Interview from Chicago Teacher by Melissa Leigh King
April.22.2009, 3:19 pm
Filed under: Education



General Info Date of Incorporation: 1863

Population (2000 Census): 74,239

 Area: 7.8sq.mi. Distance to Downtown Chicago: 13 miles

Households (2000 Census): 29,651


Students Latino – 18.8% White – 24.4% Black – 43.0% Asian – 5.6% Native American – 8.2%

1. How long (on average) do the teachers last at your school?

2. Are they mostly young and energetic?

3. Mostly male or female?  Who do you think the kids behave better for (male female older younger)?

4. How do you discipline the children? 

5. Typical starting salary of a teacher?

6. What subjects do the kids tend to pay attention more in?

7. What subjects do they tend to misbehave the most in?

8. Do you find the kids to behave better before or after lunch?

9. Do you have a snack time?  If yes what time and how does this affect the kids? (does food usually calm them)

10. What time is recess and how do the kids behave before and after?

11. Are the kids happy when the school day is over or do you think they dread going home?

12. What percentage of your kids have a rough home life?

13. Are many of the kids absent frequently?  How many days on average is a student absent?

14. What are some of the problems you have had to face with underprivileged children.  Clothes or shoes issues?  Emotional issues?  Anger problems?  

1.First year teachers get paid well in Evanston, bachelor level receives 39,500 (or so) and masters level around 43,500 per year. This includes 3 months in the summer, 3 weeks in winter, 1 week for spring break, and many other random days during the week off! Also, each teacher gets 2 plan periods and a lunch (3 periods off) every day. Therefore, they actually only teach for four hours each day. It’s a pretty good deal that is very hard to beat therefore many teachers try for years to get a job in District 65. Once teachers are hired they typically do not leave unless they are let go. This happens often in our district for various reasons that I cannot accurately speak to but I am guessing a lot of it has to do with funding. The school funds many of their teachers through grants and when that money runs out- that’s it. I have also noticed that law suits are fairly common in our school.

 2. Our teachers are often older and no,they are not energetic!!! Many are older and cannot keep up with technology! One called my computer a little machine- no joke! Most of the younger teachers start off energetic, but sadly many change their “mindset” by winter break.

3. I think we have a pretty good mix of male and female teachers. I do not think kids behave any differently due to race/gender/age. As long as you show them respect, engage them in learning, and demonstrate that you care they behave as well as they know how to behave.

4. Discipline is a major issue in our school. We cannot keep students after school for detention because they cannot walk home in the dark and/or they are responsible for a younger sibling. Students cannot make it before school because parents are not home to wake kids up to come to school- for many of them we are lucky if they make it to school before 9:00(school starts at 8).

5. starting salary with a bachelors is around 39,500

6. Lunch? I think kids seem to like science because of the labs and because they only get science every other day. Most students seem to either struggle in math and/or reading. This is probably because these subjects are built off of basic concepts. If the student does not understand a basic concept such multiplying you cannot expect them to be able to multiply fractions. A student who has difficulty with decoding cannot comprehend a middle school novel. The subject a student struggles is the subject that the student tends to pay less attention in since they have this preconceived notion that they are going to fail.

7. The subject that a student struggles in (usually math and reading) are usually the subjects the students tend to misbehave in since they are doing anything they can to avoid the work. We have a student who would do whatever he had to in order to get kicked out of math class because he just didn’t want to appear “dumb”. We also see a great deal of our students misbehave at recess or between classes. Many of our students have been born into a gang. Depending on where the student grew up determines what gang they belong to. When you get a group of boys wearing blue jeans and white t-shirts and another group of kids wearing gold and black with rubber bands around their pants they feel like they need to defend their group. This is also the time that a student decides to try out a gang but then chooses to switch to another one. This causes a great deal of chaos in the middle school world.

8. Definitely better before lunch!!! They are all wound up in the afternoon and it is very difficult to get any work out of them.

9. We do not have a snack time. Often teachers leave granola bars, fruit, candy, whatever they can in their desk for students who do not eat breakfast. Many teachers even send food home with students so they know they get at least something to eat for dinner.

10. Recess is about 15 minutes after lunch and they get all wound up and/or get into an argument/fight during this time. It is very difficult to teach most of the students after lunch.

11. A number of our students cannot wait to get out of school to go home. Many of them just cannot wait to get out of school because they are getting into trouble for not doing their homework. For a lot of them they didn’t do their homework because they didn’t have the supplies at home to complete the work, they couldn’t focus(they were busy taking care of siblings, siblings/parents were too loud, and/or they just didn’t understand the homework). Some of our students are scared to go home and either stay at the school until lights are out or they go somewhere else.

