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.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


We did our poetry projects today by groups—and it went fairly well (and the same child from yesterday’s blog who is one of the worst discipline problems in the school actually did the entire project for his group).

Book reports came in, poetry research went out (students checked out over twenty books from my personal library and if I don’t get them back, yayyyy!!! cause I would love to have more books in the homes of my students), and the children wrote really nice critiques at the completion of our novel study, LOVE THAT DOG. (Oh, and if you read this blog, you can donate books to my library and to my student-take-home-and-never-bring-back library by emailing me first with the comment button so I can make arrangements for the books to be delivered. Thanks ahead for your time.)

So the day went well.

Then I went outside for my usual after school duty and everything was going oh, so well, when I started seeing students congregating towards the lawn of the abandoned church’s yard.

So I went there, too.

And just in time.

I grabbed one sixth grade boy and moved him quickly out of the way and then went after the girl who was bleeding very badly from her nose and mouth. I handed her to another adult—oh, they came running when they saw me in the middle of everything—and I gave the boy to one of the security guards.

But it wasn’t over. The girl’s brother went ballistic—he wanted to hurt the boy who punched his sister in the face—and it took me and another security guard everything we had to calm him down.

And it gets better.

The administration delegated me to walk the boy home (truthfully, they gave me a choice in the matter) because the brother/sister team threatened to kill the fighting boy. I didn’t know they were next door neighbors, but I walked the three blocks past the drug dealers and the gang bangers and I got him home safely and found out they were neighbors when they threatened to kill him by screaming threats through the broken screen on their window.

I talked to his father and let him know what happened and told him to keep an eye on his son. Maybe he shouldn’t even let him go outside.

Then I went next door and found that the sister/brother team was home alone, but I did get to talk to their mother over the phone and she promised me she would keep them inside even though she was at work.
Both adults promised they would have a cordial meeting later that afternoon and solve the problem peacefully.

I hope so.

It was time for me to go home.


During science today, everyone in both of my classes—well, not everyone (one students earned an 80%)—earned a hundred percent on their anatomy science quiz. I gave a bonus question and one of the boys—one of the biggest discipline problems in the school—knew the answer and wrote it down so well, I just had to let him tell the class the answer.

Then I said, Make sure you thank him in your answer.

I didn’t know this boy could smile.

First, a girl who has wanted to fight him for a number of days now, pushed him rudely as she entered the classroom and he said, Excuse me, and he went to his seat and ignored her.

Then he went into the computer lab for our poetry project and found numerous commentaries on the poem he is doing for his poetry study.

In the classroom, he handed in his first finished essay of the entire school year.

I already told you about his bonus answer excellence.

So I bragged about him to the class and to his homeroom teacher and do you know what he did?

On the way to art class, he saw a student giving a teacher a hard time. He stepped out of line and said, I’ve been there. Let me help you out. AND THEN HE HELPED OUT. He took the screaming student back to the correct classroom.

And that’s how my day went. One good thing after another.

How cool is that?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


We’re reading LOVE THAT DOG as part of our poetry unit. It went well—even the reading of complicated poems later on. Today we’re going to add a technology section to the poetry—if I can get into the computer lab. (It stays locked.)

In the afternoon we studied the heart of a cow and the tail of a sheep. A very smelly unit. I purchased both the cow heart and the sheep tail at my neighborhood grocery store for a grand total of $2.14. Together we opened up the heart and the tail and made a study of what we saw.

After the oohs and ahhs and the screams from the squeamish boys and one squeamish girl, everything went really well.

After a period of after school fights, isn’t it a pleasure to have a perfect day where everything goes exactly the way it was planned?

Do people actually eat this stuff? (Yes.) Is our heart really this dark? You’re right, (gosh, a teacher being right!) there is a lot of blood on this thing. (It is a heart.) Check out the fat on this thing. Is this cholesterol?

What stinks? This tail is really gross. (This from three boys.) Why does it feel so slimy?
Where is the wool? Why is it so thick? Check out this bone. It this cartilage?

