First of all a disclaimer (on my own personal blog) that my opinion in no way reflects the opinion of my employer or my colleagues, although I bet you a million bucks that many in those two groups would agree. Does that ruin the disclaimer?
The following reasons are why it drives me nuts to work at an inner city school. It's not all the name is cracked up to be. I love my school, I love my job, I love my students, my friends, and my colleagues. In fact I love everything about my school. So, to those of you who have ever said or thought any of the following, we don't need your pity, your hate or your sympathy. Just remember what you put "out there" has a ripple effect, like a pebble dropped in a pond. Words are like toothpaste, once they're out of the tube it's impossible to get them back in.
1. People automatically assume that an "inner-city" school means more than the label connotes. We are a school. We are located in the "city" however this in no way implies that we are unsafe, that we are made up of delinquents or that we are failing our students. Quite the contrary. We have 1600 of the most amazing, fun, talented and intelligent students under our roof each and every day. Our students go on to the best colleges. They are competitive both academically and athletically. Just ask some of our famous alumnus; Trot Nixon, David Brinkley, Roman Gabriel, Sonny Jurgensen, and Jay Ross. We have quite a few state titles to call our own, 33 and counting. We don't have bars on our windows, graffiti on the walls or security guards posted in each hallway. We are not riddled with drugs, gangs or crime. We are one of the oldest high schools in North Carolina. We are statuesque, we are beautiful, so when someone hears "inner-city" they think "Dangerous Minds" or "Stand and Deliver." I am here to tell you...this is not the movies.
2. When people hear where I work they say, "I'm sorry." WHY ARE YOU SORRY? My dog didn't die. You didn't ding my car in the parking lot. However, you are implying that there is something horrible about my job, and it is so insulting! Hey you! You work at the bank? I'm so sorry. You're a dentist? Ooooh, I am SO sorry. Drive a truck? That sucks.Yo Pope? It must really be a drag to serve God's children. #sorryyouworkatthevatican. I am never sorry that I work here. As a result of #1 and the negative media propaganda that surrounds my school (see #3) people think it's a horrible place to work. We are safe. We are happy. We are a school doing great things, every minute of every day. I am surrounded by the best educators I have ever had the honor of knowing. Why else would I have sent both my children to this school? Let's get something straight: teachers don't have to stay at schools they don't like or where they don't feel safe. Don't insult us with your pity.
3. We have no successes. I mean we can't because they are never celebrated in the media, right? I don't turn on the news and hear that two of our students received full rides to some of the country's most prestigious colleges or that our amazing athletes are being scouted by the top universities in the country. No, the lead is usually a crime or incident in the neighborhood which MUST include the name of our school EVEN THOUGH IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH US. Our school is in the city, just like Starbucks, the county library and the Fluff-and-Fold. Focus on the crime, not what it's near. Why? BECAUSE IT SENDS EVERYONE INTO A PANIC and THIS IS HOW WE GET A BAD RAP! (see #1,2,3). My God, it never ends. Our school has safety measures in place just like every other school, however when every lead in the news mentions the name of our school in relation to the location of a crime, it it is viewed as one and the same. It is unnecessary to give the location of a crime and then say it's so-and-so blocks from the school. Stop making us all seem like the same thing - we are not interchangeable and should not be lumped in together. School+Building+Students IS NOT EQUAL TO Crime+Off-campus+gangs+drugs. We are not responsible for what our student body does off campus on their own time, just like my employer isn't responsible for the carton of Cadbury Eggs I ate or when I ran that red light (I swear it was yellow). We have enough responsibilities as teachers so don't tie the criminal and the crime to my SCHOOL. The guilt and sadness that overwhelm us when one of our "kids" gets in trouble is too much to bear and you just make it worse.
4. Our kids are all gang members, drug dealers or juvenile delinquents. Nope, nope and nope. Just no. Just STOP. They are teenagers, they lose their minds sometimes, they incite drama, they fight, they make mistakes, they have issues, but show me another high school where this isn't the norm and I will eat this keyboard.
5. We must not have school pride. I do not know one student in any of my classes over the past 8 years who hasn't been proud to go to our school. We bleed black and orange. We pack the gym for basketball games. Our stadium shakes and rocks under those Friday night lights. We have learned to celebrate each other - we understand that if we aren't our own biggest cheerleaders no one else will be. Our school has an amazing history, a loyal faculty and high standards for education. When the focus is always on the perceived negatives (and mostly imaginary at that) it's hard to convince the public that there are any positives. Ask our parents, ask our teachers, ask our students; we are THE PLACE TO BE!
We are a family. We have weathered everything imaginable and we stand here, together, willing to work hard for ALL of our students, for their education, their well-being, their success. Never forget that. What more could a community want for a school? A building is just a building; it's what we do in that building that matters the most.
Don't sell us short.