Friday, July 20, 2007


Whitelock Crew Wannabees, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

I watch kids in the neighborhood. They tresspass, they vandalize, they try to steal things from neighbors' yards. When confronted they say "fuck you." If you call the cops they vanish for an hour or two and then re-appear, trying to steal the scooter two doors down, or a bike next door, or the propane tank off someone's grill.

Two of the kids pictured here are homeless. They were squatting in the carriage house behind an end-unit building on our row. The carriage house was condemned and an investor has begun remodeling the end-unit into condominiums. The children and their mother were put out on the street. Not two weeks later the upper story where they lived collapsed.

In February I saw these children bathing in their swimsuits with a garden hose in a neighbor's yard.

I've been offered a job assisting a mentor teacher in a Title 1 school in Baltimore City. We're talking the worst of the worst. The City will pay me a stipend and will fund my participation in an accelerated graduate program at Notre Dame of Maryland. By May next year I'd be certified to teach French and English in middle or high school, and with two MAs and two BAs I'd be pretty advanced on the payscale. With summers off for lengthy travel opportunities.

But this is a major commitment. The environment in these schools is conducive to everything except learning. The buildings are a shambles--I drove past some wretched schools in Park Heights yesterday, schools where I could be assigned--and there is daily violence. I think Baltimore City graduates less than 30% of its students. Chaos rules the classrooms and hallways.

I have an easy boring job, but I also have a conscience. I have skills that might help. Other better-suited idealists have crashed and burned in the City schools. But if I can't cut it in the City I can flee with my certification to another county, or state, or even international teaching job.

Ugh. I have to decide by Monday.


Nick said...

Seeing you restless in these past two jobs makes me think you ARE looking for something else. I say you should do it. That's my 2cents. Enjoy the weekend weather my friend!

Seth Anderson said...

If the school is anything like the school depicted in the 4th season of The Wire, yikes. But if you don't accept, will you wonder 'what would have happened'? If so, go for it for reasons like nick says. What is the minimum commitment? Could you leave your old job on good terms, so as to be able to come back and bore yourself again if needed?

geoff said...

Haven't seen the 4th season of The Wire yet--until it's on DVD I'm out of the loop. But yeah, I figure knowing the authors that it's likely an accurate portrait. Cha works in some of these schools and tells horror stories. I remember when she was a rookie and some out-of-control elementary kid bit her on the breast.

I'm 90% sure I'm taking the job. My current boss will be peeved because she's going on maternity leave and I told her not a month ago I wasn't quitting. But I didn't know about this opportunity then. D'oh.

John Vondracek said...

i dunno.............
vacation and other perks are nice, but there is going to be a SEEEERIOUS quality-of-life issue to contend with... proceed with extreme caution, as far as IIIIIII can reccomend, anyway!

there's a difference to being challenged and going mad.

I HAVE to think that other opportunites will happen that won't be such a torturous choice for you!

but that's just MY opinion... good luck with your decision

:) jv

march said...

I want you to take the job, if only because your blog entries will be sheer heaven to read.

Seriously though...those schools are no joke. My aunt taught in them for years, and walked out mid-semester when kids were starting to get violent (as in, she'd turn around to write on the board, and they'd throw things at her). She went in with the best intentions, but in the end it killed her soul (and made her an incurable racist to boot).

Is that stress worse than your mind turning to mush at your current job? I'm not sure. But there are other jobs...

geoff said...

First the angels spoke, now the devils speak. Both are wise!

The Mrs. says one of my biggest problems will be the race card. Administrators, teachers, parents, and students will play it. I'll have to keep on my toes and be sensitive to that potentiality without being condescending or patronizing.

I've looked for other opportunities for years. Nothing looms. Every good job I see in the Classifieds requires a teaching certification. At least I'll be working toward that.

I'm lifting weights like a fiend. I want to make absolutely sure 7th and 8th graders will think twice before throwing things at me. I might throw things back.

Geoff's Mom said...

I didn't realize where you would be teaching and now I'm concerned because I'm your MOMMA! I'd hate to see you corrupted and have your sensitivities ruined! If only Grandma was here...she'd have a way to foretell whether it's a good thing or not.

Silenus said...

Let's face it're not gonna be happy in a cubicle forever.

My grandmother spent her entire working life in Baltimore City schools. What she bitten, beaten and threatened? Yes. Did she run away? Well, she took an early retirement at 55 but she's got a nice state pension now. I think she enjoyed her job in the end.

I have friends doing mentoring programs in the Bronx and various poor areas of Brooklyn. Even these schools are much safer than any given neighborhood school in Baltimore but they're still tough. My firends are making it. They complain about the 12 year olds hooked and drugs, violence in the halls, and the heartbreaking stories that the kids have about imigration, pregnancy and host of other issues. Still, my friends just graduated college and they're having a great time duking it out with the social issues that plague the city.

The Republicans pay people 24/7 to make things worse for poor people. Someone has to be working to make things better.

If I were in your shoes I'd honestly try to skrit the City schools and get in a 1 year teaching program at Towson or UMBC. But you're bigger and smarter that me. I think you could intimidate these kids. Make sure to shave you're head again.

In the end, you'd have a lot of fun at Towson High or Dulaney teaching French and English. I went through that school system and it's really someting special.

It sounds like a tough decision man. Good luck!

geoff said...

The remarkable transformation of New York's schools under Bloomberg is something else. Balto. City just hired one of the New York architects of change as Superintendent, who in return has just hired a former general to be his right-hand man. If they can stop the looting of money from the school system by corrupt administrators and contractors maybe some things will turn around.

I looked at the MAT programs at TU and UMBC--both require a full-time commitment, and neither pay a stipend. This Notre Dame program will pay me half-salary through May, allowing us to keep our house. I might be dining on mac and cheese and doing without red wine for ten months, but I did that the last time I was in grad school.

All the omens are in place. I face the thorny problem of leaving my current boss in the lurch tomorrow!

Nursedude said...

I salute you for wanting to make a difference. I can tell you as a nurse who works with inner city clientele, and who is also a white male(OK, melonen-challenged) that there are people who will play the race card. I hope that you will be able to help some kids out, I hope you will be appreciated-and I hope you don't get too burned out and cynical. Good luck.

geoff said...

Thanks nursedude. I've not heard melonen-challenged before. It definitely applies to my Caspar-white ass.