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, April 28, 2007


OK. First, here comes Stanley who purchased the shorts for the game—and he gives me extra large. (I didn’t think I was over weight, but I’m starting my diet tomorrow—or probably sometime next week.) I purchased new shoes a week ago just for the game. Sox came courtesy of Nike—a company that suddenly remembered us (see previous blog about Nike).

So I changed in my classroom and made my entrance three minutes into the first quarter, my shirt tucked into the shorts. Nothing like walking into a game and not warming up.

(I pulled my t-shirt out a few minutes later. Why didn’t any teacher tell me they were supposed to be worn outside of the shorts?)

And I made my grand entrance. Every student lined up against the wall threw out his/her hand and we did that thing you always see with Jay Leno—I must have smacked fifty hands before I made it to where my team was seated.

I played for one minute in the first quarter, or rather I should say, I ran up and down the field wide open the entire time for one minute. Good exercise.

Second quarter came and I played for two minutes. Didn’t even get close to the ball, but I think—though I’m not sure—that I was able to stay on my man—an eighth grader who was much quicker and better than me. Anyway, he only got one shot off and, of course, it went in.

Third quarter I got a chance to handle the ball. Finally. It went out of bounds and I was the one who passed it back in. Again, wide open, students and parents started yelling, “Brownstein’s open! Brownstein’s open!”—but all I did was run back and forth—and, of course, look good.

Meanwhile the eighth grade teacher was hot. She was shooting from all angles, hitting the basket sixty percent of the time, racking up the points and the security guy was going “Bam! Bam!” every time he took a shot ‘cause he was our star.

We were losing so they let me in for the last five minutes of the game. (They knew to save the best for last.)

Meanwhile the eighth grade teacher grabbed one of her students by the collar and dragged him a few feet across the floor (and she’s not even five foot five—but she’s strong!) and the security guy began to play punch one of the tall seventh graders when the ref wasn’t looking and the seventh grader hit him back (all in play) when the ref was looking so we got a few points through free throw penalties.

I did get the ball again, and I was open and I turned to shoot when this eighteen foot student jumped all over me before I could even think to raise my arms so I passed it to the eighth grade teacher and she took a shot and made it. I got the ball a second time and this time I did get off a shot which at least hit the rim—but guess what?—I got the rebound and was able to pass it to one of my teammates who at least had a clue.

Great game.

We lost 82-52.

I keep saying this: Basketball’s not my game. I’m not sure of baseball. Why can’t we have a field hockey game? OK. OK. I’m the only one who can play that. But everyone can run.

Track and field anyone?


The All Stars Activity Grant came from a much larger grant my district won. We received fifteen hundred dollars for supplies.

How will money from this grant benefit after school academic activities?

The ________ After School Program contains the following cognitive clubs: science, peer tutoring, creative arts, homework, reading and board games (chess, checker, Monopoly, etc.). With this grant we will purchase high interest and engaging materials, books and other supplies to enable our students to pursue interests and academic activities independently or in small and large groups.

List your rationale for the materials you will utilize with this grant.

We will create small group lab activities for the science club. These will include the exploration of a number of science concepts including evolution (fossil study, fruit flies, etc.), rocks and minerals, magnetism, and anatomy (fetal pigs, sheep dissection material, etc.) we have created these labs with the assistance of Fisher Scientific.

Our creative arts program will utilize disposable cameras for writing and photo journalism. We will utilize paint, chalk, and other media to allow our students the freedom to explore various art forms on a number of materials including newsprint, canvas and other types of paper. We will create music and dance videos of original student work with African instruments. (Instruments have been purchased through another grant).

The reading club will utilize books from the Coach series. We picked this series because the same title comes in two reading levels—one for at risk readers and another for those who are proficient.) We will not read aloud, but instead discuss the book in a reading club discussion forum where the teacher will be the coach and discussion moderator.

The Game Club will use chess and checkers to develop higher level thinking skills, Monopoly to develop strategies for success, and other games that further the vision and mission of the school—to create a well rounded and life long learner.

How will you evaluate the success of your program?

_____ School will see a two percent gain in attendance on club activity days, a fifty percent drop in negative referrals to the office, and a five percent gain on standardized testing including the Chicago Learning First.

