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, December 08, 2006


Ever since Michael Richard’s temper tantrum on the stage, I have been enforcing my curse word rule: the N word is a curse word and you will get punished for using it. Don’t curse in my room. Don’t call someone the N word.

OK, one of my students asked yesterday—and I’ve been telling them I considered the N word a curse word forever (way before Michael Richards)—why can’t we use it?

My answer: Jew don’t call each other kikes; Hispanics do not refer to themselves as spics; and even during the era of Polish jokes, I never heard a Polish person refer to themselves or others as Pollocks. Each of these groups received these insulting nicknames from an outside group who hated them and thought to keep them down and—you get the point.

But I wasn’t sure my class did get the point.

Everyone uses it, one of my girls said.

No, I answered. I don’t use it. It’s an insult to my ears when I hear it and I’d appreciate it if we would stop. You can make a difference. You can change the world. We have started by collecting money for UNICEF. (We donate money because the cure for one of the world’s greatest killers of children, diarrhea, is only sixteen cents, according to UNICEF) We are learning the best gift is the gift of life and by making these small donations, we are saving lives. So we can also begin to save other things, too. We can stop using the N word.

I don’t know if they caught on yet. It is widely used in the neighborhood where I teach, and, no, I do not feel its appropriate when it is used by African-Americans towards other African-Americans. Once I heard a Jew call another Jew a kike, and the word resounded throughout the parking lot and the man was made to feel worthless by our looks and our gestures and he did, in fact, apologize.

Don’t put yourself down. Don’t let those who wish to make you inferior continue to be successful. Pick yourself up. Words have power. Use them wisely. And not using the N word might be one of the strongest messages you—as intelligent African-American children—can make.


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