago's huge and politically powerful drug gangs.

For a brief time (2002-2004) the Chicago Teachers Union had a joint program with CPS to counter the drug gangs, who have major power over about half the high schools and an additional 50 to 150 elementary schools in Chicago. During that time, we (I was working at CTU at that time) had a "violence committee" that met twice a month to detail and document the problems and provide contractually based solutions.

One of the ironies of the recent years is that that committee was co-chaired by me (as "Director of Security and Safety" for CTU) and Verdell Henderson (who at the time was delegate from Crane High School and has since retired). We had Crane on our short list of places to deal with because (as has since become tragically true), Crane was facing an increasing amount of gang-related violence (not abstract "violence" and "anger") based on the destruction of public housing (e.g., Rockwell Gardens) and public schools (the charterization of the West Side) during those years. The concentration of the gangs into smallers spaces, their dispersal from major market corners (the Western Ave. exit from the Eisenhower Expressway), and the squeezing of the gang kids into a smaller and smaller number of schools through charterization and charter school "cropping" (the elimination of "disruptive" students each year and the dumping them back into the public schools) were all being documented by the Chicago Teachers Union, and my office, during those years. We had a map on the wall of that office that showed which gangs controlled the areas around which schools, and we updated it every two weeks when we met.

That was all destroyed by Marilyn Stewart after she purged the CTU staff in 2004, and has been continually undermined since then by a combination of cronyism, greed, and incompetence. A year after I was fired, one of Marilyn's cronies (Rick Perrote) was given the title "Security Coordinator", but CTU did not resume the commitment to identifying the gang problems and working with law enforcement to eliminate the gangs from the schools. In fact, CTU joined with CPS in mid-identifying the problem (joining Arne Duncan and Mayor Daley in the "anti-gun" and "anti-violence" rituals), with the result that this year the problem has grown larger than at any time since I began teaching at DuSable Upper Grade Center (51st and Wabash, Robert Taylor and Stateway Gardens) in 1969 (when Jeff Fort -- aka Prince Maalik -- was still a force on the streets and the "El Rukns" were still the original "Black P. Stones").

The escalation of "violence" has a cause, and the cause is the political alliance between those who rule Chicago and the drug gangs at the level of ward and precinct. Because that alliance is essential (at least for now) to how Chicago is governed, it is likely that both the Chicago Teachers Union and CPS will continue to avoid speaking the SIN THAT HAS NO NAME (drug gangs and political corruption in the USA, viz., Chicago).

Of course, from time to time some politician will overstep the boundaries of her authority and be exposed not only for her personal corruption but also for her ties to the gangs. But the Arenda Troutman example is exemplary precisely because it only happened once in the past decade. And anyone who believes that ex-alderlady Troutman was the only alderperson in league with the local drug gangs is living in a fantasy world that would be OK, if we were talking well protected suburbs, but is almost criminally negligent when we are talking about half the wards in Chicago in 2008-2009.

Karen Lewis wrote 5 years 21 weeks ago

No Safety, No Homework

Violence and chaos are significant parts of many CPS students' lives. So many of our students have anger management issues and quite frankly it is understandable. The people who are supposed to protect and nuture them, for whatever reasons are unable to do so. This leads to a lack of trust. When adults abrogate their responsibilities to children, how do children learn to trust, admire and emulate adult behavior? In the education community, we often talk about "modeling" learning behaviors so that students can develop analytical skills themselves. If teachers are worried about keeping food on their own plates, are not appreciated and treated with respect, how can they provide the security and safety the most vulnerable students require?

Administrators must learn to build communities within schools, display leadership that inspires teaching and learning so that teachers feel empowered and students have models of excellence. How many teachers have worked under abusive principals, who berate the entire staff when carefully chosen words and remediation to the real offenders could provide an enormous boost to morale?

A true school community that welcomes input from all stakeholders - parents, students, teachers and community groups - can go a long way to overcome the stressors of violence and chaos. It takes a committement from people who cherish our communities and those who seek the best. Unfortunately, the response from 125 S. Clark has been to turn over public community education to private entities who have a variety of agenda, untested philosophies and murky financial operations. My dream is that the strong neighborhood school of my youth can rise again from the ashes, but I have an awful feeling that is just like the phoenix - mythical.

Kugler - Teachers and Staff wrote 5 years 21 weeks ago

No Safety, No Homework

Not only do the students feel this fear, but so do the teachers and staff. Continuous verbal abuse and behavior towards any authority figures within the school are a constant negative drain on the capabilities of the staff. I often wonder why a student that threatens me or swears at me would even come to school if he/she feels so averse to the school setting. One idea is they have now where to stay during the day.

Today three or four teachers had their personal belongings(cell phone, keys, etc..) stolen, but later returned by four female students.

One of the teachers asked:

"Why would this student steal from me when I am trying to help them?"

John Kugler
[url=http://csdu.org/ new=true]CSDU[/url]
kuglerjohn@hotmail.com