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.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Why Teachers Fail

Why do teachers fail? Interesting question. Do they lack the skills to teach, to communicate, to be the constant actor on the stage entertaining for five to six hours? Perhaps they do not have the knowledge to teach what they teach? Perhaps they think teaching is just a paycheck?

I don't know. There are times when my students try me to the point of--well, I don't know. I guess some days teaching school is like getting hit by someone who runs a stop sign and then jumps out of their car hysterical because you were in the way.

I do have an idea though. The community can be a negative influence. So can the parents.

Case in point:

I was put in charge of keeping order during my school's annual field day activity. The local alderman for once helped out and the streets surrounding the school were closed. A corporation came through with a giant enclosed jumping ride. Someone else showed up with a train. The teachers and staff had so many good ideas, every child was busy.

Except for two.

Once again, their teacher had some kind of an emergency and was supposed to show up at 9:30. The teacher aide watching the class could not control these two boys. Two cousins. Both fourth graders. They ran from the room and tore up and down the hallway yelling and whooping it up. I thought they thought they were at a rodeo.

I stopped them. Contained them. Held onto them until I found out their teacher was not going to show. A substitute took the room. No way these two boys were going to be put back in that class.

Just so you know: On any average week, I end up with at least three students from other clasrooms because their teacher needs a timeout.

So they remained with me, begging to go on the rides, particpate in the carnival activities, and visit the African-American cowboy who was demonstrating his skills in the gym.

Then I saw the bigger one's mother.

"What did they do?" she demanded. She wasn't angry. Really, she wasn't. She was more disappointed.

I told her how they disrupted the school running up and down the halls yelling and screaming.

"What are you going to do with them?" she asked.

"They'll stay with me. Unless you want to watch them."

"Sure," she replied.

"But I need your assistance," I told her.

She asked me what she could do to help. I told her I would rather they do not get to go on the two rides. I thought that was an apt punishment for disrupting the school. She readily agreed.

You know how the story ends. She brought them closer and closer to the best ride. Each time I saw her moving them--pass the ring toss, pass the three legged race, pass the pop corn machine--I reminded her of the punishment we agreed on.

"Don't worry. I only want them to see what they missed."

The next time I near the jumping machine guess what? Oh, you already did.

You're right. They're in the jumping machine having a blast. And this wasn't their first time either. Her being a parent seemed to get her extra privileges. This was their third time.

She's on the school's Local School Council as a parent representative.

It's no wonder we have problems.


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