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, 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.


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