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.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Some days should be a snow day. Six to twelve inches of snow fell over Chicago, heavy snow with thunder and lightning, sleet and slush. In my neighborhood, the emergency alarms went off and even at 5:30AM, when I left to catch my train, sirens of ambulances and fire trucks were flashing down the streets.

When I arrived at school, the snowblower was broken. A few minutes later, there we were, lifting the heaviest snow I shovelled in years to make two paths around the school. Two of us hand shovelling while the third worker tried to figure out what was wrong with the snowblower.

Inside, a bit later, still no one was in the main office--I was in that room for a bit taking phone calls (but none came) until one of our tutors came in and took over.

8:15, the lunchroom opened for breakfast and two people were trying to manage the cafeteria and hallways by themselves. I joined them, going from section to section, line to line. (Did I tell you I already cleaned up the entire LRE room this same morning?)

No fights. No real confusion. No teachers yet, but more adults helping to organize the students. One security officer--my school has two full-time--passed out pages to color. The tutor had decided to consolidate the lines and placed the intermediate students with the older primary children. A lot of students were in the gym watching basketball practice. It was just too bad outside for anyone to be in the playground.

School began at 9:00. Five teachers were not present--three on the first floor and two on the second. Two classes were split up--the special needs class and a small class size third grade. 10:40, suddenly there was tremendous confusion. My class was in the hallway getting ready to change classes when fifteen students came piling out of the classroom down the hall. They wanted to fight. They had the stance of fighters. They were cursing and yelling and everywhere. One teachedr held my class. I went to fix the problem. And it was a problem.

Soon two girls--why are so many girls fighting nowadays?--were on their way to the office and one on the way to my room. Then a boy got into the fray and another girl. Security arrived. One security guard and me--together we survived.

But my class was not my room alone. I had one fighter and one special needs student. Thirty minutes later the same room exploded again. This time I just called for security. That class was divided in two, but the teacher who took the second half refused one student and she ended up with me.

And so it goes.

Outside at dismissal, the snow some of the best snowball snow I have seen in a long time, but very few snowballs flew. Five minutes after dismissal--the sun bright, the air frigid--just about everyone was gone.

So I went home.


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