When it comes to talk between teachers, inner-city school often times feels like a curse word. Telling someone you work with inner-city students often times bring in reactions of shock and questions of how. I'm not going to lie, it's challenging. Emotionally. Physically. Mentally. It's hard to teach inner city students, but it's not for most of the reasons that you think.
When I first started my journey to become an educator, everyone talked about the "good schools." The ones with the active PTA, the supplies for every student, and the nice, properly kept building. Then, there was talk about the "other schools." When it came to these schools, the talk was frightening. Stories of defiant students, lack of needed supplies, and school buildings that were not up to par to say the least. Being that I had never taught before, and the only school system I knew was the one I went though, I believed these stories. So, when I got my student teaching placement and saw that I would indeed be teaching inner city students, I was worried to say the least. But, what I expected was not what I got.
I've been teaching in an inner-city, second grade classroom for seven months now, and there's not one of those days I would trade for even one second in one of the "good schools." All the awful stories about students that hate teachers and teachers that are insanely mistreated, were so far from the truth. The students that are in my classroom do fit some of the cliche assumptions, but not all of them.
Sadly, the students I teach sometimes come from tough home lives. While this is not only at inner-city schools, it is common here. Most students come from a single parent household or are raised by someone other than their parents. As a teacher, you feel this. You feel the pain they carry. You see the pained looks on their face when their parents aren't able to come for their play or parent involved event. This is not my place to judge, but it my place to step up. As an inner city teacher, sometimes I have to play the parent. It's not something in my job description or even something that is expected of me, but it is something that helps my students and helping them is my passion.
I also tend to spoil my students a little more than what some see fit. A lot of these students go home to an empty pantry and parents who are at work well into the night hours. For this reason, I do spoil my students, both with material objects and extra attention. Any chance I am given, my students get an opportunity to earn treats and different prizes. Whether it's something as simple as an extra colorful pencil or a handful of M&M's, it's the simple things that show the students you care. Most days, I make it a point to eat in the lunchroom with my students. I choose two students to sit with me and I talk to them about their day and anything else they wish. While some people may see this as over the top, this is one of my ways of showing the students that I am on their team. Rather than closing myself up in my room and eating alone, I take an extra 20 minutes to talk to my students and treat them like a human as opposed to just a body filling a seat in my classroom. Students see that you went out of your way to go get them a snack or some more pencils to write with. This help build that trust in you that will help them succeed in the end.
I am also handle behavior issues much more differently than if I were working in a different school climate. Most of the time, after a major behavior problem has occurred, I don't go straight to yelling. I simply pull the student aside and talk to them. I know what you're thinking, hang in there with me. The thing is, when fights break out in my classroom or there is a attitude outburst, there is a reason behind it. Overall, I have class full of well behaved young people. They know what is expected of them because I tell them daily. So I've learned, that when there is an outburst, theres a reason. I think this is advice that all teachers could take. Talking to your students will give you a lot of information about why they do what they do, but beware. It will also break your heart. I can't count the number of breakdowns and tears that have happened because of one of these talks. But, it does help the students get out what is on their mind. You'd be surprised to learn what some of those little ones in your class are bringing in with them.
Overall, teaching in an inner-city school isn't all that different. You just have to put in a little more effort. You have to care a little more. Love a little more. Think a little more. And do a little more. It's all about showing those students that you are there for them and your classroom is a safe space. Even if it's the only one they have. Don't get me wrong, it's exhausting. Taking on the burdens of 20+ little people is tough, but imagine how tough it is on them. Children should be given a chance to be children, so if I have to struggle a little more to make that happen, I will. My students have my whole entire heart and that's the way it should be. Inner-city students or not, they're still children.