12. I am not sure how many of our students have a rough home life…. more than we even know. Many are homeless but many will not even admit this! Many do not have money for food or clothes. We are constantly trying to come up with enough money to buy glasses for kids, school supplies, clothes, personal hygiene products, etc. If I had to guess I would say around over half of our students have a difficult home life. Some of our kids do not have parents who can take care of them or parents who do not want to take care of them. Some of our kids live in neighborhoods that are not safe (I have often heard that there are shootings and fights outside their windows at night). Some of our kids are emotionally disturbed (we even have a children’s center who feeds into our school of kids who have been disturbed to the point where they will never be able to be adopted. Even though these kids are taken care of at their “home” they live a very rough life over there! I have heard time and time again about rats and mice living in houses, water being turned off, gas and electricity being shut off. Many kids cannot sleep at night because they don’t have enough beds at home or they are scared of what their brother, sister, mom, dad, mom’s boyfriend, sister’s boyfriend, cousin, uncle…etc will do to them. In short, I have heard too many stories to think that it is any less than half of our students live some type of “rough” life.

13. Usually it is the same students who are absent and/or tardy. We have students who are absent at least once a week and we have students who are tardy everyday. There is always a reason why, but there is little that the school can do. Sometimes it is because they had to walk a few miles just to get to our school and sometimes it is because they are living out of district or because they do not have a home. I have heard multiple stories of students’ who move around from shelter to shelter and from Evanston back to Chicago and have to take 3 or 4 busses just to make it to school in the morning. Sometimes it is because they do not have anybody at home to make them go to school and sometimes we just cannot determine why they aren’t there.

14. My biggest issue is the lack of confidence many of these kid hold. We try to get our kids to think about their future and come up with ideas of what type of career they would like to have someday. A typical answer would be to work at Mc D’s or to do hair. It is very rare that I would get an answer that involved going to college and getting a degree. Many of kids have a mindset that they are not good at something, and therefore they’ll never be good at it. Many of these kids give up on their grades before they ever tried. Some of our teachers feel this is because our kids know that failing a class will not really matter in the end. The kids know there is a No Child Left Behind policy and if they fail a class they will go to summer school. They also know that no matter how they do in summer school they will be in the next grade with their peers the following school year. Trying to teach a child without the appropriate necessities (school supplies, food, clothes, shelter) makes it tough, but not impossible. What makes it impossible in working with underprivileged children is the lack of follow through when the school has proven that the parents are incapable of taking care of their children. DCFS in our area is way too busy and cannot keep up with the number of calls they get. I know for a fact that there are parents that are on step N (people have called DCFS 13 times on this parent) and yet there still has not been a change in placement. Not only are kids’ needs not being met at home, but many times we have proved that they are being abused. Sometimes students’ even go to a teacher in our school for help. I have heard on multiple occasions that DCFS has investigated (so parents know their child talked to someone) and then no further action takes place. The child continues to live a “rough” life and has also lost their trust in the only safe place he/she knows.

A couple short stories you asked about…

*** A teacher had a heart attack in the hallway in the front of our school. The teacher fell to the ground which caused certain injuries on her face and arms to bleed. Right away teachers were asked to lock their doors and treat the situation as a “lock down”. Someone who did see the teacher on the ground went back to his class and told everyone there was a shoot out and Ms. ____ got shot in the front of the school. In the next hour all of our students were lead to believe our school was in “lock down” mode because of a shoot out! It took quite a while to convince all of our students that the school is safe and that Ms.___ had a heart attack.

*** A student hung himself in the bathroom at the school behind our school. This was very shocking to many because this student was a very well liked YOUNG man. This was also very shocking to many of our teachers because this student was like many of our kids and this truly could have happened at any school. I really cannot talk about the details of this incident except for the fact that this student lived a very “rough” life and I can imagine he was tired of it all.

*** I work with an student who has a very difficult time in all of his classes. He needs a great amount of time to do his homework and he needs a great deal of help doing his work. This young man appears that he would hate school. He is fairly popular and gives many of the students and teachers an attitude about being there and following school rules. This student actually loves school because the few minutes of attention he gets from his teachers (usually when they are yelling at him for not doing his homework) are the only few minutes this student gets to communicate with adults. This student has told me that his brother(high school drop out) has parties at all hours of the night (on school nights) and that he would get beat up if he were to get in his way. He says that he aunt(legal guardian) is never home at night and that my student spends most of his night keeping his younger brothers, cousins, nieces and nephews quiet and out of his older brother’s pathway. This student compared his life to Eminem’s in his 8 mile movie.

*** Another student lives with his uncle because his mother could not support the family. This student’s mother had to move out of state in order to get a better job and raise some money to better support her son. This student wants to live with his mom and is willing to quit school to get a job to help out the financial situation. This student is still in school, but probably only until he is able to legally drop out and work a full time job. In trying to offer this student some advice I made the mistake in suggesting that this student got a part time job to earn a little extra cash. I suggested that this student offered to shovel his neighbor’s driveways or offered to mow their lawns. My student looked at me with disbelief! He said there was no way he could talk to his neighbors. He said if he went over there to ask if he could shovel their driveway they would hurt him.

*** I happened to be in a classroom the other day and one of the students (who didn’t know I was there) commented about the way another student was dressed. He said that the girl was pretty well dressed for a white girl.

*** We have one park down the street but mostly our kids play in alleys or participate in one of the many after school activities/ homework groups.


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