Friday, April 27, 2007


So were studying the biographies of a few famous poets and then critiquing one or more poems to see if we can trace influences from their life to their poetry and so far it’s going really well. Many of my students wrote how Wallace Steven’s life of loneliness seemed to have a major impact on his poem, “Disillusionment at Ten O’clock.” Almost every student saw the tragedies in Robert Frost’s family life as a very important theme in his poem, “Out Out.” I liked the way they were able to correlate the idea of life goes on after a child dies in an accident. And my students discovered in William Carlos Williams someone they might want to be right at this moment. Each day my students’ essays have been better and better.

Today we do Allen Ginsberg—I’ll read the first few lines of “Howl”—and Rita Dove. Can’t wait.

Science was harder. We were trying to discover the difference between a scientist and a technologist. Perhaps the hand-out was too vague. Don’t know. Nonetheless, working in cooperative groups, eighty percent of the class did well. I’ll try again today.

So where does the hideous and the bad come in. We had an alleged gang incident after school Wednesday and I met with one of the parents after school Thursday so we can rein it in before it escalates. I didn’t appreciate overhearing a few of the upper grade students plans to jump parents and children after school because of the incident. Didn’t have to worry though. It started raining right at dismissal so there were no incidents at all.

I also learned to ignore the temper tantrum of one of my seventh graders. (He transferred to my class from another room a few weeks ago.) Well, not exactly learned. I just decided not to give him any attention for negative behavior and after fifteen minutes he realized no one really cared—except for my bully who cannot stand for another bully to bully her. So he raised his voice and added some interesting words, looked my way, and saw that I was into something else and he sat down and did all of his work.

Victory? No. But I’m trying.

Anyway today is the teacher/student basketball game and I’m in it. So wish me luck cause I can’t play basketball even a little bit. Now field hockey? That’s an entirely different matter.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


We’re at my college class for teachers seeking a science endorsement and here comes one of the teachers.

“What a day. I suspended eight kids from my class.” He takes his seat and looks around the room. “Two girls wanted to fight. They’re the hardest to break up. You can’t just grab them anywhere.”

He pauses.

“My school is just a lawsuit getting ready to happen,” he continues to no one in particular though all of us were listening.

He pauses again.

“At least the boys are easier. You have at least three minutes lead time before you have to get between them. They got to bump chests and get into each other’s face. Girls? Now that’s another story all together.”

He stands, removes his coat. It’s spring in Chicago and it’s raining and it’s cold. Outside it already looks like dusk.

“My mother teaches in the inner city of Philadelphia. She called me last night to tell me yesterday was the worst day of teaching in her career. It’s not getting better.”

Then class starts and he doesn’t speak for a long time. When he does, it is a question about stem cells. After that he opens up a bit more, but you can tell the melancholy of the day—of his second year as a teacher—weighs itself down on him heavier than stone.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


We were busy—the small Local School Council group—working on the principal’s evaluation and in no time at all we were finished and it was time to dismiss all the students.

I went outside like I always do. A beautiful afternoon, blue skies (even though the weathermen predicted all day storms), nice breezes, warm enough to remove the jackets. We had heard there might be a problem between an 8th grader and a 6th grader, so we were ready.

It’s great when the school comes together to stop a problem before it begins. The 6th grade girl’s mother was notified and she came to school before dismissal to pick her up. The 8th grader was asked to stay in the office until the 6th grader was gone.

Everything went smoothly. It was great. Within minutes all of the children were on their way. Another perfect dismissal.

The 8th grader was still a bit scared, though, so security walked her to the center where she goes after school.

And I went home.

Everyday should be this good.

Friday, April 20, 2007


The Virginia Tech violence was a real scary thing—too scary in fact. The violence did not have to happen, but it did, and it was isolated, and it was probably something that could not have been stopped because it is very hard to stop this kind of thing.

Then again—we have to learn from this.

Teachers have come forward to tell how they pass students because they are afraid of the negative reactions they will receive. Teachers have stated that they are threatened by certain individuals and they react in the wrong way when confronted by them.

Bullying is a societal problem—we want are students to be assertive and we want them to be strong and we want them to have high self esteem even when we know what we are saying to them is not true—and this might be the first stages of creating our own class of bullies.

