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.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

My Second Week in Jefferson City, Missouri

Things have started moving faster and faster. First the Jeff City News-Tribune published an article by Jeff Haldiman about gangs and I received front page coverage. Then the TV station from Columbia (Channel 8's David Schneider) came out and spent almost two hours with me for a story on gangs. They even used a bit of my wife's video of a knife attack between a group of gang members. (If I can figure out how to do it, I'll run the video on this blog.)

It's almost over. I thought it might take two months to get rid of the problem, but now it might be just a few weeks.

The police are involved, the city council is angry about the negative publicity, the media is fascinated by everything, and the neighbors are joining together to stop the problem.

Oh, yes, I met the founder of the Corner Boyz. He's a kid named Troy and we had a little talk.

There is no such thing as a gang wannabees just like there is no such thing as a duck wannabeing a duck. A duck is a duck. A gang wannabee wants to be a gang member--so they are gang members.

Troy remains a wannabee.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Summer Vacation in Jefferson City, MO

I am now ending the first week of my summer vacation in a smallish town—population of about 40,000 (quite a difference from Chicago). Jefferson City, Missouri is actually one of the most desirable places for retirees. I didn’t make this up. It’s in the Kiplinger Report. I’d rather be in Chicago. It’s safer there.

This has not been a vacation. I have already met with the chief of police Roger Schroeder, a few other officers including Captain Mike Smith, the city administrator and Gail Strope from Human Resources (whatever that is). We have a gang situation here that is about to explode and for some strange reason the police perceive everything that is going on as a dispute between neighbors.

Example: My wife videotaped an actual knife attack on the street in front of our house. It was a fight between girls and a few adults. The adult held one of the victims as her daughter swung on her with a knife. Thank God for a teenage boy who pulled the girl with the knife away at just the right moment. And it seems to always be girls attacking. Was my wife called as a witness? No. Can she press charges for disturbance of the peace? No. Can she even tell the police who started the fight? They don’t want to know. I’m amazed.

There is no disorderly conduct charge down here and the curfew laws allow children to stay out past 12:30 AM. It gets worse. If one adult over 21 is in the house, there is no curfew violation at all as long as the children do not step off of the property. I have even been to the city council where I gave a fairly impassioned speech—and nothing gets done.

The police actually believe this is just a problem between neighbors—and I know I have already said this—but I cannot believe that this is their actual sentiment.

The other night twenty youths stood on the corner at 1:00 AM and tried to break the stop sign at the corner. We have the E Block Boyz, the GDs (though I think they're just a bunch of wannabees), the Street Hustlers, and the Corner Boys (who I am taking very seriously).

I myself spray painted gang signs off the street. We have photos of this. I think I’ll upload them to this blog.

I have a bunch more to write, but I have other obligations. I’ll write when I get a chance.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Records Day

There has to be a last day of school and I guess yesterday was that day. The children do come back on Friday, but that’s for only an hour or so. They receive their report cards and their new room assignments. Many of them will also receive their summer school assignments.

Today is Records Day. We’ll work on all of our records and tomorrow we’ll get them to their new classrooms. It should be a fairly easy day.

Yesterday, my class played games and had outdoor recess and then we had gym. A very easy day for me. One of the grandparents—a lot of my students live with a grandparent—brought enough cola and chips for a mini kind of party and we did that too.

I was able to write the narrative for the After-School All Stars program grant that’s due in a few days—but I won’t be here to hand it in. I’m heading someplace else. I’m not really sure what to do with this blog during the summer when I’m not teaching, but I think I’ll be on it a few times a week reflecting.

The Least Restricted Environment Grant is read. They want me to work on this project during July sometime, but they just told me to begin working on everything a week ago—as if teachers do not make summer vacation plans. I have a hand picked team who will help out in the summer. Yesterday we stayed at the school past 5:00 to package all of the LRE info. Everything is organized for the team. They shouldn’t have too many problems.

I liked this class a lot. They had a lot of personality and a lot of problems, but we were able to do a lot of good things. I’m still waiting for the standardized test scores for the seventh grade and the seventh grade ISAT test scores. I’m confident their scores will be very good.

Some of the teachers will be leaving us—board requirements, lack of funds and moves by the board. A few of them were great. One of the teachers, Lisa Provost, was the 8th grade math teacher. This was her very first year teaching. Her scores sky rocketed. But even more importantly, I thought she was one of the best math teachers I have had the opportunity to work with. Unfortunately, she is the low man on the totem pole and so she has to leave.

