Hallelujah the Saviors are Here


Smith, Rachel




Rachel Smith wrote the poem, "Hallelujah the Saviors are Here," when she was 18 years old and a member of the Kenwood Academy Slam Poetry team. She performed this poem at the 2012 Louder than a Bomb Festival, the largest teen slam poetry festival in the world. "Hallelujah the Saviors are Here" is, as the WBEZ website puts it, "a condemnation of teachers who come to the "inner city" to without becoming a true member of the community." The poem brings up myriad issues including racial difference between students and teachers and what it means for people to try and "save" a community that is not their own.

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Diversity and DifferenceImpact and OutcomesLove and CompassionMotives and ValuesPoverty and NeedPower and PrivilegeRace, Ethnicity and CultureRoles and BoundariesServing and VolunteeringTeaching and LearningWork and Vocation

Big Questions

How do we connect with those who are different from us?How do we know the impact of our actions?What is the impact of our actions - on ourselves and others?What does empathy look like?Do one’s motives for serving or giving matter? How?How should we respond to people and communities in need?Who is responsible for addressing poverty and why?What is the appropriate response to privilege?How does race affect our relations to others?What are the limits of my ability to help or serve?Is my service changing the world or only myself? Is that enough?What are the greatest obstacles to teaching and learning?What are the qualities of a good teacher?Who or what makes learning possible?What do I hope my work accomplishes?

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. Who are the saviors that Smith describes? When you picture them in your head, how do they look? Act?
  2. What does Smith suggest that the “saviors” are gaining from teaching in urban schools?
  3. Smith says that the saviors come to “white out our stains and give our souls a little bleach.” What do you think she means? Given your experience in education, is this a fair assessment?
  4. “They’ll break us apart then tell us to reform but they give us all the wrong parts.” What are the wrong parts that Smith is talking about here? What would the right parts be?
  5. How does Smith distinguish the “saviors” from the “true educators?” Do you see this distinction where you work? How does it impact your school?
  6. Is it possible for short-term teachers in urban education to "do good?" If so, what would that look like? If not, why not?
  7. If they're doing more harm than good (as Smith suggests), what should they do -- leave the school, not join a short-term teaching program, get their Master's and continue teaching even if they are not good teachers or don't want to continue teaching?
  8. Imagine a world where “Hallelujah the Saviors are Here” is not an ironic title for a poem about urban education. What does that world look like?
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