Everybody is an expert on how to educate our youth. When it comes to educating someone else’s youth, most people consider themselves to be geniuses. I remember thinking that an often repeated phrase of “if I could touch just one child, my career would be a success” was simply too complacent. If I was to become a teacher, I was going to make changes in the lives of all students. I was going to be dynamic and entertaining. I was going to teach kids that no one could teach, and I was going to show them how to change the world. Can you say “burnout?” Greg Michie probably can, and his book Holler if You Hear Me seems to be a more of a guide on how to burnout in inner city schools, depicting teachers as the only hope for a generation of kids. I will show how Michie sets up a hero or villain formula for identifying teachers, magnifying a system that already puts undue pressure on the teachers to be perfect, and thus driving many potentially great teachers out of the inner city schools.
The retention rate for new teachers (first five years) in the Milwaukee Public Schools is only around 30%, while the graduation rate hovers around 50%. Teachers are being forced out of the system at a faster pace than kids are dropping out. We might be inclined to believe that these teachers aren’t dedicated, or maybe just are not very good at what they do, but I would disagree. I feel that these teachers all want to be heroes, but they simply become frustrated and must leave. The 30% who remain in the system realize what can be done, and accept their roles within realistic goals. These teachers compromise their dreams of being saviors in hopes that they might reach a few students. These are exactly the kinds of teachers that Michie targets as villains in his book because they have reduced themselves to those realistic goals, whereas many of the other 70% were heroes for only a few of years, changing nothing.