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, 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.


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