Tyrese Graham is a second year science teacher at John Marshall Metropolitan High School on the West Side of Chicago. When he started teaching, Marshall was among the worst public schools in the city. At StoryCorps, Tyrese talked about his first day on the job.
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Being a teacher in this type of environment, you're going to be faced with a lot that you would have never thought you would face. I never thought I would face the death of a student. He was a kid that I had when he was a freshman, in freshman biology. And, he got killed in a drive-by shooting. He was shot in the head--his mother was also shot in the arm. I've dealt with death before, but I had never dealt with the death of somebody so young and somebody with so much potential. A lot of times, we're faced with a lot of kids who don't want to be in school or who are forced to be here. But this was a kid who really valued his education.
I remember being at the funeral; I was trying to be strong, and I saw one of my students approach his casket to view his body, and she couldn't, and she started crying, and that's when I lost it. And I could not control myself. These kids have to face this everyday. I don't live here. I can go home when all of that stuff begins to happen. They don't have that luxury.
I've been humbled a lot. I've learned so much, and I understand it's one of the most challenging, if not the most challenging jobs you will ever face. Really, it's not a job; you're dedicating your life to this.
And at the beginning of the year last year, I was like, you know what, I'm going to make it through this year and I'm leaving. But then, at the beginning of September, I walked through this door, and at this point I would not go anywhere else. I love it here.
New Teacher Project - Chicago