LIANE HANSEN, host:
There is another challenge to inner city schools. Youth Radio's Reika Jibrin teaches humanities at a San Francisco Bay are high school for students at risk of dropping out. Earlier this year a student from her school was shot. It's a familiar experience for some teachers in urban areas with high rates of violent crime.
Ms. REIKA JIBRIN (Youth Radio): It's Monday and I walk into my school's main office. There's a line at the copy machine. It's jammed again and I'm teacher number three. Hey, Queen, says one teacher. Did you hear what happened over the weekend? One of our kids was shot eight times - now she's whispering - the student was shot at close range as he waited at a bus stop.
I abandoned my copy project and walk into the school courtyard re-imagining my day. 9:15 a.m. - I step inside my classroom. Amid a disarray and side conversations, a skinny arm shoots up from the crowd. She wants to know if I heard about the shooting. I nod. Funerals have become a social event, my students tell me. They no longer go to malls to buy outfits for the next party. They tell me they socialize while buying funeral clothes they would wear for lost young friends and family.
I look down at the reading I had planned to talk about today. It's W.E.B. Du Bois on double consciousness. Double consciousness being the sense of always looking at oneself through the eyes of others. Looking into my students' eyes I wonder what they see.
4:58 p.m. - I climb onto the city bus heading home. I ask the driver how he's doing today. He says he can't complain. I have a complaint, I say in my head, a complaint about tragedy. Teachers and administrators need to be honest about our limitations in meeting the unique learning needs of students who live in violence, who hope to escape lockup and despair.
We absorb the trauma around us because we listen to our students and in the process of listening we assure them that they are sane. And still I can't wrap my head around what's happened. Eight times at close range and still alive? Will he survive the shooting? Two young men step onto the bus and ask for a transfer. In baggy jeans and white tees the teens move towards the back seats. Will they survive the shootings?
11:18 p.m. - I'm tired. I think back to the morning when I caught sight of the principal across the courtyard out of the corner of my eye. He was on his cell phone, his body hunched. I remember the security guard unlocking my classroom. Turning to him I asked how he was doing given the news of the shooting. For ten seconds his body relaxed, his face softened. I'm doing all right, I guess.
Yeah, I guess I'm all right. He was still thinking about it. We are all still thinking about it, still living it. Tomorrow some students will fill in bubble sheets, others will listen to a lecture and some may write in a journal, and soon another Monday will come.
For NPR News, I'm Reika Jibrin.
HANSEN: Reika Jibrin teaches at a Bay Area high school and is pursuing her doctorate at the University of California Berkeley.
If you want learn more about Youth Radio's network of educators, go to YouthRadio.org and click on the Teach Youth Radio link.
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