Yes, it’s much easier to tell a parent her/his child is not working up to his/her potential even though we know—as teachers—the child is, in fact, doing the best they can. A “C” is not a bad grade when the child can only perform average work.

And what’s wrong with that? Most of us are average. If everyone was an “A” person, we’d all want to be leaders and we’d all be disgruntled and we’d all—you get my point.

There are leaders and then there are many, many followers.

This is how it is.

They bullied the Virginia Tech killer during high school—at one time telling him to go back to China. I don’t know the reaction of the teacher. I don’t know if there were any consequences. I just don’t know.

We as teachers have to take a step back—now—and reconfigure this self esteem thing. Yes, it’s a good thing for a student to feel good about themselves, but at least let them feel good about something they really are good doing.

I don’t tell all of my parents that their child can do better because their child is smart. No, that’s wrong. Some children are going to be the best sanitary workers in the nation. Others are going to be the best bus driver or postal worker or nurse’s aid.

Sorry—we all cannot be doctors and teachers—though we probably can be lawyers if we just hang in there long enough and start to enjoy reading.

Jokes aside, we teachers need to know more about our students and we need to know how to reach out to the bully and the victim, how to become change agents of the mind, how to stop a future Virginia Tech.

Yesterday, on my way from the train to my school, I walked behind two parents and a child. The child goes to my school. The two parents have children in my school. Here is the conversation I overheard verbatim:

“Listen,” one parent said to the child, “I’m going to give you two dollars tomorrow after you beat up ____”


“I’ll give you a few bucks too. You hear,” said the other.


I asked who the boy was they wanted him to beat up. They told me they weren’t talking to me. I told them that it concerned me because I work at that school. They told me it wasn’t my business and then they walked quickly away.

The boy is in second grade. The parents have children in his class. I reported the conversation. My school made arrangements. I still do security outside. We were alert to any problems.

But here’s the real problem: parents bribing a child to beat up another child. Already we are in the stages of developing another Virginia Tech killer.

This behavior has got to stop.

And, teachers, we have to realize stopping that behavior starts with us.

Let’s start networking now. Let’s begin a group that relays messages from teacher to teacher so none of us will be so scared we can’t stop what might happen. We have to stop it and to do that, we have to hang together across states and schools and economic boundaries and become one united front.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Spring has finally—and hopefully—come to Chicago and even though broken glass was on the playground and garbage was wind thrown against one corner of the fence—the after school students went outside for recreation—and I have to tell you, it was just great.

We have had an on-going problem with basketball this and basketball that and we only play basketball for so long now, I’ve wanted to tear out my hair at times.

Not last evening.

Last evening we played baseball and t-ball and football and 4 squares and every other game except for—(well, not exactly cause three boys did play basketball).

And everything went so smooth it was great. There’s not even a but here. Everything was so good, when the students left at the end of the day and walked past all of the TV cameras—yes, TV cameras—because my school is the polling place where Dorothy Tillman got her start and where she actually votes (and she lost!!!), they were polite and inquisitive and even allowed to hold the mic and the camera and talk to the reporters.

Some days everything comes together so well, everything is, well, well.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Dorothy Tillman and How We Change History

First published in November, 2006

Please check out the comments at the bottom of the page.

I’m not a big fan of Dorothy Tillman, the alderman of the third ward, the ward where my school is located. It’s hard for me to want to meet someone who reconstructs her history depending on her audience. We celebrated Nike Day at my school last Friday, a grand celebration. We had over a hundred volunteers from all over the Midwest come to our school to assist us in so many projects, I can’t name them all. They helped plant the garden, repainted our playground and removed some really nasty graffiti. They tutored, reorganized the library, and cleaned out our infamous bookroom.

It was great day.

So why am I writing about Dorothy Tillman? Simple. At the end of the day we had an assembly where Nike presented us with a check and a pledge of five hundred volunteer man-hours. She showed up for that. And she made a speech.

Over the years I have heard her say she marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when she was as young as sixteen. In her bio, she states he asked her to come to Chicago to assist in changing things. Her speech on Friday did not state any of this. I wish it had. More than once I’ve heard her speak changing crucial timelines—sixteen became twenty-one, for example. I’m not even sure she ever met Dr. King.

During her brief speech on Friday she said, “If it hadn’t been for M_____, I might never have been known. Almost everything I have is due to my work at M_____.”

