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, January 19, 2007


(Rap talk)

Rough neck,
Rough neck

(Students drum on their desk)

Rough neck.
Rough neck.

(begin singing)

To the neck, to the neck,
Proactive packed in a box
To the neck, to the neck,
Get out the cream
And don’t you scream.
To the neck, to the neck.

This is the song a few of the boys in my class made up about one of my students. My classroom is my family. I’ve taught for over thirty years and no one has stolen anything of value from me. (Books from the school library and pencils, pens and paper don’t count.) One year when a Chicago team won a championship, people from the neighborhood broke into the school and destroyed almost every room—except for mine and the computer lab. No one has ever insulted me to the point of quitting (thought they have come close). I never realized until I began teaching in the inner city how important it is to immediately stop negative talk about someone’s mother. (These are serious fighting words.) I’ve seen serious bullying, extreme violence, and quite a few other things during my time as a teacher. (Once I had to go into a bathroom where a student was holding four other students at knife point to talk him out of hurting anyone. When he came back from his suspension, he was placed in my class.)

I’m nearing the end of my career as a teacher. I always thought I might make a difference. I always thought my students were like family. This class this year is one of my best. They’re bright, witty, charming, and each one of them contributes something great to the whole. Yet now I have to change my rules and become more explicit. No talking also means no cursing. I have to put on the rule board we cannot bully. I have to add sentences to my expectations. I have to let them know field trips will be cancelled for cursing and bullying incidents.

And now the girl in my class who handed me the above song is bullied to the point of tears. And the boys find this funny.

Fortunately, a few girls are proactive—not the same as the Proactive cream in the above song which is, unfortunately a strong medicine—and they are working to put a stop to this confusion.

I promise you it will stop today.

I always keep my promises.

Stay tuned.


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