Great teachers are hard to find

Our school system isn’t doing its job in Illinois and the teachers have to accept much of the blame. They have allowed administrations to dominate the education system, and pensions to drive their goals. A good teacher is dedicated to helping young students learn so they can be better adults. That’s not happening

By Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

I’ve never received more emails from readers than I did when I wrote a few weeks back about the failure of our local high schools to prepare our children to be “college ready.”

As you may recall, only 60 percent of high school students are “college ready” when they graduate.

That’s pretty pathetic. When I received 60 percent on my school work, that was considered being on the edge of failure. Only a few high schools are graduating more than 70 percent of their students “ready for college.”

A few of the people who emailed were teachers angry with the suggestion that the fault rests on the shoulders of the teachers. That’s fair. I don’t blame ALL of the teachers. I do blame many of them but I do blame the administrations of the schools the most.

When I went to high school. Students with learning challenges were pretty much pushed into a corner. There were several students who sat in the corner and were never challenged by the teachers, who instead seemed to regale in the brilliance of a handful of students who got straight A’s, oftentimes even without trying.

Ray Hanania with students in the Reavis High school music club in 1968

Ray Hanania (top right) with students in the Reavis High school music club in 1968

Some kids are A students. Some kids are C students. A few graduated only because they weren’t troublesome.

There are some great teachers, though. Brilliant ones. And sadly, as much as teachers don’t want to admit it, there are a lot of teachers who are crap. But rather than call those teachers out, they protect them. They circle around them and help deflect the criticism because to many teachers, and especially to the teaching system, a D is a passing great. Not a great one but the teachers don’t want to waste their valuable talents helping students who can barely make Ds or Cs and would rather spend their efforts helping the B and A students.

Well, it’s more fun for a teacher to be around a smart student and so depressing to be around a student that is a D student.

If I were a teacher, I’d want to be remembered as a brilliant teacher. I wouldn’t push aside the concerns of students just because I was overwhelmed. I’d focus on the students with the challenges.

That doesn’t always happen though.

I skated through grade school and the first two years of high school as a D and C student. I flunked English composition repeatedly. I didn’t read any books. I couldn’t write and I wasn’t a student leader. The system designated me as a “skater,” just moving. As long as I was moving, the system was happy with me. Because a D was good enough.

I lucked out in my junior year at Reavis High school (my 4th high school after Bown, Bogan and Little Flower). I stumbled into a classroom by one of those teachers who did care, Mrs. Harris. I don’t know where she is today, but if it wasn’t for her, I don’t know what I would be doing.

She challenged me. Asked me what I liked to do. I played a mean lead guitar in a high school band. She asked me to write a column about rock music for the school newspaper, The Blueprint, and I did. In my senior year, I was named the newspaper’s editor-in-chief.

It’s part of the reason I got into journalism and became a writer. Granted, not everyone loves my views, but my writings can move you to passion or anger, which is all I can hope for.

I don’t expect every teacher to be a “Mrs. Harris.” But I do expect them to try. And clearly, not enough of them are trying enough.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and columnist. Email him at [email protected].)

Ray Hanania

Blogger, Columnist at Illinois News Network Online
Ray Hanania is senior blogger for the Illinois News Network news site. He is an award winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist who covered the beat from 1976 through 1992 (From Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley). And, Hanania is a stubborn and loud critic of the biased mainstream American news media.

Hanania covered Chicago political beats including Chicago City Hall while at the Daily Southtown Newspapers (1976-1985) and later for the Chicago Sun-Times (1985-1992). He published The Villager Community Newspapers covering 12 Southwest suburban regions (1993-1997). Hanania also hosted live political news radio talkshows on WLS AM (1980 - 1991), and also on WBBM FM, WLUP FM, WSBC AM in Chicago, and WNZK AM in Detroit.

The recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, Hanania was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. Hananiaalso received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. He currently is syndicated through Creators Syndicate. He has written for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post,, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star of Lebanon, the News of the World in London, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, The Saudi Gazette, the Arab News in Jeddah, and Aramco Magazine. He also writes for

He is President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

His personal website is, and Email him at: [email protected].

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