I always thought Dr. King was her ticket to everything good that happened in her life.

Yes, she became famous because of my school. She went against the white principal when the school offered enrichment classes and one of her children was not allowed to enroll. She began a one-woman protest—which is her right—and soon others began to join her. Was it really about her child not getting into enrichment classes or was it instead her wish to show how she could control the school. (One of the main instigators of the major fight last week is on our school’s Local School Council—a position that can fire a principal. Enough said.)

In the end, the principal, Dorothy Stevens, lost her job, even though she won in court. My school—though I wasn’t teaching there yet—fell into turmoil and great confusion becoming one of the lowest performing and most dangerous schools on the Southside of Chicago. A number of principals tried to change the school. Andrea Kerr, the woman who hired me, was the first to succeed, but because of her success, the Board bumped her upstairs.

We are still trying to change everything. Our scores are higher. Things are better. My seventh grade classes scored over 97% on the science portion of the Illinois standardized test—but I probably mentioned this a few times too many.

I’ve had more than a few run-ins with Dorothy Tillman, almost every one of them negative. (During the big fight last week, for example, as the police interviewed me, she came into the gym and interrupted. "Let the parents speak," she demanded, but the police officer told her to be quiet so she could finish taking my testimony.) I’ve worked with one of her sons and I taught another. It always interested me that she would take a major grant and spend it on revamping King Dr. when the neighborhood needed—and still needs—serious help, but perhaps it’s because now her alleged real estate holdings can appreciate—condos are everywhere on King Dr.—and her office at the corner of 47th and King (even though police are needed to keep a 24 hour watch on it because someone keeps breaking out her window) has retail shops paying rent to—can it be?—Dorothy Tillman herself.

I don’t know.

Anyways, I have made a link to the actual ruling on the case that made Dorothy Tillman famous.
posted by A Teacher's Log | 5:47 AM
Donor said...
A classic example of scum rising to the top. I read the transcript from the court and it appears to me that there was race bias involved in the instruction of the judge. These people let a mob make decisions, a mob to take over and beleive they can do it again by the issuance of this unjust verdict. Now the courts and police have a dangerous, lunatic, mob ruler on their hands, a tiger by the tail. They, the courts, created her and will have to deal with her. Hopefully one day true justice will prevail.
3:59 PM
Anonymous said...
Just like Micheal Brown said in Nov. 30th Chicago Sun-Times."Just seeing the name Dorothy Tillman send some white men into a tizzy" Tsk..Tsk..talk about white male entitlement syndrome. Your blog is full of lies. I doubt if you print this.
10:11 AM
A Teacher's Log said...
This is for anonymous--Guess you were wrong. I did print it. Please read the transcript of the court papers. Please know also when you state something is full of lies, you should be able to document where the lies are. Is this one blog full of lies or the entire blog? If it is only this one blog that is full of lies, then where is your proof? I linked to the court papers. Please send me evidence and I'll print that too.

Dorothy Tillman sending me into a tizzy. No. But then you don't know me. But then I don't know you either. I mean you didn't even have the guts to sign your name, but my name is prominently displayed on my blog.

Your turn.

Michael H. Brownstein


One of my friends called me last night after the killings at Virginia Tech and asked me why this doesn't happen in the inner city schools.

I gave him the wrong answer.

It does happen--one killing at a time.

But why not at the same rate as the one in Virginia or Texas or...?

There is great anger in the inner city--an anger so full of hate and despair it is hard for me to comprehend. Almost every night I find myself calming an adult who has this incredible need to curse someone out. A lot of the time it is over very little.

On the way home I hear this rage and on the way to school I see the broken glass and the broken windows and the broken cars.

When failure becomes the norm, when parents bribing their children to do things they are supposed to do, when the very fabric of our nation is a violent movie or video, when cursing is acceptable and parenting is not, we have reached a crisis.

And I don't have a cure. I don't.

Could the Virginia Tech massacre have been stopped? I don't think so. It wasn't a sane person doing the killing. And how do you know insanity when you see it?

I'm sorry, but too often the only solution I come up against where I teach is the solution of violence.

And too often--like the incident yesterday--it goes way too far and too many people get hurt or killed.

