A Teacher's Day

The day in the life of an inner city large urban school district teacher after the high stakes testing ends and there is still three more months left before summer vacation.

Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

I have taught school for over thirty years always in the inner city and for the most part always upper grade students. I have two children and I have been married for twenty years.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Enabling the Wrong

My family and I live part time in a house in Jefferson City, MO. We were looking for a way for my oldest son to go to college and live away from home. It turned out to be in the only bad neighborhood in the entire town. Prostitutes. Drug dealers. Crazy people.

I have lived my entire life in Chicago and I have worked in neighborhoods so dangerous even the rats are scared to go outside, but I saw my first gun used in violence in Jefferson City. We found three discarded guns in our yard--all used in one crime or another.

As a school teacher, long ago I realized the problems of my students were sometimes so great, I would have to be a Samson to help them out. Many times I tried. There were times I succeeded; there were times I did not.

In Jeff City, the family next door is out of control. They party late into the night, no one goes to school, and the violence and fighting is just too much. The police have a file a half inch thick, every neighbor and then some signed a petition against the noise and violence our neighbors bring to the block, and Section 8 sent a letter ordering the family to get it together. None of this matters. They are still out of control.

The landlord feels sorry for the family. They pay the utilities and they extended the lease. Meanwhile watching them is better than television. Non stop fights. Arguments over nothing. Drug sales as cars line up to park in front of the house. A constant stream of men and boys because the teenage girls are totally available. And tore up. And probably diseased.

The other day some boys ran out of the house. One of them said he was calling 911. Obviously someone was ill in the house. A fire engine and police car responded. The mother, Shelly, came to the porch and refused to let them in. The last three times the landlord came over, she refused to let them in either.

Meanwhile twenty people now live in that house, mostly teenage girls (including a few confirmed runaways and nothing anyone does about it gets these girls any kind of help), a few throwaway boys and others gang bang wannabees. (If you're going to be a GD, at least know what it means. Ganster Disciple? Sorry. Do some research on your own.)

The landlord is losing money every month feeling sorry for this family. "I don't want my daughter to run away again," Shelly tells someone on her porch. So instead she allows her to get high, have sex, etc. "It's better if she does these things under my roof. At least I can watch her."

And what will be the result of her being evicted? The block will be safer, that is for sure, and quieter. It will be cleaner and healthier, too. But what of her and her family? Oh, they will lose their Section 8. But maybe they will also get the help they so badly need.

I strongly believe a house full of drugs and sex and a nine year old girl needs the services of Children and Family Services. I made the call. I received a call back. The case was sent to the police. Still nothing happens.

If Shelly and her family are evicted, and they no longer receive Section 8 money, they will get the help they need.

How do I know this?

I forced this issue with one of my students. She needed help and it wasn't forthcoming. Her parents and I were both enabling her behavior. When finally the authorities were brought in, she received the help she needed.

Compassion is not a bad thing, but like everything else, too much can lead to dangerous consequences.


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