John left his publishing job at Hachette to become a classroom teacher – in the Bronx. He had heart, and he wanted to help. He learned much about his students, especially the educational needs that were lacking to be met.
But he was going to find that his help wasn’t really required at Latinate Institute (pseudonym), a small public school focused on setting an example for reform. The administration needed teachers simply to push and enforce their “Big Ideas,” as Owens calls it. And when things don’t go according to the Big Plan…the teachers are to blame, and the students are just statistical performance numbers.
This is the article that started it all.
Why I Left Publishing To Teach In The South Bronx
By John Owens, author of Confessions of a Bad Teacher
When I left a high-level publishing job in a Manhattan skyscraper to teach English at a public school in New York City’s South Bronx, I thought I could do some good for underprivileged kids. I am a middle-aged professional, but I’m not lazy. I’m not crazy. I’m great with kids and I love literature.
My love of words has taken me from a troubled, working-class childhood to a wonderfully happy, successful life. I have been writing—and teaching others to write—for a long time. And I have enjoyed helping younger writers build great careers. During a three-decade career as a writer, editor, and corporate executive, I had traveled to more than a hundred countries, met heads of state, and picked up some wisdom about getting along and getting ahead in life that I thought was worth sharing with those just starting the journey. I wanted to make an impact directly with kids in the classroom. To use the cliché, I felt it was time to “give back.”
There was something else at work here, too. For want of a better word, I will call it patriotism. The flood of immigrants into New York City in recent years has been astounding. Currently, nearly 40 percent of the city’s residents are immigrants, according to data compiled by the Weissman Center for International Business at Baruch College. Queens and Manhattan have seen huge influxes from China. The Bronx and Brooklyn are teeming with Dominicans. Africans, especially from the central belt of the continent, are numerous in the Bronx.
Needless to say, the children who have come with or been born to these recent arrivals are the future of our country. They need teachers and mentors, guides to help them navigate what often is a new world. Teachers like I had growing up. Teachers who can present a passion for the greatness and potential of learning and the greatness and potential of America. Teachers who can make kids want to be upstanding, successful Americans.