In my world the words "I don't care" and "so" injure me in too many ways. I know my students care and I know they do not mean to be so rude with a so. But they are. And I come down hard on them. As hard as I do when I cancel a field trip because of a fight anywhere around the school (thankfully there has not been a fight in my room) or when a child decides he has to curse his anger out--even when it's over nothing at all.

And I seldom do parent conferences anymore. Or home visits. There is too much pain in this neighborhood and it bleeds through me like a knife wound.

So to answer my friend: I can't explain why a Virginia Tech has not happened in the inner city. I just pray it never does.

And I pray for the parents and I pray for the children and I pray for America.

Monday, April 16, 2007


The ISAT test is the standardized test for Illinois. It’s the reason I began this blog over a year ago. It comes too soon in the school year—we still have three months to go if you count this one—and many students feel the school year has ended. I thought I would chronicle the events that occurred in my school after testing. I got carried away and I’m still at it.

The ISAT test is over for the 2006-2007 school year. I just thought this item would be of interest.

One question on the ISAT science test went as follows (I’m paraphrasing):

Which list shows the correct order of a food chain?

A. grass, snake, rat, cricket
B. snake, grass, rat, cricket
C. rat, snake, cricket, grass
D. snake, cricket, grass, rat

There is no answer.

One of my students raised his hand. “There is no answer,” he said and showed me.

I’m thinking maybe the comma between grass and snake is a mistake and the choice is really grass snake, rat, cricket.

“What should I do?” he asked.

And I didn’t know how to answer him. The mistake is so gross and so wrong, he had to wonder about the rest of the test.

I did report this wrong answer to the administration of my school. I understand more than a dozen other mistakes were found. Last year my class scored an incredible 97.5% on the science portion of the ISAT in seventh grade.

Could it be because there were so many mistakes on the test they just had to give them more points?

Friday, April 13, 2007



Please enjoy this issue and thank you for your continued support.


Marylin Houle, editor.

A Visit To The Zoo

I nurture the wrong people,
gangrene girls with color scars,
small breasts like the the yellow cusps of dandelion.

I have broken so many fights
the count is beyond fingers,
beyond toes.

We walk the stone paths of the zookery.
Ivy, oat, barley. Great frogs, green shade,
wood ducks, a rock ledge.
water lilies like thick fish, spotted fish,
striped fish turning delicate hoops.

We eat lunch on stone benches jutting out over water,
a breeze ghosting through spiked grass.

Swifts move through the air like Chinese fighting kites
and there by the fallen tree, an egret,
wings stronger than hunger,
wings stronger than selfishness.

My girls do not see the wood duck, the swift.
They do not see the fish, the large frog.
My girls complain about the walking,
this was a trip to the zoo,
we came to see animals

not Lake Michigan,
not the break wall,
not a rumble of rock blocking waves,
the water green gray blue,
not shells, not algae,
not sand thick with alewives.

I nurture caged girls,
meat-eating girls,
and when the rock dove lands by thrown bread,

I nurture girls who glory in the herring gull's attack,
a rock dove retreating quickly,
wild wings sparking like fields of lasers.

Michael H. Brownstein


nature's love affair with my daughter

She found the forest to be just the right fragrance, the leaves just the right green, the softness of seed, a tree frog, the quicksilver of fox fur and light.

Someone said once my daughter could hear the breath of birds, the heartbeat of deer, the hushed pedaling of wolves across the thin grass and tangled vines.

I never asked her if this was true. Instead I let her teach the children about the clouds, the blue twilight of day, the hushed whisper of one reed leaning into another.

And I would walk with her, her long hair thick and black, wonderful and wavy; her dimpled smile the perfect moon; her voice the wind and earth and everything inbetween,

Words: Michael H. Brownstein


The Beast and the Girl

He had the longest hair and a fist the size of two hands,

She was copper smooth with the brightest smile.

You can never tell with love. A simple smell. Eye contact across a room. The taste of rum and coke falling over a glass of ice. The sudden change in tempo. The way a voice can carry.

He worked in the coal mines. Thick dust and sweaty. Fingernails old with the darknesss of underground labor.

She worked uptown as a model.

They met and that was that. A party at the Hyatt, Christmastime, the line of men asking her to dance too long for him to even try, and he watched and waited and he heard her say no over and over. He thought not to try, but try he did, and she said, “Yes,” surprising him.

