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 29, 2006


I wouldn’t have minded it so much if it hadn’t been mandatory. It’s not often a teacher gets out of the classroom to attend a workshop. But sometimes workshops become so much of a nuisance, I wonder if I have been hired to teach children or to listen to people communicate badly and not have a clue what they are talking about.

I’m talking about the meeting of the After School All Stars, an after school program that my school received. I did all of the applications and essays to obtain the program and we received about 15,000 dollars. I like that part. I’m the coordinator. I like that part, too. I just don’t like mandatory meetings that are a gross waste of time.

I would have much rather been in my classroom. (And if you read this blog, you know why. I have the best class in the school if not the city.)

(OK, OK. There were some good things. Unfortunately you’ll have to go to the bottom of this blog to read about them.)

The meeting started at 8:30. I recently moved back to the northside so I caught the red line train to 95th and the bus that goes down 111th Street. I left at 6:30 and made it to the meeting right on time.

On time for what? To register? To eat breakfast? Breakfast? Five kinds of coffee and enough donuts and pastries to make a gym teacher ill. And guess what? Many of the attendees were gym teachers! Oh, they cut the servings in half. Must’ve read the article in the Chicago Tribune about serving size: Americans buy a bag that had five servings in it and we eat it in one serving. (So I guess they were trying. But all of that coffee. I should have realized that was there for what was to come. Next time let’s please have some juice, too, and maybe even some fruit.)

So the meeting began late—after 9:00. Then it went fairly quickly. We learned about the program, who we could hire, and other significant things. Then we had a ten minute break. Help yourself to some more breakfast, we were told. So off we went to get fatter. (And let me tell you: Chicago has some serious overweight gym teachers.)

Then we had the guest speakers. The speakers who came all of the way from San Jose, California. The speakers who were going to—

Within fifteen minutes three individuals within a five seat radius were asleep. I was struggling. Soon five people were sleeping, one snoring softly and one dribbling spit from the side of her mouth. I took out my journal and decided to play the word frequency game. It has only one rule: Keep track of how many times a speaker says a key word such as “you know” or “right” or the classic, “um”.

Since I didn’t have a watch, I decided to see how often they would say one of the words per three slides. Not very scientific, but the best I could do.

They averaged nineteen “rights”, ten “you knows” and four “ums”. (Personally the “ums” surprised me.

Were they informative? No. Did they waste our time? Yes. In my informal vote on how they did twenty-two teachers (myself not included) said they were a total waste of time and one teacher said they were great. (This caused a few teachers in front of me to turn around and say, “I vote against her.) End result: 25 against and 1 for.

When they did their homework session at 1:45, I counted only seven teachers in the auditorium to listen. I begged for mercy and went to the second half of another session.

So what was good? Shirley H. Harden. She demonstrated great strategies for how to use TIME FOR KIDS. I really enjoyed myself in her session, but at the end, we were told we would have to purchase it this year. (It was free to us last year.) Nonetheless, I was impressed enough to get her card and ask her to please, please, please do a workshop for my school. (I have a few thousand dollars from a grant to hire speakers.)

Note to Shirley: This great testimonial should be worth at least fifty free subscriptions to TIME FORT KIDS.

Julie Frank from The Spark Program was also great. I came into her session over an hour late and I learned a line dance. Best of all I didn’t even know it was a line dance until after we did a few activities and she turned it into a dance. How cool was that! Even better, I know I’m going to use everything I learned in the brief time I attended her session even though I do not teach gym. Oops: physical education. (This from Mr. Francisco Hernandez, a gym, teacher at Daley Academy who I desperately want to recruit for my after school program.)

Lunch was nice, too.

The meeting ended not long after this and the train stopped for an unknown reason in the subway, but I fell asleep, and it only took two and a half hours to get home.

Conclusion: I learned some stuff, was excited by two sessions, discovered most of the time was just commercials trying to separate the 1500 dollar supply money from me.

Please, please, please—don’t fly incompetence in from San Jose, pay their hotel bill and feed them again. (Though I understand the National After School All Stars Program wasted their money, not the Chicago Board of Education.) We have enough incompetence here in Chicago already. And plenty more competent individuals. And we can do the entire thing for free. We already live here, we’re already being paid by the board to attend, and we know this stuff. I bet Francisco Hernandez could do a great job all by himself.



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