Seventy degrees outside in Chicago in March—a sunshiny day—and we enjoyed ourselves.

Monday, March 26, 2007


The ISAT test ended on Friday. That’s the day we held our make up tests. I’ve been writing incidents in second person, but I know those of you who read this—and I’m not sure anyone does—know the second person narrator was me. I don’t think I really liked second person that much so I’m going to go back to first.

It’s been a year now since I started this blog and I don’t know how many people read it. I guess here’s where I ask for feedback. You can use the comment button and I’ll definitely read it. (I even published the strange rant from a Dorothy Tillman supporter, though I’m fairly positive she will not win in the run off even if Obama endorsed her—and that can be a very powerful reason for me to reconsider how I feel about his candidacy.)

Anyway it’s Friday after school and it’s dismissal time and everything is going smoothly until a group of students congregate near the corner and I hear them so I walk up to them. There’s a security guard with me and I’m not even the least bit concerned.

“We’ll fight across the street. It’s out of bounds for the school. Nobody can do anything to us,” one of the students who wants to fight says.

“They’re getting ready to fight,” I tell the security guard and she nods her head and tells me not to worry. They’re taking it across the street. It’s not our problem anymore.

Twenty students cross the street with one of the boys, giving him support, egging him on. His opponent also has his fair share of supporters. They, too, are talking loud, offering help, acting big and bad.

I, of course, cross the street with them.

The bigger boy removes his coat. “I’m ready,” he says and then he sees me. “Why are you here?”

“I want to see the fight.”

“But you can’t suspend us. We’re off the school’s property.”

“No,” I answer. “Wherever I stand, the school’s boundary goes all around me.”

“We’ll fight someplace else then.”

So I follow them. Of course, by this time you know I’m following them by myself. We go down the street, we go down an alley, and we go by the park.

“You know,” I say, “I’m still not understanding why you need to fight?”

“He got me suspended.”

So I tell him we’ll just go back to the school to see about it and with those few words the fight is over. Oh, a squad car with siren blazing nears me after we leave the alley. Students are yelling police, police, police. Students are running. I just tell the officer to take a drive through the alley and everything should be OK.

The boy did not get out of his suspension. Seems he did so many things that day and was sent to the office so many times there was no way around it. Isn't it curious how the last thing you think you did not do is the only reason why some kind of bad consequence happens to you?

As for the other security guard and other men outside during dismissal? You have to let us know, they said. We didn’t know what was going on until the police showed up.

I thought the first security guard might have told somebody. Guess not.

Happy birthday to this blog even if I’m about a week late.

Friday, March 23, 2007


Some days it is impossible to be a teacher. The ISAT testing ended for my school on Thursday—but Wednesday a few of the students, well, went too far—

It’s dismissal time and the students are beginning there trek homeward or to the bus, but you’ve taught so long, you can smell it—that extra smell that tells you, yes, something’s brewing and you had better stay alert—and then—

It happens, just as you hoped it would not. A crowd is running to the action and you’re the only adult out there—not counting parents picking up their children. So you run too, and you get there just as three girls burst from the wall of onlookers with one very irate boy chasing after them. The girls turn in the middle of the street. This is funny to two of them. They are giggles and small shakes. The third girl knows they went too far. This boy is angry and his face is contorted and his mouth is full of ugly words and dangerous threats.

You grab at him, but he’s too fast, and he hits the third girl twice—once in the face and once in the chest. Then you get between them. You push her back—and you know she’s probably stronger than you. You find yourself holding onto him with all of your strength. It’s too hard. You’re by yourself.

Somehow you manage to contain the fight. Somehow you manage to get the boy against the fence in front of the school. Somehow you are able to move everything off the street. Security comes—finally—and helps by removing the girl who breaks loose again.

Some other students are helping you restrain the boy—and he’s strong and he wants to break out and he wants to do more. A hit to the face and chest is not enough. No.

Other adults from the school come running and you ease up just a bit—and then it happens. You’re still restraining him when the others helping you hold him begin to attack him—two boys and three girls: a hard punch to the face, a flurry of punches to the body, hard kicks into his legs.

