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, September 08, 2006

How Great Is This?

The first week of school ended with a smile and a laugh. I have a great class of students! They actually do what I ask and have this need to learn and they’re not afraid to ask questions—

How cool is that?

On my board, we went over the rules and consequences. We talked about my expectations. We did this everyday at least once. Sometimes twice. This class actually responded to them.

“If you have a question, ask. There is no such thing as a stupid question; only stupid people who did not ask.”

And they ask. “How do you divide two numbers into four?” “Do you add denominators when you multiply fractions?” “Is there a short cut to this problem?” “I don’t see how the boy changed just because he saw an eagle. Can you explain this?” Etc. Etc. Etc.

Twenty-one students so far—one no show—and two transfer-outs. One of the transfers I knew about. She has too much pride. All of last year she did no work, cursed and instigated, ditched school, was suspended fourteen times and more than once even cursed out the principal. One time she got into a physical fist fight with her mother. Her mother!

We had to fail her, but in this school we don’t fail seventh graders. My colleague and I worked hard on making her an exception. Her behavior and lack of school work was becoming a part of the culture of the school. We felt the morale of the teachers and students relied on her repeating seventh grade. She bragged she could not fail. No one ever fails seventh grade, she would say again and again. We needed desperately to protect the positive culture of the school.

She failed. She did not believe it. She came to school the second day to get her report card to see if she did, in fact, fail. She found out she was in my room. Fifteen years old in seventh grade. She turned around, told someone she was going to the office to transfer herself out (which we all know she cannot do), and then walked out the back door and hopped on the first Number 3 bus that passed.

She transferred out today. I wish her the best. The streets of Chicago were too open to her and she thirsted for them. No one had any control over her. Not her mother. Not her grandmother. Not us, her teachers. She is going to live in Wisconsin. I hope this works for her. I hope she reconsiders her life and strives to go forward.

The first week of school is over and my class did too many good things. I’m proud of them. I’m beginning to think this will be a great year.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Rose Fisher

12:54 PM  

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