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, July 20, 2006

Now We Have Peace--But at What Cost

We haven’t heard from the Corner Boyz since the meeting. Oh, there was that party, but the gang of boys came from a lot of wannabee groups and they left peacefully at the direction of the police. The block has actually become fairly quiet. Some of the adults who ardently believed the parent at 324 was a victim now think she was a catalyst. This is a good thing.

Unfortunately, just when you think everything is going great problems arise. We picked up our documents from the police department. These are all of the records of calls from 324 Ash, not about 324 Ash.

And I discovered I made a mistake.

A phone call to the police—Officer Payne, to be exact—clarified everything. I should have made the request on the entire 300 block. This would have given me every report—including all of the missing reports on 324 Ash.

We already had a meeting—myself and a few other residents—and so we are going to make another Sunshine Law request.

Then I made a major mistake. Or not. I’ll let you decide.

It’s Tuesday night, the day after my birthday (and I should let you know right now my birthday was a glorious day), and I had just come from my first kick boxing karate lesson with my two teenage children when I started working on the porch.

It was about 6:30 PM, a bit cooler outside (the day’s high temperature peaked 100 at 3:00). There was even a light breeze. (You should know there are days in this town when there is no breeze whatsoever.)

I had removed a few rotten pieces of wood and was making my way down the porch. A few months ago the neighbor boy threw a stuffed Raggedy Ann onto the roof of the porch. My wife heard him clearly say, “Too bad there wasn’t gasoline in that can or we could have started a real fire and got rid of those people causing all the trouble.” Then he went on to describe how he tore the arms off the doll, discarded them, and felt great that the doll landed where it did.

(I should state at this point that my wife notified his mother who volunteered him to take down the doll, but my wife refused to let him. Insurance reasons.)

Anyway, when I reached the area where the doll was, I grabbed it and an empty bottle of beer. I threw the beer onto the grass far inside of my property line and then I dropped the doll nearby it so I would remember to pick up the beer bottle when I threw the doll away.

Then everything went wild.

The boy’s mother came out of her house like a hurricane—her teenage daughter in tow—screaming and cursing and threatening me for throwing the doll down. I didn’t understand what the problem was. I watched as she took the doll—but not the bottle of beer—and throw it in the depression on her property where she drops all of her garbage. I asked what the problem was, but I don’t think she heard. By this time, she was cursing loud enough for the deaf to hear.

(If you want to hear her exact comments, I can email them to you.)

I paused in my work. I took a few deep breaths. Then I walked over to her house, stepped onto her porch, and knocked on her door. Her daughter opened the door.

“What’s the—" I never got any further. Inside she started cursing again even louder. Her daughter slammed the door.

I guess I’m a glutton for punishment because I wanted to finish my statement. “What’s the problem?” I asked when her daughter opened the door a second time. “You know the doll—“

The cursing inside was even louder—is this possible?—and her daughter began shouting at me to get off her property. When she said it a second time, I walked away, grabbed the doll and the beer bottle, dumped them into my garbage can and started to go to the ladder.

Seconds later the teenage daughter was on her way to the pay phone.

I called the police and asked for an order of disturbing my peace.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go the way they should have. Or maybe they did. In the end, he went to interview her, got an entirely different story from her, and we both have a date in court for disturbing the peace.

The good news? A few weeks ago we tried to get a restraining order on the house—my family and one of our neighbors. It didn’t go through. Someone at the police department stopped it. Did you know when you disturb someone’s peace, you cannot go near them, you cannot talk to them, you cannot—you get the idea. It’s the same as a restraining order. I got what I wanted.

I’m writing this on Thursday. Last night the neighborhood was so quiet, you could actually think. Today—so far—it’s just as quiet.

I think I’ve figured out how to rid myself of their constant cursing, bottle breaking, throwing things, breaking things, etc. It was never us against them—a neighborly dispute. It was a neighborhood problem. Someone had put a stop to the gang activity on the block. Not one gang member wannabee came near the house since Tuesday evening. Not one.

But I have to go to city court on August 30th.

Stay tuned.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael, How are things coming in the land of hard core gang banging, I just wanted to check up on your progress, and make sure you are well, what a way to spend summer vacation, you are admired. I am taking notes, keep up the good work and try not to throw any dolls around, OK!
Take care, Reggie

9:47 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home