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, 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.


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