It never ends.

You’ve had enough.

And then the next day comes and the ISAT ends and you’ve been writing this blog for a year now (I believe this might be its anniversary) and you want to write positive things, but you’re outside again and a pregnant girl gets out of the car with her friend and her mother in order to pick up the daughter who goes to my school and suddenly there it is again—the loud yelps of violence—but you’re not alone this time. You have all of the security with you.

You rush the scene and hold the same girl back from yesterday. You try to calm her. She is a curse word, suddenly, not even human anymore. Just a curse word like a wild river spewing from her mouth. You don’t know how it began and you don’t care. Not this moment.

You rush up to the mother when the other girl is restrained and tell her, Please, take her pregnant daughter into the school.

No, the mother yells at you. We’re going to finish this. She practically pushes her daughter onto the sidewalk.

There’s nothing else you can think to do but help to restrain the other girl—big and strong, but all of the time you’re thinking, Your daughter’s pregnant and skinny and sickly, too. If she fights, she will lose and she will lose badly. If you wanted her to have an abortion, why didn’t you just set it up in the clinic? Why would you want her to lose the baby right here, right now, on the street?

When calm is restored, it comes out. The pregnant girl—a student who does not even go to the school (with coaxing from her mother)—and her friend—came to start this fight. No motive. Nothing.

So you ask yourself again: If you wanted your fifteen year old daughter to have an abortion, why didn’t you just do it the right way? Was it an issue of money? Was it a moral dilemma that this fight would resolve?

Why would any grown mother send her pregnant daughter out into a fight she knew her daughter could not possibly win?

And when do fighters ever really win?

By the way, there’s a postscript to this blog, the boy is now officially transferred to my room. Effective noon, Thursday. And in the playground when we are offered a chance for recess this is what I overhear: Yeah, he tells the students around him, I beat the mess out of them. I got in so many licks—and then he looks my way and he knows he’s making this up and he turns and runs to play basketball as if nothing had ever happened.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A New Grant--After School Programs--Part 2

4.) What are the projected outcomes of the ASAS program?

We will evaluate the program with the following data:

A one percent increase in daily attendance; a fifty percent drop in negative referrals to the office from students participating in the program; a ten percent gain in standardized testing in science, math and reading; and individual student portfolio and performance tests. All of these evaluations will be done by the facilitator of the program with assistance from the administration.

Students will also demonstrate their skills through an annual exhibit and show of artwork, poetry and creative writing, dance, music and technology. Other items will also be showcased: demonstrations in science and math (including algebra) and an awards ceremony honoring the students who volunteered for tutoring, homework assistance and community service.

5.) Outline how you plan to use your $1500 Equipment and Supply Stipend you will receive in addition to your award amount.

We will divide the money into three parts—one thirds for sports and recreation, one third for material for the arts and crafts program and one third for materials for the science and algebra programs.

In this way, we will be able to supply our students with the needed supplies for a successful arts and crafts program. We will be able to add additional resources to our sports and recreational programs. Lastly, students in the math, science and algebra sections of the program will have the needed supplies to accomplish hands-on activities and science experiments.

6.) Describe your service learning program and how the project will serve the needs of the students and the community.

Students will be active participants in the tutoring and homework assistance components of the project. We will have a leadership/mentoring training for interested students. These same students will also tutor students within their peer group and/or students in other classrooms. Furthermore, they will act as mentors and character education leaders to resolve problems through a conflict resolution program developed by the professional staff of ______ through an in-kind grant from Channing-Bete.

In addition, the students of the All Star program will participate in two or more field trips to nursing homes, anti-littering campaigns, and gardening.

All of these activities link to academic and learning goals. (Gardening, for example, links to science.) The students will decide which activities they want to participate in and work together to plan them. Across age tutoring and mentoring will benefit the entire ________ educational community. All students will be active in the community learning service component of the program.

7.) An end of the year celebration will encompass all of the successes of the _______ After-School All Star program. In addition, students will evaluate with a reflective essay how they felt about the project and fill out an evaluation.