Another teacher, Kristina Utley, a brand new second grade teacher, was a superstar as far as I was concerned. She helped me with the grantwriting committee--really her and I were the grantwritng committee--and she was one of the teaching stars of the After-Schoo0l All Stars Program. She is also a first year teacher and I hate to see her go.

But this is the way it is. This is the way of the Chicago Board of Education. Something's just cannot be changed.

Overall it was a good year.

Can’t wait till September. Even with all of the changes, I think it already promises to be a challenging and exciting year.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


The 8th grade graduation went smooth as a good drink of cool water after a hard day’s work. Everything was just perfect. The processional, the music, even the two dancers from somewhere else. Mrs. Antoinette Sigler, one of the 8th grade teachers, sang beautifully. The only real drawback was the key note speaker who I have already forgotten.

(Overheard from someone in the audience: If this guy comes next year, I won’t be coming at all.)

Then the 8th grade students took a rose and went to their parents or guardians in the audience and gave it to them. It was wonderful. Enough to bring tears to a wise guy’s eyes. In fact, one of the new LSC (Local School Council) members actually left the gym. “I’m too sensitive,” he said.

Then the graduates sang another song—YOU CAN COUNT ON ME, quite well, to tell the truth, and then we had the special awards.

When I gave the young girl her award (really my mother gave her the envelope—and no one knew who I had picked until I said it—the audience went crazy. Yet even as she fell out of her seat into the hugs of her sisters, I did not see any adults at all. I had heard her grandmother was there—but she never made it inside. Not enough room. And she couldn’t breathe well either. And I could not get any additional verification. How can the parents and/or guardians not come to something this special?

(And it is special. In the neighborhood high school, five hundred students began as freshmen four years ago, but only seventy crossed the stage at their graduation.)

On the stage my mother hugged the winner and I hugged her, too, and her smile was so big, even the dark gym became sunlight flash bright.

Nonetheless, the graduation was very nice—everyone’s comments to my Seymour Brownstein blog were very nice too.

I’m even going to include the comments from TT and Dwight Eastman in this blog.

Anonymous said…

How can we help?


Dwight said…

What a wonderful posting! I am touched by what you give due credit and honor to your father and to your mother at the award ceremony.

Where do I send my contribution to the Seymour Brownstein College Scholarship Fund? Give your answer as a posting so that it can be linked directly and can contain over time the amounts that the fund has grown to.

How plain, tragic and wonderful the work that you do; the world that we all live in.

Dwight said…

Send donations to:

Seymour Brownstein Award
C/O Michael Brownstein
4415 S. King Dr.
Chicago, IL 60653

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Seymour Brownstein Most Improved Student Award

Almost twelve years ago my father Seymour Brownstein passed away. He was a hardworking individual who established in his children the same principles and values that he himself followed. I remember discussions with him about a number of issues—corporate welfare; the necessity of a good education; the need to be a good reader; how the poor are not poor because of weak character traits, but because of circumstances oftentimes beyond their control; and when you try as hard as you can, many times it is as gratifying as winning.

I remember one cold Thanksgiving. He had a bad cold. I was entered in a turkey trot—a ten kilometer run, if I remember correctly. It was a dismal day, cloudy and gray, the landscape windswept. I ran and didn’t win. He wrote a poem about it. I believe I came in fourteenth. It didn’t matter. The fact that he thought enough to memorialize the event in a poem was enough for me. The fact that he was always there watching, at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end was more than enough.

Today the 8th graders graduate from my school. With the help of family members, I have raised the price of the prize to seventy-five dollars. I’m giving it to a young lady who last year followed the wrong crowds from one negative incident to another. She wasn’t a child who could not do the schoolwork; she was a child who didn’t care to do the work. What a difference a year makes.

Today I am going to give her the seventy-five dollar prize because she is no longer a follower. Today she is beginning to be a leader. I’m going to say to the audience:

“I’m just a school teacher so you know I don’t have a whole lot of money, but I’m going to make an almost promise. An almost promise is when you promise to try to do something to the best of your ability no matter how hard it is to do. If—no, no, if’s the wrong word. When—a much better word—the winner of the Annual Seymour Brownstein Most Improved Students Award gets through high school with adequate grades—we’ll say a B- or better—and when she makes it through high school and doesn’t have a baby, I’ll do everything in my power to make sure she gets into college and gets a scholarship—how about if we name it the Seymour Brownstein College Scholarship.”

