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.

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.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


I woke before the alarm clock, was out of the door five minutes early, the weather was perfect—the perfect sky, the perfect breeze, the perfect temperature—and one of my former colleagues drove up to me one mile into my walk and offered me door to door service to my school. How cool is that!

I wrote some, revised some, answered correspondence, and prepared my classroom for the lessons of the day. These included a show and tell of African artifacts, some dating back hundreds of years, some recently purchased. I practiced the scary story I was going to tell—a story that actually happened to me many years ago and I prepared for the third day of the scary story/science fiction week. Then I went outside even though I didn’t have to and I walked around the playground. Everything was quiet. The too-good-to-be-true kind of quiet. And it stayed quiet. Yeah!

My classroom came in quietly too. Even Cursing Boy from my horrible, horrible, terrible day. And he apologized. And I told him I accepted his apology and I said, “When I need to learn new curse words, I’ll use you for my consultant.” He laughed and worked all day and did not even speak out of turn. Not once. I told my class my scary story and asked for persuasive essays on if they thought the story was true or not. I received great responses. Then we read a portion of Ray Bradbury’s speculative science fiction—and again the class did great. Great answers. Great responses. I pulled out my African artifacts and you could hear a pin drop. Another great activity. When we switched classes, the next room did just as well. Whoopee!

After lunch I introduced to my room the first concepts of trigonometry. They paid attention. They took notes. They tried hard to understand. And when the principal came on the intercom to invite my class to the tech fair, I was giving final directions. They were engaged. They were excited. I was excited. They were catching on. Super doopper!

The tech fair went well. We came back upstairs. We got ready to go home—but my day wasn’t over yet because now it was time for the second round in the teacher/student basketball game. Remember: We lost the first time. So I suited up and went into the gym and the students started yelling: “Brownstein! Brownstein! Brownstein!” They clapped and applauded and chanted my name over a dozen times. So I got into the game—and guess what?—I passed better, did not miss anything thrown to me at all, even dribbled the ball twice, took a number of passes, and attempted one shot. Well, at least it hit the outer rim. I even got one rebound. And here’s the best part of all: We were down by twelve when I got into the game and when I came off the court, we were down by two. Unbelievable!

We won the game and now there will be one more. "Michael," one of the teachers asked, "will you be playing again?" It’s a two out of three series. Of course, I'll be playing again. Maybe this time I’ll make a basket—but I still wish the teachers would challenge the students to field hockey. Now that’s a game I can play.


Blogger Rose Fisher said...

Hello Michael,

I went to the local Boys and Girls Club yesterday afternoon to help with a presentation on Positive Action for the youth counselors. As is usually the case, they had the idea that extrinsic rewards were the way to handle situation, be good and you can have....whatever, trying to grasp the theory of intrinsic rewards is a tough one. I was the oldest one there so I was sort of looked on as if I may be out of touch, but they gave me the benefit of a doubt and listened well. I toyed with the idea of teaching painting at the club, kept me up half the night, since they range in age from eight to eighteen I wondered if it would be dangerous to bring in oils and the chemicals that go with them. Then of course, the question of having enough easels, was I ready to commit to the point of contributing these materials to the club, maybe, I know the power of having the work of your hands display what is in your heart. I think when you feel good about yourself you can own the world.
I read your blog from yesterday, it was a bad day for you. How do you get up the next day and do it again. I have lived in Chicago, on the North West side, and I know about the violence. I read your poem too, lots of angst there, personal? or is it your daily experience in the inner city.
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7:37 AM  
Blogger Orrah said...

Well, I'm certainly glad things got better after yur horrible day.


5:47 AM  

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