8.) Budget--MATERIALS

equipment for sports activities—softballs, 600
basketballs, soccer balls, nets, goals,
field hockey equipment

academics—library for program for reading/ 600
peer tutoring/cross the grade assistance

art supplies (for art class) 150

science equipment (for the science club) 150

total: 1500

9.) Budget—personnel

five teachers at $30 per hour 7000
five teacher assistants at $30 an hour 7000
administrative expenses 1000

total: 15000

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


In the culture of poverty, words have a lasting value. Oftentimes, a great value. With words, you can show off, be tough, show how big and bad you are.

Interestingly enough, a few of my students have begun to do just that very thing. They’re using words, intonation of voice and other verbal theatrics and choreography to show just how big and bad they are.

Unfortunately, a few of them are classroom leaders. You know the kind. The leaders who head the class into the realm of negativity.

No problem, though.

“I’m not doing any work and you can’t make me,” seems to be an anthem I’m hearing from a few teachers more and more.

But here’s the “cool” part. These students are talking the stuff, but they’re not following it up with their actions.

Yesterday we did the ISAT test for math. My class takes the test after the other seventh grade room. We went to the student lunchroom and read poetry. They wanted to go to the gym. A few of them made their views clear—with words.

Gym or not, all of the I’m-not-doing-any-work-and-you-can’t-make-me noise was just that. Every student did all of their work. The one’s who professed to be the loudest and angriest did the best.


Use words to get points with your peers and then use actions to get points with your teacher.

I guess hypocrisy is now being taught at a very early age.

And that’s my vocabulary word for the day: hypocrisy.

Actions speak louder than words—middle class value. Words speak louder than actions—hypocrisy.

How do you like them apples?

Monday, March 19, 2007

A New Grant--After School Programs

We're starting our second week of the ISAT. So far so good.

Here's a grant for those of you who want to start after school programs. Questions 1-3. I'll post the rest later this week.

1.) Please provide a brief overview of your After-School All-Stars program.

______’s after-school program will include a variety of elements including dance, music, arts and crafts, creative writing, sports, recreational board games, a computer lab, a math and science club, an algebra workshop, a homework club, a tutorial program—peer tutoring and small group tutoring, and a community service/student mentoring/character education leadership component. (Research shows we too often remediate at risk learners rather than enrich them. The leadership training component of the All Stars—tutoring, community service and mentoring—will offer at risk learners positive leadership practice.)

Classes will meet for two hours two days a week. Students will sign up for two classes per week. The first thirty minutes of each class will be utilized for peer tutoring, small group tutoring and/or homework assistance. The students will then begin their activity classes.

2.) How will students not served by the SES be included in the program?

All students in the program will be served in the academics portion of the program. Tutoring and homework assistance will be offered for the first thirty minutes of each two hour session. (More time can be supplied as needed.) In addition, students can select academic programs such as the math and science club, the algebra workshop, creative writing, the computer lab and the homework club.

3.) How does this program support your regular day?

Attendance is a priority goal of _______’s. Research has demonstrated again and again if students have engaging activities to participate in, they will attend school so they can participate in these programs. For example, if a student signs up for arts and crafts and creative writing, they will attend school in order to participate in the after-school activities.

Because the After-School All Stars has a variety of activities meeting the cognitive and learning needs of all of the students, the program also allows students to discover new ways of learning, integrate new strategies for cognitive and intellectual development into their vitae of educational resources and develop new methodologies to become better students. The focus of ______ is to create a community of lifelong; learners. All of the _______ programs aim to make this statement true.

Lastly, the _______ scores on standardized testing remains at the second to the bottom quartile. With additional supports, resources, and review, the students will be able to negotiate the path of successful academia thereby gaining more confidence in their academic ability. With this rise of self-esteem, students will show positive gains on standardized tests. After all, the more one practices a skill, the better they are able to succeed at that skill.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


We’re on day three of the ISAT standardized tests. Yesterday we did the extended response and I felt fairly good about how well my class is doing so far. The test seems quite easy and the writing prompt was not difficult at all.