I’ll say some other things, too. I’ll talk about peer pressure and following and negative choices. I’ll talk about how great it is to see a young lady blossom in the 8th grade to become a positive leader. Then I’ll call my mother, Lynn Brownstein, to the stage and let her give the envelope to the winner.

This is the way life should be. A reward to someone who epitomizes exactly everything my father taught me when he was alive. There is always room for improvement. Make room for it.

Monday, June 12, 2006

What Happens to a Students after the Police are Notified

I remember when children either admired or were in fear of the police. I remember a time children respected their parents. I remember a time—well, you get the idea and if you don’t, I guess you don’t remember.

A boy hit a girl on the face with a metal broom in the classroom. He busted her face open and the paramedics and police were called. (See blog entitled A Week to go and Now This below.) The girl’s mother refused to have her daughter hospitalized for stitches. The police were willing to make a police report. The school suspended him for the rest of the year—all of four days.

School ended at 2:45. The boy was taken home by his grandmother. At 3:00 he was outside playing basketball.

I don’t understand this.

I can’t understand this.

But I don’t know what to do.

A Week to Go--and Now This

One day I asked one of my students who curses all of the time where he learned to curse so well. He told me one of the teachers cursed all of the time and he learned the words from her. It’s interesting. He comes from a house of alcoholics and drug addicts. When he would get suspended, his extended family allowed him to go outside everyday. One time he got in serious trouble—police trouble—but thirty minutes later there he was playing basketball as if nothing had ever happened.

I spend time every year explaining to my class what true parental love is. I say love is not just feeding you and clothing you and finding a shelter for you. That’s an obligation. If your parent can’t do these things, there are laws to make them change. I tell them a loving parent knows how to punish their child, how to listen, how to keep them safe, how to make time for them and give them a variety of experiences.

So one of my students decided she has to go to the 8th grade party even though she knew it was only for 8th graders. She threw one of her temper tantrums. Usually her parent will side with her and let her in. Not this time. This time she was not allowed in. Instead she was sent back to class. She never made it. She put her head down on a desk outside and cried the entire time. At the end of the day, she tried to get in again and again her parent sent her out and home. My student was confused. Temper tantrums always worked before. Why not this time?

Too many times parents create individuals to become future monsters. Unconditional support under every circumstance is not the answer. True parental love includes the ability to set limits, make limits and enforce limits.

I can’t believe a seventh grade boy will hit a girl on the face with the metal handle of a broom and break her skin so badly, she needs stitches. Why did he do this? She was throwing things and hit him by mistake. But she apologized and smiled at him. Not once. Not even twice. She apologized four times. After the fourth apology he hit her on the face. He would have done more damage but she protected her face with her hands when he swung the second time. Did he show remorse? Of course not. Not until his grandmother commanded him to. Did he lie to everyone? Of course. He said he apologized. He said he did not shrug his shoulders as if he didn’t care. He said—but what does it matter what he said.

I have one week left of school.

The kindergarten graduates today. The 8th grade graduates tomorrow. Then I’m getting on the Amtrak train and heading out of here for the summer.

Friday, June 09, 2006

I'm the Security Guy

So the principal asks me if I can do the security guy’s job after school because he is absent. I, of course, say sure. I don’t have much of a choice really.

For the least two years I have been conducting a serious research project: I want to see if over aged and/or failing sixth graders can improve substantially on standardized tests when they are in a room with above average success oriented seventh graders. Since almost all of the sixth graders in my class have failed at least once, I offer them the opportunity to get to the right grade if they work really hard, get the correct grades, and show a large improvement on standardized tests.

All of the research I have ever read on failing shows a serious negative effect on the academics of the students. (I even read an article showing how males of color who fail twice during elementary school have a 99% chance of failing in life.) I have even written articles about failure in school.

I guess all of that research is right. For the second time in two years, the sixth grade students showed no improvement or success. My idea failed terribly.

So I don’t feel I have much of a choice when the principal asks me to help out after school and be the security guy. I just do it.

Here’s what happened:

A large group of children starts walking down the street. I can always smell a fight. I start following them.

