Jim Amidon — Jeremy Robinson returned to Wabash Monday to recruit for the Teach for American program, which he joined after graduation in 2004. We had a few minutes to chat late in the day and it was a real treat to listen as he described his work at Harper High School on Chicago’s southwest side.
And what a difference a year makes. "Last year was all about survival," he told us. "This year is about becoming the best teacher I can be; this year is about being professional in everything I do."
He shows wisdom far beyond his 24 years. His year-plus in one of Chicago’s worst public schools has shown him plenty; he sees firsthand the inequity in public education and hopes that he and Teach for America can do something about it. "We need to provide more incentives so that teaching is a job people want to do; if we paid teachers what we pay doctors we could certainly have a better talent pool," he says.
Teach for America had a nine percent acceptance rate into the program when Jeremy applied; this year it was 17 percent, making it every bit as competitive as most graduate and professional schools.
He loves teaching this year. He sees himself as the CEO of his classroom, making decisions, focusing conversations. "This year I have ‘street cred’ and I know what I’m doing."
Jeremy teaches ninth graders in 100-minute blocks. He says Harper has only three periods in a day to eliminate passing time, which reduces fights, skipped classes, and other behavioral problems. "I just want to work with them to make them the best writers I can," he says.
And he always wears a tie: "The tie is about professionalism," he told us. "I just feel more professional and know I’m more focused when I have the tie on.
"And, it serves as a barrier between me and my students. Yes, they are young and I am young, but this tie indicates that I’m in charge."
Jeremy will be featured in the December issue of Wabash Magazine, themed "Callings."