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.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Successes and failures are oftentimes how the day goes. You create a small focus group of readers to discuss the making of Scrooge—and the children get into the material finding evidence for their answers, use vocabulary words—and synonyms—that make you smile, and encourage each other. When they leave the class to go to their next room, you hear a few of them tell one another how fun reading was today. Successes.

We did this with THE CHRISTMAS CAROL and it went over in a big way. The small groups delved into the story to find clues and proof. “Isn’t there workhouses?” Scrooge says and the group of children wonder why somebody that rich can’t make a donation to a charity. “We need to get rid of the surplus population,” he says and my students wonder if this is why today we have problems with poverty around the world.

We are into our second week of our UNICEF project and everyday we gather more and more money to help the truly sick and poverty stricken—people so poor they allow their children to die for the lack of sixteen cents. The character of Scrooge is a great inducement. We’re trying new things, too now—different kinds of food, for example. Sandra Cisneros taught us this in her book, THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET. We are beginning to realize racism is a learned activity that can be changed if we—and the racists—open their eyes to new experiences. More success.

But then, at the end of the day, two boys who I was asked to remove from my after school program because of grave discipline problems went over the top. They took ice balls and rocks and tried to break the windshield of a teacher’s car. I had told them I had confidence in them and I knew they would make the right choice. I let them stay in the program. They did not make the choice I would have made. They chose instead to try to damage someone else’s property. I know they’ll come to me today and tomorrow and ask if they can still participate, but I cannot allow them to anymore. What choice do I have? Failure.

At what point do extra activities get removed because a student cannot make the right choice? And should we remove them? Not everyone is going to be a scholar. Someone has to be there to repair our cars. The after school program offers a number of activities from games to building engines. On the other hand, how many chances does a child need before they need to be removed?

So it wasn’t that bad of a day. One failure and a bunch of successes. Not a bad day at all.


Anonymous donor said...

How many chances? You know the old saw about fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. I don't think that in this indulgent world, a world of instant replay, kids get the idea that there is a limit and then there are no more chances. I personally like charts, the ones with bars of columns which indicate that really there are more successes than failures in any period of time and one can either join the one or the other.You do a great job, you give the kids chances which would not even be available in "the real world", I hope the kids know and appreciate that.

1:08 PM  

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