Nonetheless, there are still issues in the building. Student attitudes that bubble over and cause chaos, angry teachers, and other little things.

So you’re standing at the south exit of the school because you heard through the rumor mill there was going to be a fight and sure enough, the fighters come out because they really want to fight. But first they have to gain some courage and have some spectators—cause there’s never a need to fight when you’re not truly evil unless you have an audience.

You break it up when it’s obvious the crowd is filling in to make sure there is a fight. You step in—because you are the only one pout there at this door (even though two security personnel and three teacher aides are outside too)—and you put an end to it.

Or you think you ended it.

The next thing you know one of the boys is peeling off his uniform shirt and his sport’s jersey—it’s expensive, you know (the sport’s jersey, I mean)—and he’s half naked. There’s going to be some kind of problem here so you step in again and you restrain him, and it’s not easy because you’re a teacher, not an athlete, and it becomes even harder when another boy steps up to bat and tries to get you to take your hands off the boy you are restraining.

Then one security man comes in and it’s not too long after that that the entire affair is put to rest. It’s just that you can’t forgive the boy who put his hands on you to try to stop the fight. But his mother’s picking him up right now. A hundred-fifty yards away. He’s getting in the car. You can do this. You’re a teacher. And you run to the car and you’re not even out of breath and the mother looks at her son and you can tell she is no longer just angry—she’s past anger.

One hundred-fifty yards. Not bad. That’s why teachers are strong.

My class—integrating mathematics with science—ended yesterday. I did my final presentation. Final grade: 595 points out of 600, but who’s bragging.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Here's a grant I wrote for another teacher. It received funding from the Chicago Foundation for Education.


Increase math literacy and proficiency through the utilization of literature in my classroom.

Students Impact:

Based on Learning First Standardized Test data, all of my students scored in the first and second quartiles, well below the third or meets quartile needed to meet the requirements for mathematics at their grade level. With the assistance of skilled based workbooks, texts and other trade books, I have discovered remediation and review only carries the class so far. My project will enrich their mathematical skills through the use of literature. Many of my students are frightened by math and because of their fears, they are often overwhelmed by the various concepts and ideas mathematics presents to them. Utilizing a library of literature to teach them math (and I will be the classroom coach—not the classroom teacher—during this activity), will give them another strategy to understand mathematics. Furthermore, literature will invite my classroom to explore the world of mathematics through a different worldview—literature as a mathematical model.

Students will read various books in small grouped literature circles analyzing the mathematical content through the use of exposition, characterization, plot, etc. (For example, Shel Silverstein has a number of poems with math themes that are both engaging and full of mathematical concepts.) My students will then create their own versions of the literature to further reinforce what they have learned. In addition, their completed books will be self published by the classroom and displayed prominently in the classroom library for other students to check out and read. Students will also participate in read-alouds to both their peers and to students in the primary grades. Finally students will take the reading circle books and their own self published books home to share with family and family friends.

All of these activities will increase my students’ fluency; comprehension; word knowledge; number sense; measurement skills; and give them a comprehensive understanding of algebraic concepts, geometry, data analysis, statistics and probability.

I will evaluate the success of this project utilizing the following data: a ten percent increase in math and reading skills in the second and third Reading First test; an increase of ten percent in both math and reading on the Illinois standardized test, the ISAT; and a decrease by fifty percent negative referrals to the office. I also expect a hundred percent increase in library participation and check out from our classroom library.


(I asked the teacher to paste the reading standards here)


Classroom library of mathematics through literature:$400

Barnes and Nobles

Book making materials:$100

Lakeshore Learning


If this grant is funded, additional resources include assistance from SouthStreet Journal, a local newspaper, and Student Treasures Publishing, a corporation that has committed to publishing one hardback book for each participating child’s original work.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Thunderstorm Lesson for my Classes

I'm back in school--getting my science endorsement--and this is one of the things I thought I read about (and so I tried it with my classes) when our professor asked us to do some reading:

A letter to the professor:

We didn’t cover this in class, but I missed the first meeting and I thought we needed to read a lot of the stuff left on the eboard. One of them was computing how far away the storm was. So the next day—and sometimes nature is on our side (a rare thing for teachers where the Peter Principle rules) we watched for a flash of lightning and then timed how long before we heard the thunder. (Guess I jinxed us, cause after that winter really came on strong.)

