Teachers in Tough Places

David Chura, Huffington Post | June 3, 2011

It was a busman’s holiday. Thirty people in a room, all teachers in high school and GED programs in various prisons from across New York State, listening to me talk about teaching locked up kids. The conference was in Saratoga Springs with lots of other things to do. Yet there they were, nodding their heads in recognition of the stories I told, laughing in all the right places with that dark sense of humor we jailhouse teachers develop from years of working with society’s throwaways in some of the toughest schools.

In interviews or talks I’m frequently asked why I wrote¬†I Don’t Wish Nobody to Have a Life Like Mine: Tales of Kids in Adult Lockup. I often explain that I want people to see the kind of living conditions to which young offenders are consigned in adult facilities and to show that each incarcerated kid is a real person, one who most likely grew up in a home crippled by poverty, by poor health, by addiction as well as physical and sexual abuse. It’s a picture not conveyed by the crime numbers we read in the newspapers.

But looking out over that audience of incarcerated education teachers, I knew there was another reason why I wrote these stories: to describe what it’s like to be a teacher working under some of the harshest conditions. In this time of “education reform” and its concomitant teacher bashing, I wanted to praise the people who are committed to teaching every day, no matter what’s going on around them, around their classroom and their students. ¬†(Read more)