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, January 03, 2007

Frank Christensen--The Man From Viet Nam, 2

He's sixty years old and looks way too healthy. He teaches English in Viet Nam. He used to teach in one of the housing projects in Chicago. When he left, he didn't look as healthy.

"Discipline problems?" he asked. "Oh, yes we have them. I had one myself last year. It happened two months ago. A kid wouldn't stop playing so I came to him and told him he was disturbing the class, and he said, 'Sorry, Teacher,' and never misbehaved again."

("Teacher" is a sign of high respect. Just thought you'd want to know.)

Recently his students were in a quiz show kind of program. His students took first place, of course (because that's the kind of teacher Frank Christensen is), and the comments from his students--comments they put in writing--tell it all: He's really smart for someone that old, the best teacher in the school, he is always fair, everyone wants to be in his class.

Enough said.

I could at this juncture quote verbatim from a paper one of his student's wrote about him, but I won't. Let me just say he loves teaching in Viet Nam, loves how his students are responsible for their own learning, and loves the fact that there is actually a holiday to honor teachers ("Every store I went to hired extra people just to gift wrap all of the gifts going to teachers. They don't give gifts on Christmas. They don't have to. The day they honor teachers everyone in Viet Nam--no matter how rich or how poor--digs deep into their pockets and buys a gift for a teacher.")

A holiday honoring teachers? Not money? Not doctors as in My-Daughter-Will-Marry-A-Doctor? Nope, just teachers.

How refreshing.

And what was the biggest insult he heard when he stood in front of a school located in the area where I teach--the quote of the day, according to him.

"I watched the boy's mother grab him by the upper arm and say, 'I don't give an f---- what your teacher says. You will do exactly what I say.' In front of a school no less. I could not believe it. She said it in front of me and a few others. Did she not realize where she was? Did she not think about the message she was sending to her son?"

In Viet Nam, Frank teaches. "The children come to school prepared to learn. They understand they are the ones responsible for their learning. I teach. I don't discipline."

And at the end of a series of lessons on a book? "I never give them away. The students line up to purchase the book. Books are very valuable because learning is very valuable."

I gave my students a book for Christmas.

"I don't have to," he says. "They never stop wanting to learn."

Now that's refreshing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

dear michael, you are not an idiot, but a goddam fucking moron. that is my whole point. the world does not have time for this bullshit . don't lie to them. i read your candy-coated blog and was perplexed. a mother curses her child's teacher in public? don't apologize for the ignorance of the people, mourn for them' as for the rest, i don't know. do what you think is best. peace

5:09 AM  
Blogger A Teacher's Log said...

Frank is back in Viet Nam teaching English as a second language. You may not be able to tell from his comment, but he is probably one of the greatest English teachers I have ever met. He had inner city upper grade children doing Hamlet on stage--and not the abridged version either, but the real thing.
He's still amazed--even though he taught in Chicago for too many years--that people here--the USA--have no respect for teachers. In Viet Nam, I guess (according to him), they are revered. No one talks negatively about a teacher and children--even the poorest-- are expected to take control of their own learning. I can't even imagine a place where teachers are actually given positive status.
I'm going to have to visit him soon.

5:35 AM  

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