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, October 12, 2006


The other day a man with a gun climbed over the small fence surrounding my school and walked over to the window of one of the primary classrooms. He knocked on the windows of the first classroom, but the teacher was only annoyed. Her shades were down and she could not see who was there.

The second classroom does not have a full supply of shades. In fact, just recently the Board of Education fixed a window smashed by a large rock. This same window was broken another time by a bullet. No shades on three large windows and the man with the gun used his gun to knock on the windows of that classroom. He could see everything. He could see everyone.

The teacher was reading a story to her class on the story carpet. Her back was to the gunman. He knocked on the window again. The teacher ignored the interruption.

“Excuse me,” one of the children raised her hand. “There’s a man at our window with a gun.”

The teacher looked at her.

“I swear it,” she said.

The teacher believed her. All of the children immediately flattened themselves against the carpet. The teacher turned. The man smiled at her, showed the gun and knocked it against the window. The teacher screamed, ran to the door, her students behind her. Together, with help from the administration who was notified by the scream, all of the children were safely evacuated from the room.

Did the teacher have time to press the security button? I don’t think so. Could she have handled it better? Probably. Calm and composed is how we are supposed to act. But what if you have never seen a gun close up? What if you have never seen what a gun can do? What if you believe you are safe in your classroom and you are keeping your students safe?

The police were called, but by the time they arrived, he was long gone.

Once in my life I crossed a large field to get to a classroom. Near the front door a security guard tackled me. I didn’t understand what was wrong. She pointed to a window and said, “Sniper. He’s been shooting at you.”

So that was what was making the mosquito noise. But how could he have missed so many times? I don’t know. Bullets had whizzed directly next to my ear and I swatted at them with my hand thinking they were just a bunch of irritating flying insects.

If I had known he was shooting at me would I have acted differently? Of course I would have.

Many years ago when I first began teaching I taught in a school with numerous false fire alarms. After awhile, I just thought of them as an opportunity for a dose of fresh air. But one time there was smoke. Was I calm and composed? Of course not. I rushed my class outside as if all of our lives depended on my quick speed.

On the other hand, I lost a tooth breaking up a gang fight and one of the gang bangers had a gun. I made a decision then without making a decision. I let one of my teeth go protecting a student. The fist that hit me hurt, to be sure, but the gun vanished into folds of clothing and even though the gang bangers got away, and I lost a tooth, no one died that afternoon.


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