Their first dance was five songs long. He did not know how to listen to music and she found his movements charming. He was soon red and out of breath. This too she found amusing.

“We’ve danced long enough,” she said.

“The song isn’t over,” he answered.

And she pulled him off the dance floor, explained about the music and the five songs and that was the beginning.

Words: Michael H. Brownstein

Moon Pulse

His fingers hold the weight of the moon and all of its fullness, all of the madness in the world, every counter to sanity every thirty days,

Blood rising through the werewolf, the wolfman, the dragon tamer, the killer of lizards, the lovers of osmosis.

Yet he cannot let go. Moonlight knows nothing of the sun’s heat, nothing of a snow burn, nothing of the scars binding one enemy to another.

But he can hear its frantic heartbeat faster, faster, faster until--

Dawn wakes the blue sky with a whisper and the full moon slips away into the shadows.

Words: Michael H. Brownstein
Music and video: Two Feathers aka Korey Brownstein


Opera of the Wood

The silence of the forest is not the silence of the empty classroom, the teacher bent over his desk grading papers, a book open to page 202, a soft breeze blowing through a crack in the window. It is not the city at 3 AM, a residential street, everyone asleep, the cat leaning into the grass to nap. The forest is the love song of the loon, the call of the killdeer, an easy sigh through the leaves, the first fish surprised by a development of legs pushing itself out of the water into the tall grass where the crickets tell the temperature and the grasshoppers charm each other. The opera of the trees is just that grand, the wind that perfect, the harmony of the birds exactly right.

Words: Michael H. Brownstein

Bolivian Love Song

Voices fill the air. Somewhere a man has given himself to his god and stands at the bridge of a cliff looking over the white nipples of water cresting over sand and stone. He is a serious man given over to laughter and happiness as all serious men are. He understands the value of self, the need to comprehend the color of clouds and light reflected onto the sea, the way the sun ducks in and out like a goldfish among shells.

The man can stand still and listen a long time. He can taste the music. He can feel it bite his skin, smooth his hair, move through his legs.

He has known love and he lingers over it, smiles, laughs loud enough to disturb the herring gulls near his feet, and when he turns away, the wind tugs at his shirt, grass sweeps across his feet, and a single leaf crowns his head.
Have you ever heard an angel sigh? He has, but he cannot find the words to describe how it sounds.

Words: Michael H. Brownstein

Rush Hour Crawl

Even with the air conditioning on full blast and the radio humming along,
Even with the slanders of work.
Even with the haze from the factories near the highway.
Even with a settting sun and a lack of trees.
Even with a creek of cars and every dam in the exact wrong place.
Even with a silence when you turn, finally, off the road and enter the side streeets to your house.
Even with the rain.

Words: Michael H. Brownstein

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


The day after spring vacation and there was a bit of the old confusion, but my class was kick butt strong.

During science my seventh graders and I began to explore the standard deviation equation and they were on top of it. I gave them a number of repetitions, we worked out each variable, they worked by themselves and together cooperatively, and a lesson I thought would be troublesome and last for more than an hour took us thirty minutes and almost everyone had it down.

The best part: two students who are afraid to participate because they do not want others to think they are slow gave me the right answers aloud over and over—and I didn’t even have to call on them.

They volunteered it.

OK. OK. I didn’t do the entire equation. I dissected it and taught the students variable by variable. When they had this down, I introduced them to the concepts inside of the square root sign.

They understood data, mean, and the summation of the problem. Wednesday we go for broke.

Today I teach the other class the same subject and I’m rip roaring ready to go.

And did I tell you there were no problems whatsoever outside on duty before school and after. Only one student was sent to my room for discipline and he was fine. Everything smooth sailing and easy going times.

I hope everyone reading this has an excellent day out there, too.

Monday, April 09, 2007


Spring vacation ended too soon as usual. Thought it might be of interest to learn why a grant does not get funded. Please join with me as we learn from my mistakes.

When my principal asked me to write this grant, I knew she did not do all of her research. The narrative was not the problem (except in one important place). Other things were. I have marked the problems with the grant in boldface.

Did your school attend a REAL Informational Session?

Yes, the principal represented the school. In order to get the grant, the funder wanted more representation than one individual.

