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, April 17, 2007


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.


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