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, May 29, 2007

Memorial Day and Teaching School

"In a Web diary posted to the liberal online community Daily Kos on Monday, (Cindy)Sheehan said she was exhausted by the personal, financial and emotional toll of the past two years.

She wrote that she is disillusioned by the failure of Democratic politicians to bring the unpopular war to an end and tired of a peace movement she said "often puts personal egos above peace and human life."

Casey Sheehan, a 24-year-old Army specialist, was killed in an April 2004 battle in Baghdad . His death prompted his mother to found Gold Star Families for Peace.

But in Monday's 1,200-word letter, titled, "Good Riddance Attention Whore," Sheehan announced that her son "did indeed die for nothing."

"I have tried every since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful," she wrote. "Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives."--May 29, 2007


I never went to war. Korea ended a year before I was born and we lost the war in Viet Nam the year I began college. I never had the hard comfortable friendships true battle inspires and I never had comrades passionate enough to link into that all purpose male code—one man laying his life down for another. No, not me. I never had that.

But fake wars? That’s another story. The war on drugs, for instance. I was on the frontlines, a war that threw so much money at itself, it imploded filling prisons and creating cottage industries for curriculum products for every school and community in the nation. It never ends. Just one more victim and one more prisoner and one more person I know who was in the wrong place at the wrong time sending their lives into a spiral downwards so quickly the very system that wants to help has tied them into so many knots, it cannot.

I fought in the war against poverty—still do, in fact—and know this war too can never be won. We need poverty for the jobs it gives to us and for the cheap labor and for every gooey Hallmark Christmas story.

There have been other fake wars in my lifetime. Some were firecracker fads, some burnt themselves out under their own weight, and others were so ignored they just vanished and no one remembers.

The good in fake wars is your nightmares are never bloody. You don’t wake suddenly in a cold sweat. You never scream out in the middle of the night. At no time do you suddenly slip into a foxhole and find yourself crawling over bodies and pieces of bodies to get away. The participants of fake wars come and go as their interest dictates, not like soldiers who are stationed there waiting for the boredom to become one huge siege of adrenaline and leave with enough material for nightmares for life. No, most fake warriors are never made to stay. Some are in it for a week, some a month, some a year or two. Others make it their life—but they are rare. They become emergency room doctors. Inner city cops. Undercover narcotic operatives.

I became a teacher.

I am not talking about a two-year teacher either—two years in, a best selling book, author signings, TV talk shows. Nor am I talking about teachers who become teachers because this is all they felt they could do. Teaching for a paycheck, in other words. Then there are those who start in the classroom because all they really want is the most direct way to a desk in the board offices. They should have applied there to begin with. Teaching is not about money. It is about passion. I became a teacher because teaching is what I needed to do. The fact that they pay me to do it makes it all that much greater. Not too many people can say they get paid for their hobby.

I can.

So I wish you luck, Cindy Sheenan. It's a hard road, and it gets harder, and I hope you find your way back to it.


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