Have you held a preliminary vote with your staff on whether to implement the REAL Program and the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP)?

The administration has held informal conversations with a number of the professional staff. The feedback has been very positive, but, no, we did not hold a formal vote. The funder required a vote, though they did make a few exceptions.

What percentage of staff in your school voted to proceed based on this preliminary vote?

We did not take a preliminary vote. Because there was no vote taken, we lost major points.

Please explain why REAL and the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) will fit into the school’s current strategy for improving student outcomes.

The culture of the Mollison Elementary School is very important to the learning and social environment of the school. Both of these programs will bring increased cohesion to our professional staff and added conversation thereby implementing more positive change agent programming into our school. Teaching is not a job, though many see it just that way. Teaching is a passion, and almost every teacher at Mollison is passionate about teaching. With the additional resources and incentives REAL and TAP will bring to the school, we will be able to more fully implement our vision and mission statements—Mollison, a community of lifetime learners.

Furthermore, this program will offer the professional staff more opportunities for professional development, cognitive engaging activities and additional time to observe through successful modeling a variety of positive social and academic learning strategies. In addition, the school will be able to pilot—when Mollison receives this grant—a number of character education projects due to the fact that the teachers will be empowered to raise their own personal professional bar. Research shows whenever one segment of a community explodes in a positive direction (in this case the professional staff through new learning, professional development, etc.), other segments of that community (students, parents and guardians, community members, other stakeholders, etc.) also become enthusiastic advocates thereby transforming learning and social behavior into an even higher realm of excellence.

Which aspect or element(s) of the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) will be most challenging for the school?

Time constraints are always the most challenging issue in a successful school. Presently we meet in grade level meetings once a week before school. The Least Restricted Environment committee is developing plans for full inclusion. This would mean more meeting time. (The general education teacher would be mandated to meet with the special needs staff on a weekly basis and in one on one consultation throughout the week.) This paragraph makes it sound as if the school rejects extra meeting time. Key words not to use next time: This would mean more meeting time. The general education teachers would be mandated (in this case mandated has negative connotations)with the special education staff.

A second issue is the placement of chronic discipline problem students. Once again, plans are in development to work with these individual students on a number of levels—with assistance from their family and from professional staff within the Mollison greater learning community. We are in the planning phase to discover why one teacher’s discipline problem is another teacher’s prize student. Once again time constraints may impede this process because of limited time during the course of the school day for teachers to meet to discuss students who are chronic discipline problems.

The third problem we presently have is time for teachers to access our excellent professional library. This problem, though, will be solved through the use of a teacher aide who can staff the resource classroom after school from 2:45 to 3:30 giving professional staff adequate time to browse and take out resources for their classrooms


Thursday, April 05, 2007


And time is starting to drag.

Did I just write that?

And just when you want to get back to work you remember the school on Chicago's far Southside where you had to go into the girl's bathroom before you let any of your girls use it to make sure no man was hiding inside.

You remember crossing the street to ask the teenagers to stop putting their hands in one of your student's pants.

You remember the teacher next door who lost it and started throwing furniture out of the second floor window.

You remember the teacher who slammed a child's face against a desk so hard, the boy's nose broke.

You remember parents coming to get their children early because of rumors of a major gang fight.

You remember that fight.

You remember trying to get your students away from that fight.

You remember.

Hey, it's Thursday. Four more days before school starts up again.

I think I'll take a nap,

Tuesday, April 03, 2007



with apologies to George Gershwin

And the living is easy
Schools are quiet
Treea are budding
Your teacher's sleeping
Your principal's watching a movie
I said hush little child
Dont you sigh

One of these days
You're going to jump up reading
Then you'll spread your arms
And take on the sky
But til that day
Nothings going to harm you
Your teacher's standing by.

Oh, wait, it's just spring vacation.But it’s only for a week. Oh, if it could only be summer—

And the good news: Six substitute teachers on Friday and not one problem at all. Oh, someone pulled the fire alarm on the first floor and then someone did the same thing on the second floor—but that was the only problem—and at dismissal only one parent went off—OK, so there were problems, but my day ran as smooth as melting ice on a hockey rink.

No discipline problems and great discussions.

Now spring vacation starts.

And guess what? I already miss my students.