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, December 07, 2006


About six weeks ago, the clock in my classroom broke. The second hand bent and the hour hand flopped to the six and refused to go anywhere else. I thanked the Gods of computers because every computer has the time on its main screen. Unfortunately, screen savers come on at regular intervals and I was playing with the keyboard to find out the correct time. I also discovered that many of my students did not know what the monitor was and they would turn off the computer at the tower.

The first week or two, I actually cared about the time. By the third week, I was hardly wondering what time it was at all. No Child Left Behind and other restrictions made a clock a necessity. How could I do timed practices without a clock? I mean a clock everyone could see. The computer clock was definitely inadequate.

Cell phones are many times the bane of a teacher’s existence. They ring at the wrong moments and students text message each other and too many cell phones have the capability to take photographs. But they also have the time. My school has a firm rule about students and cell phones. They are not allowed. We have to confiscate cell phones until a parent or guardian comes to pick them up. But they also tell the time.

Six weeks later, I still go next door to see the exact time so we can change classes on time. Maybe one or two times each hundred minute period. Every now and then we use the computer. (My class knows how to turn the monitor on and off now.) But my real life saver? Cell phones. They’re everywhere. I don’t really understand why a seventh grader needs a cell phone during school. I can’t even think why it is so important that almost every girl in my class has one hidden somewhere on their person. (Remember the rule?) But it no longer matters to me.

Cell phones tell the time. They’re accurate. Everyone is on the same page. Nonetheless, you know what I’d really like my class to get for Christmas? A large clock. Not the clock one of the rappers wears around his neck. Just a clock—one big enough for everyone to see from every seat in the class. Even my few students who need to wear their glasses, but can’t because they are broke or lost or they can’t afford to replace them or—

Hey, that would be even a better gift. Glasses for my students who need them, but cannot afford to replace them.

I have learned one very important lesson from all of this. Clocks are important, and knowing the time might be important too, but not knowing has really helped me in the development of lessons and time on concepts and time on activity, mostly because I don’t know the time at all.

At least until I ask one of my students for the time on their cell phone.


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