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.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Week Four in Jefferson City, Missouri

Week four in Jefferson City and the following things happened all over our block. The neighbor across the street had the back window of his truck shot out. The man who bought the business properties at the end of the block tore down one of them. The landlord next to the demolition site went berserk because a few of the bricks landed too close to her alleged property line. Juanita’s restaurant was broken into twice a half hour apart, but the alarm system scared the intruder away. The candy store across High Street has been implicated in drug sales and the college boys at the corner are angry about the alligators in the lady across the street’s yard. Then there was the firecracker fight on the porch next door and the teenager who threatened to kill them all if they turned their porch light off. (We immediately turned our porch light on, too.)The good news is the printing business on McCarty no longer has the daily spit splatter whenever they arrive.

Let’s take these incidents one at a time.

Charlie was sitting on his porch in the dark when suddenly he heard a loud noise and then watched the back window of his pickup truck explode all over the place. He ran to the truck, looked for a brick, did not see anyone around and then realized someone had shot out his window. He didn’t call the police because he said there was no one to accuse, but it probably came from the people across the street. In the morning, he drove to his farm and replaced the broken window of his truck. He also rigged a fence-like structure so it won’t happen again. Now that the back window is safe, will they go for the front window?

Mr. D. purchased two properties near the corner of Ash and High. He began the demolition of one of them—a historic building which was famous for its arches because when the building was constructed we did not have the technology to build arches. Somehow the wood was bent into semi-circular shapes. It was all over the news. The demolition, though, did not receive one mention.

So why did he tear it down?

His tenant lives in the building next door to the property. The tenant stopped paying rent to him six months ago, stole the pipe work for recycling, and is very territorial. He parks his cars all over the lot, does engine work every place and leaves parts littered across the asphalt. He even has very old cars everywhere and no one says a thing to him. Once he pulled a gun out on the landlady’s boyfriend because he did not want to pay his rent. He told another tenant that if he was over put out of his existing residence (not his business place) he would tear all of the plumbing out of the walls. Mr. D. said, “I had to tear down the building. This was the only way I could get him out.” He is so intimidated this was the only solution he could come up with.

Last night the above tenant from Hell came home and found some bricks on the alleged boundary line. He called the landlady who called Mr. D. She was so angry, she came to see where the bricks had fallen. The tenant, meanwhile, was having a cursing temper tantrum across the street and actually stopping cars to curse about it some more. The one thing I was able to understand through the incoherence and cursing storm was that he was angry because he had no place to part his car. I guess the street is not good enough for him.

Let me tell you about the landlady. One of her buildings—kitty corner to Ash and McCarty—has a lot of broken windows all done by the people next door and the wannabee Corner Boyz. She did nothing about that. But let a brick fall on her property and she’s a raving machine. Remember, only three bricks fell near her alleged property line and she had to make sure those three bricks were removed.

Juanita owns the fancy restaurant on High, about a half block from Ash. “They tried to break in twice,” she said. “My alarm went off both times and the police were on the scene within seconds. The intruders didn’t get in. I don’t know who they are, but I’m sure they are members from that house on Ash Street.” She’s talking about 324 Ash, the gang banger wannabee nest. When they tagged her property, she did not call the police. “I don’t want any problems,” was her reason. She is an older woman and I could tell she is easily intimidated. But what can you expect from a town where the undertaker leaves many properties vacant because she will not ever allow a person of color or a lawyer to live on her property. They can die for her and she will charge them funeral expenses, but that’s where she draws the line.

The candy store is now—allegedly—a drug hangout. Cell phones are left behind on the shelves for later pick-up of messages for drug deals. The police have confiscated twelve cell phones in the last few days, according to my sources. Can it be that the “Slim Jims” are decaying (and you thought “Slim Jims” lasted forever) and the “rap snack chips” they sell are stale and that’s why they moved into another line of business.

And then we witnessed the firecracker fight on the porch next door from 11:00PM to 12:30AM. Cars drove by throwing firecrackers into the people congregating onto the porch. You couldn’t tell if it was fun and games or serious. Later the crowd grew bigger and the boys took over the street. Then, after everyone left, one teenager came down the street yelling he would kill someone (I’ve cleaned up the language) if they turned their light off. No one came out of 324 Ash after that.

But at least the printing business reported to me that they no longer have to take out sanitary wipes and wipe off the door handle and lock when they enter their place of business in the morning. No one is spitting on it anymore.

As for the alligators and the college boys? I’m going to have a block club meeting at the house tomorrow. I’ll let you know.


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