So if the speed of sound is given at 331.4 meters per second, we can figure out how far away the storm is. I told them a few examples from my life when I beat the rain by calculating the distance. Then we did some problems and nature helped out a few times. Thank you, nature.

You’re walking home in your best Sunday clothes when suddenly it starts to get seriously cloudy and then you see the first flash of lightning. You count how long it takes for the thunder: one Mississippi two Mississippi three Mississippi four Mississippi. Then you start to run. Why?

We discussed the answer first: I multiplied four by the speed of sound and I got the distance. Or: I added the distance the speed of sound travels in four seconds and then I knew when the storm would hit. Or: I’m lost. Or: How did you get four? Or: We were talking about something else. Can you go over it again?

Three examples later, the entire class could solve the problem.

So I made it harder. I brought in the fact that the speed of sound travels at a different rate of speed depending on the temperature.

And we did the entire process again. And this time they paid attention. For the most part.


For the last so many weeks now I've been taking a course on the integration of math with science. I didn't want to take the course. I've been teaching for a long, long time and it's not that I don't like learning anymore--it's just that I want to be able to pick what I learn.

Anyway, I wrote this grant and my school got funded for it so the next thing I know, I'm part of the grant (and I never meant that to happen). So I'm in Loyola University on Chicago’s northside taking a class.

Part of the class is to teach me methods I can use with my own students. So I thought I'd write this blog about the process. I thought at first I’d just bring a few of my students to the class and let them show the class what I learned, but the logistics were just too great. (Taking students from 43rd twenty miles north, feeding them, having them sit in the class—though I’m sure the students I selected would be great sitters—and then having to drive all the way back to their homes seemed to be an issue. Also: the Dan Ryan is under construction again—you know, Chicago’s other season.)

Then I thought I’d create a power point, but that didn’t work out because I have no idea how to create a power point. (I’m a firm believer everyone over fifty should be allowed to pass when they are asked to do something with modern technology.)

So in the end I just had all of my classes do all of the work I did in class. All of my students. I want you to understand this. Every one of them.


You hear the commotion in the sixth grade classroom five doors from your room. Your class is hard at work dissecting a poem for its inner meaning, but the noise is too sudden and way too loud.

You run to the room of the sixty-five year old woman sixth grade teacher. She has one of her girls backed up in the corner. The girl is strong and trying to break loose, but the teacher is stronger. Teaching in the inner city makes you strong.

You move to the teacher and past her and to the girl and you hug her as hard as you can. She is a skinny girl, tall and awkward, and she is crying angry tears and she is very mad. You hug her harder and her hands sail into the air uselessly. They do not know what to do.

In the hall you offer her a place in your classroom. This is what you do. You always take in the troubled youngsters. You don’t let go. You hold her wrist now, you turn her towards you, and you offer again.

She wants to finish what someone else has started. You cannot allow this to happen. The sixty-five year old sixth grade woman teacher is not even out of breath, but you, younger, are feeling the first beads of sweat.

Soon others are on the scene and they take the girl from you. She is no longer crying. She is just angry now, full of madness and wants to curse, but holds her words still, in her mouth, like the pit of a peach. This is OK. You flex you’re arms and shake off the strain of your muscles. Teaching makes you strong.

Friday, March 09, 2007


The ISAT is next week and guess what?

Yep, you guessed it, we have a clock. (The title of this blog didn't give that away, did it?)

You need a clock for testing, the principal said, and the engineer said, get a clock for Brownstein's room.

I didn't even know we had a clock until one of my students told the class we have a new clock.

Now we just need a battery to make it work.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


With extreme apologies to Clement C. Moore and his poem, "The Night Before Christmas"

‘Twas the week before ISAT
And all through the school
Not a student was noisy,
I guess that’s the rule.