“Mr. Brownstein,” they ask, “why are you following us?”

“I want to watch a fight,” I answer, and they laugh—but it doesn’t matter to me. I’m going to follow them until the fight begins or dissipates on its own.

It takes three blocks. Then the fighters go their separate ways. But I do get to give a lesson. You don’t bother a child who is mourning the death of her mother and father by telling her how stupid they are and how stupid they look. It makes no sense at all. So the boy apologized and said he didn’t know. Not that that’s really a valid excuse. And she refuses to accept it, but I know her and I figure she wouldn’t.

The fight that never begins ends and I walk back to school only to be confronted by two police cars who have responded to a call by a parent. She claims one of the staff members of the school got in her son’s face and threatened to do severe bodily harm to him. I was there. The staff member never even came close to her child.

Oh, she ranted and raved—but only against the school and the establishment and the failings of her own grandchild.

I tell the police this and they take down information and drop the entire investigation, but the look the parent gives me on the way out the door is so terrible, it has the power to knock down ten terrorists armed with nuclear weapons.

But I’m used to those looks. So I do the only thing I can do. I smile.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


My lousy Wednesday started with a killer toothache and two Advil’s. I made it to work early, began planning for my class, and then had a 7:30 AM meeting with the LRE committee (Least Restricted Environment for Students with disabilities). Only one other member showed up—and she wasn’t happy. After all we have yet to be paid for over fifty hours of before and after school work.

The meeting went off fine, nonetheless, but neither one of us wants to work on the LRE Plan during the summer. (I have to tell you this—I went to a meeting yesterday where they threw this entire package of revisions on me as the LRE team facilitator and they want a lot of the work done by June 16th. I guess they don’t know I have a classroom of records to do, a major after school program grant to complete, and other school related items. LRE—even with its 100,000 dollar grant payout is not my first priority.)

Then I went outside for playground duty. (I just love it when I see all of the security in a group in the shade away from where the fights will happen.) Fights did happen. Three of them. I broke up each one. There’s nothing in the world like the dull throb of a toothache (even though the Advil was doing its job) and one the sisters of one of the fighters yelling about how he should have knocked the mess out of the boy. (I must explain at this point the fighters were a first grader who comes up to my waist and can’t weigh more than 40 pounds and a second grader who is almost as tall as my shoulders and weighs easily ninety.) I separated everyone (even the yelling seventh grader)—and now a member of security was coming to help out. I took the little fighter to his grandmother. (Isn’t it amazing how the biggest troublemakers in the school have relatives who work in the school?) His grandmother went totally off—cursing up a storm and yelling and cursing some more. Then she stormed off the playground in a tornado fury worth of two Academy Awards.

Later in the morning, a member of the CS&C team—our LRE consultant—showed up unannounced. What excellent timing! I gave my class instructions (which many of them tried to ignore) and went over all of the bad news with her. Her team has also done LRE work and they, too, are waiting to get paid.

My toothache has gone away.

We changed classes. The class that usually does everything I ask of them decided today was free time. I hate having to put zeroes in my grade book. Especially this late in the year.

My toothache came back.

The Life Strategies Program instructor came to my room and passed out tickets to students she claimed participated in the program. This is not the character education program I want my students to have. She excluded some children and I can’t tell you why. This, of course, caused friction and other problems.

After lunch—we weren’t allowed recess—we went upstairs to do trig. The instructor was supposed to pick up the party participants at 1:00. They finally came to my room at 1:20—after we did ten or so trig problems using the tan (a) tables.

Since not everyone was invited, we had more friction. One girl was told she could not participate. She actually had a temper tantrum and I had to restrain her which made her even more volatile. (This time security took her aside and calmed her down.)

In the end she went to the party anyway. So did my other students who was so much a discipline problem in the other classroom that she was kicked out (she walked out of my room, too, after I told her I called her mother because she is not doing any of the things she is supposed to do). In the end, all of the excluded children participated in the party.

I don’t understand this.

My toothache was a dull pain by now because there was so much more on my plate—seventh grade students who have temper tantrums and get their way. Parents of seventh grade temper tantrum students who give in to their temper tantrums and then make the school give in too.

Then the standardized test scores came in. I know I worked hard with my class. I know I gave away all of my preps to assist my sixth grade students with math and extra reading time. I know I tried my hardest with them. So why did they do so badly on the test?

