Individual Author Record
BACKGROUND FOR BOOK:The greatest and most important difficulty of human science is the education of children. (Montaigne) Nearly one third of all ninth graders do not graduate from high school. Judy, Billy, and Niki are part of that statistic. The focus of this book is to profile them and a number of other high school students enrolled in a truancy program at Oak Park and River Forest (OPRF) High School, an institution nestled in the heart of Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb just west of Chicago. The material gathered and presented here encompasses five years of my work begun in 1979 when I was hired to direct and implement the high school's chronic truancy program. It included a class called social seminar coupled with a daily support system throughout the semester for those incoming freshmen and sophomores who had been identified as having a truancy pattern. So began OPRF's attempt to alleviate the dropout problem that had reared its head, although, to the nearest public high school, a 4% dropout rate would have been cause for celebration rather than concern.My arrival at OPRF was a return of sorts. The high school is exactly two miles west of the neighborhood where I was born, raised and explored alleys, gangways, Garfield Park and the tracks near Kilbourn. Our west side neighborhood was a far cry from the little town west of Austin Boulevard where, as teenagers in the late fifties, a group of us once ventured to find out if the rumor was true. It was. And to this day, even though I am living in one, it is hard to believe the rumor and reality that there is only one family living in each of those large buildings. On Wilcox Street we lived in two flats and houses touched each other, allowing for late night conversations when parents assumed the kids were asleep. My first move out of the west side came when I went off to St. Mary-of-the-Woods College and trained to be a high school Spanish and English teacher. In 1964, nervous but thrilled, I entered my first classroom at Central Catholic High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I found the subjects taking a back seat. What I taught was important. Who I taught kept me going. It wasn't six weeks before I discovered a scarcely known migrant camp over in Bluffton, Indiana. Our newly formed Spanish club set about gathering clothes and journeyed weekly to visit new found friends who spoke no English and lived in sheds instead of homes.Sol Wood Youth Center became a familiar spot where I visited a freshman who had stolen cars. Working with those "on the edge" was becoming a way of life. After five years, I returned to Chicago with the prospect of teaching at Columbkille, a small high school on Grand and Paulina. It was there I met Hilda, a small Puerto Rican freshman who lived across the alley from the school. My first encounter with the police in that neighborhood came when Hilda and I were walking through Goldblatt's on Chicago Avenue and Ashland. She bolted from my side as a gentleman began to approach us. It took an hour to explain that I was not in cahoots with the young lady they knew as their biggest thief. On those streets I began to recognize the impact gangs had on the community, especially the schools. Intrigued by this subculture, I entered parts of it by invitation. A year later Columbkille closed and I was asked about working with a team of adults who were looking at moving to Pilsen, the Mexican community around 18th and Ashland. The team's purpose was to spread out and attempt to do what we could to draw out the leadership within the Mexican community. It was there I put daily teaching on hold and began to work exclusively with street gangs. With Cook County Jail so close, I found my way into the cold walls and taught English to the Spanish speaking men every Monday night. For two and a half years, I found working with the gangs and at the jail intense, depressing, exhilarating, . . . and often all in the same night.Armed with a new awareness of the politics involved in community life and the helplessness of those who try to help, I ventured back into the academic arena and earned a master's degree in social work. Shortly thereafter, I moved to Oak Park, Illinois, where I worked in an evening school drop out program at OPRF. I also began working as a psychotherapist, joined the township committee on youth, taught graduate courses in education, and continued to gain a more global view of the world west of Austin Boulevard. In 1979, when the opportunity came along once again to work with students "on the edge," I jumped at it. As a social worker and teacher at OPRF, I was assigned approximately 45 students having records of chronic truancy. I met with them in groups of 15 for one period every day. Students received one credit for this class which aimed at helping them understand the kinds of problems that kept them from attending school and experiencing success. Besides teaching the three classes called Social Seminar, my time was spent working with individual students, teachers, deans, community people and families. The three junior high feeder schools provided a list of students who exhibited "attendance problems" during junior high. The term "attendance problems" was purposely vague to allow the junior high leeway in determining where to draw the line. It could mean that they might refer students with 10 days absent and others with 57 days absent. Along with the number of days absent, information was asked with regard to days tardy and academic and behavioral issues. Meeting with junior high administrators expanded the names and information along with providing clarification. With the final list of names, a visit was in order. The 15 or so sophomores could generally be rounded up on the high school school mall or after a class they were attending. Then again, they might be at the Willow, a local grill on the corner of Lake and East. With a somewhat undeserved reputation for being the hangout for burnouts, it provided easy access to kids who were cutting. It was also a place to sit down, have a Coke and feel the pulse of the neighborhood. The incoming freshmen were visited in May at the junior high schools. Those absent or truant that day were paid a home visit. The initial contacts were purposely brief: "Hello, my name is Marge. I'm a teacher at OPRF and you won the jackpot. You get to have me as one of your teachers next semester." That comment usually provoked the intended response: a curious "this lady must be nuts" look that provided a non threatening entrance into the student's life. A short explanation followed about the class that would be part of their schedule and the fact that it was a class only for kids having trouble getting to school and/or cutting classes. Other than being truant, all students were part of the regular mainstream program as opposed to special education. They were students in regular math, English, science, etc. Once the semester started and classes began, information relating to students was readily accessible. I was privy to grades, self-assessments, evaluations, work samples, teacher reports, daily classroom observations and interactions, out of-school contacts, police contacts, community agencies, letters from the students, notes shoved under the door, photographs of students, self portraits, audio and video tapes, classroom teacher's journal, dinner celebrations, classroom activities, etc. Given the accumulation of experience and materials over the five year period, I set about the task of looking at these people whom we called "truants." Who are these young men and women for whom we develop structure and design programs with the hope that they remain in the system and graduate?
Biographical and Professional Information
Marge Tye Zuba, Ed.D., MSWDr. Marge Tye Zuba is an internationally recognized educator, author, speaker and consultant on education, gangs, leadership, management and motivation. Utilizing her expertise in the area of Learning Styles, Motivation and Classroom Management, Marge has presented courses and workshops all over the world to educators, parents and businesses. She earned her doctorate in Leadership and Educational Policy Studies from Northern Illinois University and her Master's in Social World from the Jane Addams Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Marge has been a member of the faculty at Northern Illinois University where she spearheaded the first inner city graduate education program at Roberto Clemente High School Academy in Chicago. She has also been on faculty at the University of Illinois and is currently on staff as an Adjunct at DePaul University, Framingham State College International Programs and Capella University.Dr. Zuba has spent more than twenty years as a high school teacher, creator and Director of a Chronic Truancy Program, and Dean/Counselor at Oak Park River Forest High School in Oak Park, Illinois. She has also worked with Latino street gangs in Chicago's Pilsen and Little Village area.Internationally, Marge works with teachers in Africa, Latin America, South America, Europe and the United States. She has authored Wish I Could've Told You,a book chronicling the lives of students identified as Truants in a Chicago suburb. She also co-edited the book, Education/Change, which focuses on multicultural education. Marge’s roots are in the west side of Chicago. She currently lives in Oak Park, Illinois.Ordering Book: Wish I Could’ve Told YouTo place an order for this book, contact Marge at: [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com]Cost: $23.00
- Wish I Could Have Told You, Portraits of Teenagers Almost Dropping Out, TYE PRESS, Reprinted 2009
Titles At Your Library
Wish I Could'Ve Told You: Portraits of Teenagers Almost Dropping Out
LEPS Press, Northern Illinois University. 1995