The children were quiet working at their desks
With visions of pencils, paper and tests.
Everywhere teachers looked unconcerned;
Even the class clown did not use her jests.

When out in the playground there arose such a clatter
Everyone looked outside to see what was the matter.
Away to the playground a few of us ran
And there we discovered the test in a tatter.

Our scores did go up I know this to be true
The newspapers said so so it has to be true.
We no longer take the IOWA, you know,
Where we could not be proctors for our classroom too.

The ISAT’s no IOWA. We stay in our rooms,
We walk the long aisles and watch our student’s test,
We know that we belong here
Cause we can see them giving their best.

And the test is so different—
We have ten minutes longer,
More pictures and an answer sheet simpler,
All of us feel stronger.

So listen, students, before you take the ISAT test,
Your teacher will be proctors in the room with you
There’s no reason to lose your head.
Our scores have gone up—the paper says this is true.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


So Monday is Casimir Pulaski Day, the day all of the Chicago schools get to take the day off because of some guy named Pulaski who never stepped on Illinois soil and died in his second battle during the Revolutionary War (after losing his first one).

Some people want to call him the Father of the Modern Day Calvary, so I guess Hannibal is the Father of the Modern Elephant Brigade. (Both equally silly.)

Men have been using horses forever in battle. Don’t give more to a man than he deserves. A deserter in Prussia, a man with a death sentence over his head from another European country, a man forced into exile, he came here to rectify everything and lived long enough only to—well, to get a street named after himself in Chicago (Is it named after him? We do have more Poles living here than anywhere else except for Warsaw.)

Let’s cut to the bone. When Governor Thompson a few years back was in a tight race for governor, he decided if he had the Polish vote, he would win the election. What better way to do it than to have a holiday honoring a Pole—Casimir Pulaski —for his work during the Revolutionary War?

Think about this for a moment. George Washington, the founder of our country, no longer has a holiday. (It’s President’s Day now.) So why should a has been have a holiday named after him?

Two weeks before the Illinois ISAT testing program, we’re getting a day off to celebrate a man who—who—who—I don’t know what to say.

But people tell me it’s a day off. Be grateful.

Sorry, I believe that even Martin Luther King, Jr. would want us in school learning about how one individual can make a difference rather than getting a day off. King deserves a day. So does Washington and he doesn’t get one. So why would we ever think to give one to Pulaski?


PS. Thompson got almost the entire Polish vote and won the election.

Friday, March 02, 2007


Going backwards: Thursday started off rough—I would not let one of my classrooms go to gym until they finished their assignment—but once the class settled down everyone but two students received a perfect score. When the incredible book fight happened at the end of the day—you know someone yells food fight and all hell breaks loose, but this time someone yelled book fight and hell could not compare—I was in the office, told to run upstairs and handle it, and three other teachers came to help me out. So it stopped immediately. The good news is my class was on a break with another teacher and everyone stayed in their seat and continued doing their work. No one jumped up and ran to the door to see what all of the excitement was about. Hurrah!

Thursday: Over forty students, eight assignments, three-hundred-five perfect papers.

Wednesday: The African-American assembly. Three of my students performed in the ballet sponsored by the Joffrey Ballet Company here in Chicago. (Just a moment to brag on myself: I wrote the grant that got the ballet here in the first place.) During the eighth grade portion, two of my students were asked to go on stage to dance—and they were sensational. When it was our turn, one of my students did an excellent recitation of a speech by Sojourner Truth while the boys put together their African drum ensemble. (Yep, I wrote the grant that purchased the authentic African drums.) They did three original beats and they, too, were fantastic.

Tuesday: A great field trip. You can read about it by pressing this link.

Monday: That was a long time ago. Can’t remember.

Other highlights:

When the misbehaving children were put in my classroom this week, they behaved.

Students began—and this happened at least five times—to stop conflicts before they got started.

One of the worst sixth graders—who is now a seventh grader and in my room—received major accolades for improvement in everything. (And I got the credit for it. How silly is that.)

Until next time. Thanks for reading.