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 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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice tribute!


7:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm rather impressed.


7:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can we help?


7:31 AM  
Blogger Dwight said...

What a wonderful posting! I am touched by the way 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 to 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.

7:39 AM  
Blogger Dwight said...

Send donations to:

Seymour Brownstein Award
c/o Michael Brownstein
4415 S. King Sr.
Chicago, IL 60653

3:00 PM  
Blogger A Teacher's Log said...


Thanks so much.

Michael H. Brownstein

6:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Michael,

what a wonderful tribute to your father and mother! i had my son call me a few years ago from his "motorcycle class" for the Police Dept....turned out one of the guys in class recognized his name - asked him the last night of class if his mom and grandmother ever taught on the west side at Penn school....yep! He was in my first first grade class...in the basement ....i came in Nov of that year...they had 7 teachers before me that all quit! I stayed!
He came to see me at my current school and brought me a dozen long stem roses and sat and listened to me for hours and shared his stories of growing up....AND he brought our class photo from almost 34 years ago...
I too hold your fathers beliefs to be true....too true....may you have a blessed summer! and many more years to effect changes in those you touch.

Sincerely, mary ellen

12:48 PM  

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