If you’ve been following along with my more personal posts here on Trials N ‘ Tresses (which I hope you have) then you know that I am also a full time public high school teacher in New York. I’m what they call an “urban” or “inner city” teacher. And while those terms are usually used as just labels, they do at carry negative connotations alongside them.
Being A Public High School Teacher In NYC
Under Privileged doesn’t mean stupid, it doesn’t mean lazy, or violent, or slow.
But I want to use my small platform (any platform is essential really) to bring forth what being a public high school teacher in NYC really looks like, and what it really means. I’ve been a high school teacher for the past 6 years and I teach in a “less than stellar” area, according to many. I use quotation marks around the description because after working in this area for 5+ years, I’ve felt as safe as you can feel while living in New York. When people think public high school in New York, especially in an inner city area they think poverty, ignorance, anger, violence, gangs…etc. These thoughts aren’t entirely wrong, though they aren’t nearly as embellished as movies would have it seem. But they often forget the most important “coined term/phrase”: under privileged. Sure some may add it to their descriptions but I don’t think people take the time to look beyond the surface of what being under privileged truly means in regards to education.
Under Privileged doesn’t mean stupid, it doesn’t mean lazy, or violent, or slow. It means NONE of those terms. What it does mean is less opportunity and access to what others around you are provided. My students are often stereotyped because of what they look like or the music they listen to, but no one takes the time to actually ask them what they think. If more people did listen to what they have to say, it would be a much different conversation. With politics taking a front seat to the education process, under privileged areas get the
shitty end of the stick.
So where does that leave me as an educator?
It leaves me stuck in a room in which I’m backed up into a corner and expected to work miracles. I’m expected to take students who walk into my classroom on a 3rd grade reading level and magically get them to pass a state Regents exam . I’m expected to give homework to students who don’t have homes to go to. And while I’m working my miracles I’m being told I’m not effectively working to the level that the government thinks I should. Before this sounds winey, I know that people in other lines of work go through similar difficulties every day.
What makes my line of work different is everyday I am battling to give opportunities to people who really and truly mean something to our future. Everyone is quick to down play this generation for all of their faults, and flaws… myself included. However I know what they are up against and I know it is nothing like anything we’ve gone through before. Every generation has had their struggles, but these kids are growing into such uncertainty on so many different aspects, that it can be daunting balancing school life and home life.
Sometimes it is heartbreaking, especially when all I can do is be a silent observer or shoulder to cry on. Other times it can be stressful to the point that even question why I’m doing this. But more often than not it is amazing. It is a rewarding feeling that most people can not understand unless they have experienced it themselves. It is a feeling I can not really explain in words, because I’ve tried and failed many times. But being a public high school teacher in NYC has been one of the best things I’ve ever done in my short 27 years of life.
What I do know is every year I work extremely hard to give my students every opportunity that they haven’t been offered. It’s important to remind them that just because other facets of their education system have turned a blind eye to their needs, there are people who stand behind them. I don’t do it for acknowledgement, or accolade because lets face it, good educators selflessly put their students first consistently. It is in our DNA to do so! And in this line of work I remind myself as well as my students that you will never know for sure if you don’t step out on a leap of faith. Teaching helps give me hope, and I use that to continue my faith in the many generations to come. Being a public high school teacher in NYC is not only a calling, but a blessing.
My Seniors are taking donations to help fund their Senior trip, if you would like to donate to support you can head to our Donor’s Choose page here! Any little bit helps and they greatly appreciate it!