Then I went to the Chicago Teachers Union meeting (see previous blog). With all of that yelling, miscalculating, and obvious disdain for true democratic principles, my toothache was back.

At least, I thought, I’d be safe once I arrived back home—but no, a parent called me. Not once, but two times. He could not understand how students in my class were stealing her things and writing on her brand new materials. Simple, I explained to him, she never told me. But that was not the end. We went into a detailed conversation about how she is being abused by one of the boys. Simple, I said. She likes him. I don’t know why. She just likes him. I explained everything I was doing to help her. I guess it wasn’t enough. He called back a second time and we went over everything again.

The other seventh grades students who walked out of my class? Her mother did not call me in the evening, but she did call the school: “I have a death in my family,” she explained to the clerk. “I can’t be bothered with the problems of my daughter today—or tomorrow. Nor Friday. Please make sure she does her homework”

How? I asked myself. I don’t even know where she is. (Remember: she walked out.)

After the phone call from the father I went to sleep.

My tooth went to sleep too.

No pain yet today—but I’m seeing the dentist Monday.

After a Lousy Day I have to go to a Teacher's Union Meeting

The June House of Delegate’s Meeting Notes, June 7th, 2006
Michael H. Brownstein, Union Delegate

I guess every June the House of Delegates has to approve the budget for the Chicago Teacher Union’s staff. The first item on the agenda stated: “Special Order of Business. Vote on the 2006-2007 Budget.”

When Marlyn Stewart opened the mics for debate, three dozen people rushed to them. She called on mic one—“I make a motion we postpone the vote on the budget until we can get a copy of the benefit package for all employees on the executive leadership staff.” She went on about rumors teachers’ dues were funding extra benefits to the Executive Committee including 20,000 dollars in annuities and bonuses every year.

The motion was quickly seconded.

The debate was thick and furious—a lot of booing and foot stomping and just plain ugly yelling. Just a note of interest—this budget is approximately a half a million dollars higher than the last budget. Nowhere are the costs of benefits listed.

A vote was taken after about twelve more minutes of debate. We were asked to stand. From my view point, the motion passed. Stewart said, “Motion failed.” People in the audience began to yell a call of division (a parliamentary call that asks the leadership to make an exact count). According to the constitution and Robert’s Rules, a call of division with a second (and there were seconds) is a mandatory call to cease discussion and do an actual recount of the votes (not a visual count like Stewart did).

George Milkowski, a retired CTU delegate (he gets to vote), told me: “Stewart does this all of the time. It’s obvious she lost. Watch how she ignores the call for a recount.”

And then she did.

A motion was made to end debate. A two thirds vote is needed. The vote was 259 to 179. (In case I heard wrong, I asked others what they heard.) Once again Stewart said the motion passed—debate is ended. Do the math. Two thirds of 438 members is not 259. When this was called to her attention, Stewart turned a dark crimson, banged the gavel down a number of times (I’d hate to see her really angry) and went off—actually yelling at members. “Get off the mics,” she yelled. She looked extremely silly. I wonder if I look half as stupid as she does when I go off. (If so, I promise you I will stop immediately.)

“The point about how much I get paid is not important,” she screamed banging her gavel down at least a half a dozen times. “I don’t get paid enough for all of the crap I’m taking from you.” The House of Delegates went wild. “Don’t get me started.”

Her president’s report talked about absolutely nothing of any consequence. The only important item is that Michael Scot is resigning and the new board president hates the union. When she was done there was a massive walkout of delegates. I left too. After all, I can’t stand going to in-services where the instructor passes out literature and then spends the entire time reading it to us. That’s exactly how the officers gave their reports. “Look at the green page in your packet,” one of them said, for example, and then read a few lines from it.

By the way, Dorothy Tillman signed the petition to stop the closing of schools due to the Renaissance 2010 Plan along with 39 other alderman. The resolution sponsored by 24th Ward Alderman Michael D. Chandler states in part:

“Whereas, before more schools are closed and their student’s education is disrupted, it is incumbent that some oversight and evaluation be made of those Chicago Public School pupils whose lives have already been disrupted in order to better judge whether this radical experiment with these pupil’s education is working; now therefore

“Be it resolved that a moratorium is in immediate effect for all further closures until the progress of students from all schools that have been closed or reconstituted under the Renaissance 2010 plan have been evaluated.”

