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.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


The Superintendent of the Chicago Schools is coming to my school sometime during the week of the President's Day Holiday.

So, of course, we suddenly have to make the school perfect and everyone in the world knows no school anywhere is perfect. We are not going to be teachers; we are going to be actors.

Principals, please listen: A school is a school. Almost every teacher I know is passionate about teaching and they are trying as hard as they can.

If the superintendent is coming because he wants to close our school down, no matter how good we look, he will see only reasons to close us down. If he is coming because he is proud of us, no matter how bad we look, he will see only the good.

Once in my life--back in the day when Chicago schools went on strike every year--I ran a school for neighborhood students during the strikes. One teacher, a friend of mine, could not control his students in his classroom and he could not control them in the school I created temporarily. Nonetheless, when the Chicago Tribune showed up to write an article about us, I did not take over his spot teaching the high school students algebra. They were loud, everyone talking, he was at the board chalk on his suit and face, paper all over the table and chairs--not a perfect situation. The Tribune reporter came in with her photographer only minutes after I had let out the elementary school classroom. The place was a mess.

The next day on page 3 of the metro section there was a great and very positive article written about us covering half the page. Instead of noisy students, the reporter used the words "overzealous learners". Throughout the article were the words "engaged," "exciting," "wonderful." Even the mess became a compliment: "a real learning environment." The article was so complimentary, if we had been Catholic, someone would have nominated us for sainthood.

The photo was great too.

Principals, you don't have to put on an act. Your teachers care about the school, too. Let them do their job. The visitors come to the school with a ready made agenda. No matter how we do, they will make the situation fit that agenda. Sorry, but that's the truth.

We're teachers teaching in sometimes very terrible and demanding conditions. We're not actors who put on a show for one day. We're teachers who teach everyday.

Enough said.


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