A Teacher's Day

The day in the life of an inner city large urban school district teacher after the high stakes testing ends and there is still three more months left before summer vacation.

Name:
Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

I have taught school for over thirty years always in the inner city and for the most part always upper grade students. I have two children and I have been married for twenty years.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Friday's ISAT Test was a disaster. Not for me. I was sitting with seventh graders proctoring them. No, it was my sixth graders. They were the disaster.

The proctors told me afterwards they were really worried. Walking around the room they saw puzzled expresions on almost every child's face. The first few problems were too easy, they explained, and yet no one was getting them right.

2(3 + {} ) = 6 + 36

My class almost to a T put down the wrong answer. How do I know? After the test, one of the proctors showed me one of the problems. He had changed it, of course, and I asked him to put it on the board.

"How do you do this?" he began.

"We already know," came the reply of a few students. I sat on my desk and watched.

One sixth grade girl refused to look at the board. "It's 36," she said with disdain.

"Right," he said.

"Told you we know this," the class shouted out.

But no one knew it. Not even the proctor. How do you tell an adult he is wrong?

"Excuse me," I interrupted, "but 36 is not the answer."

Everyone looked at me.

"It can't be 36, because both sides have to be the same," I explained. "It has to be something else."

He looked at the problem, touched his hand to his forehead and said, "Yes, of course. I've been under a lot of pressure...Of course, let me show you."

Then he added the one side and asked the class what he should do next. The sixth grade girl turned her back to him. "I was right," she said. "It's 36."

He showed them how the answer was 18 and then gave them another example.

So on and so on.

They didn't know .50 is equal to two quarters or how to simplify 16/24. They were lost when they had to find the area of a square inside of a square.

After school the principal was worried. She has a right to be. In Chicago the charter school movement is not only alive and vibrant, but its devouring the system. We're on probation this year. What will happen next?

Today the math teacher is absent. She emailed me her lesson plans. I can only cross my fingers and hope when we resume the ISAT tomorrow, my class will do better.

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