Love Letter to My Dead Student

A Chicago teacher mourns a slain student, knowing that he won’t be the last…

By Ann Mastrofsky
I was in my classroom when someone opened the door, stuck in his head and mooed. I opened the door and looked around the corner. As I expected, it was J., one of my favorite, most charismatic, and most intractable students, who typically greeted me in this manner. He very rarely attended class and when he did, he spent most of his time socializing. But he beamed with pride when you complimented his efforts. He appreciated your kindness and respected you in return. He did the best he could, and sometimes his best was outstanding; he earned the highest grade on my semester final.

I greeted him and he smiled warmly, an impish flash in his eyes. He and I had bonded early; he liked his middle aged, white female teachers, teachers like me, the best.  A huge youth, he towered over me and my neck hurt looking up at his broad face and dyed dreads.

I asked him what was up and he shrugged, smiling shyly. I told him to pull up his pants and take off his hat, both of which he did. I asked him if I’d see him in class later and he told me that I would.  A few of his friends approached and I ducked back into my room, allowing him the privacy that adolescents and teachers both require. I knew only a very little about J’s life outside of the classroom, but I knew enough to know that my ignorance was for the best.

As I expected, he never showed up in class that afternoon.

And now, he is dead at 17, shot to death by unknown assailants.

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*Guinea Pigs in an Urban Laboratory*

In her new book, Unequal City, Carla Shedd looks at race, schools and perceptions of injustice through the eyes of young people…

unequal cityEduShyster: I want to start by giving everyone a moment to order your amazing new book, Unequal City. Waiting…Waiting… OK. Here we go. You did something highly unusual in your book: you looked at how major policy changes in education and housing over the past two decades in Chicago have impacted kids. And you did that by actually interviewing kids. Where did you get such a crazy idea? 

Carla Shedd: That was a big goal of mine, to really place kids at the center and think about how they understand these larger transformations in their lives. So often we have the numbers or we have snapshots of particular parts of the process and how kids are faring. But we really don’t listen to young people, and we never put their voices at the center of the conversation. How often are the people who are most impacted by these policies able to truly have a voice? In the book I argue that these young people are the city’s guinea pigs. They’re a walking experiment in an urban laboratory. Continue reading →

In Chicago, Hunger Striking to Save a School

Why are Chicago parents on a hunger strike to save a neighborhood school? Because after five years of fighting, they’ve run out of options... 

By Jeanette Taylor-Ramann
IMG_3755What’s happening in Bronzeville isn’t just about Dyett High School. There’s an agenda to push out black and brown low income and working families in the city of Chicago. If you look at the big picture, that’s what this is about. You don’t only have police brutality. You don’t have only have a decrease in public housing in the city and the closing of public schools. The neighborhood school is the last stable institution that we have. When you have good neighborhood schools, they service the neighborhood. They keep kids off the street; they help parents when they’re struggling and having issues in the home. That neighborhood school is a support system for the community, and the powers that be know that. 
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Know Your Audience

Just who is Mayor Rahm Emanuel playing to?

By Anthony Moser 
mayor 1Here’s something I bet you don’t know about Chicago: we still have a residency requirement for civic employees. Teachers, firefighters, police officers –  they all must live in city limits. So must the mayor, a requirement that nearly disqualified Rahm from running in the first place. It means that the people who serve the city also depend on those services. Such requirements are designed to make sure that officials are also citizens; to create a natural alignment between the way that they treat others and the way they are treated. In short, it is to prevent the city from fracturing into *them* and *us,* instead attempting to create a true sense of *we.* Continue reading →