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.

Monday, June 12, 2006

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.


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