Americans at Work: Elementary and High-School Educators in Chicago

Welcome to a new series of photo essays at the Atlantic titled Americans at Work. Every Saturday, until the end of February, we will be presenting a new original story  portraying the breadth and variety of the landscape of work in America today.

Our inaugural story about educators in Chicago from more than a dozen schools comes from Chicago-based documentary photographer Marc Monaghan: “When I started this project I expected I would see teachers, administrators, and support staff engaged in meaningful ways in their work. I imagined that I would see the consequences of their efforts in the physical set up of the classrooms, the pacing of lessons, in classroom management and in the engagement of students. I saw all of that. I witnessed care, dedication and professionalism, minute after minute, hour after hour, throughout the full day I spent with each of most of the teachers.

I was surprised at how fully the teachers supported the work I was doing. They let me do what I needed to do. They gathered releases from parents and guardians, contacting them after hours and on weekends. They read my caption notes for accuracy. In their help, I felt their desire to be seen and understood.

The teachers I observed exhibited superb executive functioning skills, inquisitive minds and care for their students; they got tired during the day and they worked diligently. During the process of photographing these classrooms and schools, my understanding of the work teachers, administrators and support staff do and my respect for them as professionals was reinforced and deepened. I hope this is revealed in this collection of images.”

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