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Chicago Public Schools Tue Nov 19 2013
By David Stieber
A little over a year ago I was on the bus headed downtown from the South Side, a lady next to me on the bus struck up a conversation. Eventually she found out that I was a teacher and where I worked. As soon as I finished the last syllable of Englewood, her face showed complete disgust and she promptly said, "Englewood! Those people are animals, you should never go there." I responded, "I've worked there five years. I have good kids and parents. Have a nice night." Thankfully it happened to be my stop.
Sadly, many of the other teachers that I work with have had similar experiences to the one I described. If you've never spent time with kids from Englewood and believe the stereotypes about everyone in the neighborhood, I can understand why this lady said what she did.
I could provide many examples during my now seven years of teaching in Englewood to easily disprove the statement made by this person, however let me share my most recent and by far most personal and emotional experience to disprove her mass and faulty generalization.
My partner (also a CPS teacher) and I were expecting our second child. She was 17 weeks pregnant. About a week ago while getting a checkup we found out that we had lost our baby.
I do not have the words nor the desire to describe the pain we felt and the emotions we still feel about our loss.
We took some time off of work to spend time together and with our young son so we as a family could grieve this loss. While going through the grieving process, I became upset that we had told so many people about the pregnancy. All of our friends, family, co-workers, and all of my 120 students knew.
Every email we sent to our family and friends explaining there had been a late miscarriage was painful. I had asked my friends at work to tell the students what had happened, because I knew I wouldn't be strong enough to and I didn't want them asking about it.
I was hesitant to return to work because my emotions were still all over. My first day back while standing in the hall before the start of the first period, nearly every student I had taught or am teaching this year came and hugged me, gave me a handshake, or just simply asked if I was okay and said they were glad to have me back.
You see these Englewood animals, I mean Englewood kids, I mean kids reached out to me (as they always have) and showed their care and love.
These kids, my kids who are labeled as thugs, gang bangers and criminals, have made the toughest point in my life easier.
The beauty of my students sadly reminded me of the vile spewed by this lady on the bus. If I ran into her now I would just ask her to picture the darkest point in her life and think about who came to her side and supported her.
Because for me during my darkest point, it was 120 "animals from Englewood."
And if my personal example was not enough one of our students from our school, TEAM Englewood, decided to donate his kidney to a stranger because his mom has needed a kidney transplant for years and he is not a match for her.
David Stieber is a father, husband, CPS teacher of History. Dave is passionately committed to promoting and improving urban public education, while simultaneously improving the lives of his students. He earned his masters in Urban Education Policy Studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago. You can follow Dave on Twitter at D_Stieber.