Saturday, April 22, 2006

Teacher's biting blog stirs storm

At first I thought this Tribune article was about some school on the north side but it isn't it's about Fenger High School in the Roseland neighborhood in Chicago. What goes on at this school may well be no different than what happened when I went to high school on the south side so many years ago. The difference between now and then is that there wasn't the internet nor was their blogging. Unfortunately I never had time to even find or know about this blog, until now when this blog has been shut down indefinitely.

This individual was looking for an audience and as a result they started talking about him at school. And it's gotten to the point where he isn't coming back. This didn't happen immediately after all. The students came back from spring break this week but near the end of the week the 30 year old teacher emailed his principal saying that he feared for his safety. See the students found out about this blog and they either had "righteous indignation" or the teacher's blog was flamed with "profane threats".

Want to know what the schools principal says about this...

...The teacher was the same one widely believed to have authored the blog because he told two colleagues that it was his, Fenger Principal William Johnson said.

Johnson said he doesn't know whether the teacher has resigned. The teacher hasn't returned Johnson's phone calls or replied to an e-mail asking to meet with him. The teacher did not acknowledge to the principal that it was his blog, but Johnson said he has no doubt, based on the writing style and his disappearance after the students named him in their postings.
Johnson believes it will be difficult for the teacher to return to Fenger, given the controversy. Because the teacher is untenured, the principal can fire him without cause at the end of the school year or after 10 workdays if he doesn't return.

"He's lost his credibility," Johnson said. "He lost the faith and trust of his students."
...But the principal said the episode has galvanized the school in a way he had not thought possible--and is encouraging staff and students to talk openly about the problems and how to fix them.

"There is a silver lining," he said. "It brought Fenger together." Johnson said he plans to hold student forums next week to discuss the blog, both the antagonism it revealed and the challenges that need to be fixed."He was painting a picture of desperation, and I had a problem with the generalizations he made," Johnson said. "But some of it was true, and that was the tragedy. If he had gone about it in a different way, it could have been a great forum."
Fenger isn't exaclty a great school in fact it's very much struggling academically like a lot of schools on the far south side. This is what senior class president Latasha Ivy has to say about this experience...
"These are things that happen at Fenger--fights, drug-dealing, gangs--it happens here like it does at other high schools. I already feel bad when I tell people I go to Fenger, because they go, `Ooooh, that's a bad school.' But there are still people here trying to do something with their lives," said Ivy, who has been accepted at the University of Illinois this fall and plans to study biology.
To end how about a little taste of what this teacher said...

He labeled his students "criminals," saying they stole from teachers, dealt drugs in the hallways, had sex in the stairwells, flaunted their pregnant bellies and tossed books out windows. He dismissed their parents as unemployed "project" dwellers who subsist on food stamps, refuse to support their "baby mommas" and bad-mouth teachers because their no-show teens are flunking.

He took swipes at his colleagues, too--"union-minimum" teachers, literacy specialists who "decorate their office door with pro-black propaganda," and security officers whose "loyalty is to the hood, not the school."
We've seen the actors on the front lines here. I didn't exactly go to the best performing high school and don't think for a second that there aren't some reasonably intelligent students going to these schools. And don't think that the parents don't care either. And the Principal is right perhaps the issues that are a problem should be discussed and not merely swept under a rug. Not saying that's what is going on here, but I am saying perhaps what is described about what's going on at Fenger and other schools around the city.

OK the article said the blog was no longer online but I have just found it. It's called Fast Times at Regnef High.


diane said...

Thanks for this post, it got me thinking back. I didn't go to Fenger, but my parents did, I went to Brenan grade school in Roseland, now Alex Haley Academy. Whenever I do a Roseland post on my blog it gets so many visits from former residents who long for those old days on the south side. Actually, it seems Haley grammar school is doing well and looks terrific so maybe the younger ones will help change Fenger some day.

Sun said...

Unfortunately, I can believe that some of the things he may have said could have been true. I hate that the blog is gone I would have wanted to read what he said.

I live in that neighborhood, and I see it time and time again. The violence, the drugs, the gangs.

Kids from Fenger go to other neighborhood high schools to beat the other students up. I fear for my children's safety as the travel on public transportation to and from school everyday.

And the parents, oh, what can I say about the parents, its sad.

I graduated Fenger in 1984, it was close to that time that the curriculum and the teaching staff began to go downhill. But it's not just Fenger, it's Julian, Corliss, Carver and Harlan. Even Morgan Park and Brooks have their share of the same type of troubles as well. I hate to hear the stories my kids tell...

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