Monday, June 05, 2006

Ten Days Left in School and My Class is Getting Smarter and Smarter and Smarter

When I walked the four miles to school today, everything was perfect. A perfect breeze. A perfect blue sky. Perfect songs from the song birds in the perfect trees full of perfect blossoms and perfect leaves. The perfect springtime temperature.

School began perfectly too. No trouble on the playground. A great pick up basketball game by the hoops. A fantastic game of tag by the slides. Some of the best double Dutch jump roping you ever saw. There was even a contingent of seventh graders discussing trigonometry and their class essay assignments.


We started the day with stories out of character education books, went to writing our reflections of the year, did some silent reading, a fraction review, got to take a brief and very easy twenty minute recess, and then we played around with K’nex to discover the properties of the right triangle.

“More trigonometry?” one of my students asked.

“Not the complicated trig we have been working on. This is simpler,” I answered.

“You’re joshing us.”

Joshing? I haven’t heard that word in a long time.

“No,” I answered, “you’re brilliant. It’ll be a no-brainer.”

We then went into the Pythagorean Theorem and they stayed with me through the entire process. Everyone in the class did all of the ten problems. Everyone was present today and everyone earned a hundred.

Now there’s nine days of school left. I don’t know. The way my class is cookin’ with grease maybe we should petition the Board of Education to extend everything a few more months.

Did I actually write that?

Friday, June 02, 2006


Today my class and I studied the cosine of an angle. We worked on the formula cos (a) = a/h. Much to my amazement the class stuck to it and tried and tried and helped each other and really worked their way through the problems.

We only have ten more days of school—nine if you don’t count the day before report cards go home (a professional development day) and eight if you don’t count the last day. The last day students only come for an hour to get their report cards and go to visit with their next year’s teacher. So I guess we only have eight more days.

Outside it’s just the right kind of cool Tom Sawyer daydreamed about—and I do too. All day classes took a recess break—we don’t have a real recess in my school. Oh, you can ask for one. Especially on days like today. But we didn’t. We were working too hard studying the table of cos (a). And the students were enjoying themselves. They had to read the tables. They had to solve for the problem. They had to convert their answer to an angle.

There is nothing in the world greater than watching struggling students actively working on an enrichment activity and enjoying every inch of the experience.

We never did get outside, but we did solve a great number of problems and guess what? For homework my students are going to teach their parents how to do the math we learned today.

They were excited about that, too.

This is why I teach school.


B. transferred from my classroom. That’s not such a big deal. A few years ago one of my students transferred after I called DCFS because her mother was selling her to old men. I caught her in the act. The next day DCFS knocked on her door and the entire family vanished out through the back. We were able to trace them to a town in Indiana where they vanished again.

Another student transferred after we were able to get her the help she needed in reading. I still can’t figure that one out. The mother came to me begging for help with her daughter who was now in the sixth grade and still couldn’t read and when I got the help she requested, the entire family vanished from the spectrum. Still no word on them.

I totally understood when one of my all time best students transferred a few years back. She had cancer in the final stages and had come to the city to get help. She had a lot of relatives in the neighborhood where I teach and this was seen as a good thing too, but the stress of living in the city was way too great on her mother. She couldn’t handle city life at all. This was making her daughter sicker faster. They went back to their small town a few states away. Last I heard, her cancer is holding steady—not getting better and not getting worse.

B. is another story altogether. She transferred to my school at the beginning of the year, stopped coming to school, transferred out of the class she was in into mine and stopped coming to school again.

During the second week of her nonattendance, her mother called the school office and asked to speak to her daughter. I had reported her absent. No, claimed her mother, she was there. Her daddy had dropped her off. The office called my room. No, I reported, she’s not here.

Later the mother called back and I was asked to talk to her. “She says she was in school today,” her mother said.

“No,” I answered, “she wasn’t here.”

“Do you know what she looks like?” her mother went on. Then she began to describe her daughter.

I interrupted her. “Of course I know what she looks like. She’s one of my students.” I take pride in knowing all of my students by name by the second day of school.

“Well, she says she was there. You must not have seen her.”

This went on and on until I finally said, “No, she was not in school today—or at least not in my classroom.”

The next day B. showed up with her father. The assistant principal walked them to my room.

“Is this the class you were in yesterday?” the assistant principal asked.

