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.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Police Impact

I received a subpoena. The man knocked on my door, no one was home, and he left it at the mailbox. The next day he called my school and I called him back.

Did I receive the subpoena? he wondered.

Of course, I did. One of the students in my school spit in a police officers face after causing a major fight in the hallway. Between her cursing and carrying on, between her throwing things at people when she has one of her frequent temper tantrums, between her walking out of everyone’s classroom—and lets not forget the day she cursed out the principal in front of the entire seventh grade class—between all of this, you know I’ll be there in court.

But I do have a few problems with all of this. The research I have done on failure with male students of color has shown negative police contact is one of the greatest indicators to future incarceration. Our juvenile facilities do not seem to send reformed individuals back into society. Instead we receive students who are even angrier.

I’ll never forget the time I went to visit an acquaintance of mine who was sentenced to a few months in Cook County jail for drunk driving. He asked if I could come visit him and so I went, one cold Saturday, and much to my surprise, too many people knew me. And I’m not talking about the guards.

On the walk to the entrance I met a few families going to visit former students. In the waiting room, I waved hello to a dozen more former students. On the way out, I ran into a family who remembered me as their son’s teacher.

Teaching in the inner city is not always the easiest. It’s hard to know where to draw the line. It’s hard to know when to become the parent because the real parent is not parenting. It’s hard period.

So when a student throws an encyclopedia and hits another student in the eye because, well, because the other students accidentally hit him with his notebook—and apologized…

So when a student stands off a group of angry girls with a scissor, and yes, I ask for the weapon and then I escort her home….

So when a thirteen year old starts having sex and then the man—it’s hardly ever anyone her own age—dumps her and she begins going into regular cursing depressions and she wants to fight everyone no matter what and hurt people and kick them when they are on the ground.

Where do we draw the line? At what point do we have to decide the parent won’t handle it, but the police will?

Today the principal is observing me. This is part of her job description. I’m ready, of course. Then again, I’m not.

There comes a time, I guess, where you have to decide if you are making a difference anymore or if you are just spinning your wheels in a snow storm and your car gets even more stuck.


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