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.

Name:
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.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

AND ONTO PART 3--WHEN WILL IT END

8:25 in the morning and already there are warnings of trouble. This may be hard to believe, but when you work in the inner city long enough, you can smell the potential of the day as you walk from the train to the school. (I’m not sure this works when you drive to work. I don’t think the walk is long enough.) When I leave the train—the Green Line at the 43rd Street Station—there is an unmistakable odor of violence already and violence to come.

Today’s trouble comes from an unexpected source—a parent walking her first grade son to the lunchroom for breakfast. Two members of one of the fighting factions of girls are in the hallway and I’m escorting them to the gym or the lunchroom, but not upstairs where they want to go—no supervision—when the parent stops us and asks them why they did not acknowledge her. I stop too.

“Hey, girl,” she points to one of the students, “don’t you remember? I was right in there fighting too. I was on your side.”

I’m wondering why she is bringing this up. Is she looking for glory? Respect? She’s grown. She’s not a nineteen year old with a six year old son. No, she must be in her twenties. I almost ask her why she needs to do this, but one of the girls tells me they’ll go to the gym and then the other thanks the adult for her comment and the adult smiles.

Smiles.

A few minutes later the grandmother of one of the fighters and her grown daughter enter the building. (This even after security is told they are not allowed in.) The grandmother comes in cursing and screaming and rushes towards the office where the principal is standing. Next thing you know she is pushing the principal hard out of the way.

The police are called. They arrive in ninety seconds. Three policemen in full body armor.

How does everything end? It hasn’t yet. The grown daughter removes all of her children from the school and I make sure the others are safe and supervised in the school’s lunchroom. All of the fighters but two—they were actually victims of Friday’s assault—are suspended for five to ten days, the Chicago police will have an officer stationed in front of the school before and after, and security and safety have been unofficially notified. We’re filling out assault incident reports and the Professional Problems Committee—which I am the chair of—are going to meet on Thursday.

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