“Yes, madam,” B. answered. B. is a very proper child.

So the assistant principal asked where she sat and then has each individual who sat at or around her table come out into the hall and tell her father she had not attended school that day or any day for the previous two weeks.

Yet B. insisted. We must not have seen her. She was in my classroom. That’s her seat right over there. Everyone is telling a tale.

Her father took her home after telling me: “Give me a second with my daughter and then I’ll bring her into your class.”

The next B. sighting is two weeks later when she was actually sitting in another classroom. I had marked her absent. I asked the teacher how B. came to be in her room. The teacher informed me that the office wanted her to keep her for the day.

The next day I am called back to the office. “Why did I let the boys jump on her in class and do nothing about it?” I am asked.

This is news to me. She wasn’t even in my class. And if she had been and boys jumped on her, I definitely would have done something about it.

So the administration had to hold an investigation into the entire matter.

It’s still unresolved, but an official from the board office became involved and had to discuss the problem with me and B. and her parents. They did not attend. The investigation continues.

B. has transferred.

I hope this case is closed.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Thursday and Look What the Day Dragged In

Thursday and here is how the day went—T. had one of her daily temper tantrums ten minutes into the school day and ended up in my room until the end of the day when she went wild on the playground and had to go back to her classroom.

A. from across the hall was sent to me because he was acting too silly. I kept him about twenty minutes. Then it was time for his graduation practice so he went back to his room.

Lunchtime and the gym teacher who is a sub is screaming in the hallway because there is no supervision in the gym. He’s the gym teacher. Isn’t he supervision? So I’m delegated to find out what is going on and what I find is a room full of 8th graders and an adult, but they are all in their seats and no one is acting crazy. Well, almost no one. L. is in the gym acting crazy. He’s not an 8th grader. S. is in the gym running back and forth. He’s not an 8th grader. They leave the gym the second I tell them to and then it’s back to quiet again.

My class and I studied the sine of angle A in trigonometry. We worked out the problems. We began to work on the sine tables.

It’s always nice when you see engaged children trying to understand something that is difficult—especially when multiplication and division is already hard. But they are beginning to get it. And learning how to divide at the same time.

OK, so I became the room for the unwanted. More than once today. But look at all of the great things we accomplished. After all my classes were able to identify who came into the room and offered a second’s disruption in the same manner as Sherlock Holmes, the famous detective we are reading about in language arts. And the research handed in today was top notch also.

All in all a very nice day.

Memorial Day Weekend

Sunday night, and the gang bangers are out. Not here in Chicago where I work, but in Jefferson City, Missouri where we have a few properties. It’s nice outside. Not too hot, just the right breeze, and the smell of spring wafts across the yard.

We’re sitting on the front porch.

And then the Corner Street Gang starts a fight with the Street Hustlers and police cars rush to our block. In Jefferson City, we don’t need cable; we have a live shot of it from the comfort of our front porch.

One of the teenagers allegedly has a knife. The police surround him. The teenager pushes an officer. The next thing you know the teenager is flat on his stomach getting handcuffed and the other teenagers are going wild yelling and cursing and yelling some more. Six cops and forty kids. It’s not an even match.

Well, no one gets hurt. The police drive away. Things slowly settle down.

And then twenty teenagers rush out of the house next door to ours and rush over to see a new disturbance. The teenage children of our neighbor and their friend, a young adult named Kristen alias Ginger alias Vanessa, is picking with two dogs in our across the street neighbor’s yard. The owner of the house comes out and asks them to leave her dogs alone. Suddenly everything explodes—the teens are yelling and threatening and cursing and all the homeowner can do is get back into the house and call the police who do arrive and tell her to quit harassing the children and if she calls again, they’ll arrest her for having her dogs outside of her home even though they have papers and are restrained.

This is how the night goes.

I’m in Jeff City because this has to end. The house next door is out of control. Every time there is the least disturbance, at least twenty teenagers rush out of that house to make it worse. It doesn’t matter what time of day or night. They are always there. Always.

What do I plan to do this summer?

Simple. I’m going to Jefferson City to make sure my property is safe and the neighbors next door face the consequences.

What consequences?

Threats to harm individuals on the block.
Illegal weapons on their property.
Loud noise and disturbances late into the night.
Endangering small children.
Illegal drug sales.
Destruction of property.

Need I go on? I can, you know.