A Hundred or So Ways to Get an Ulcer...Year Two
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
  Busy as a mug in the world's best coffeeshop.

Fear not, I have for I have not abandoned this arena for pedagogical catharsis. I merely neglected it for an extended period of time.

I really feel like I have gotten into the swing of things at the school. I have learned how to cope with the idle and not-so-idle threats of my students, I have learned to deal with overcrowded classrooms. I can make it by with minimal support.

Sure, just the other day one young man told me, "You know, I'ma hitch ya, motherfucker!"

To which I calmly replied, "I don't think you should hit me and please do not imply that I have sex with my mother. I am a good son."

Deconstruction through semantics makes even children in the ghetto giggle.

I was observed the other day by a larrge group composed of school administration and officials from the board. It was nerve-wracking, but I earned the praise of one adminstrator. Evidentally, I am not as incompetent as I once thought.

I started thinking to myself. "Damn! I could stay here. Maybe I can retire from this mug!"

Then I found out the other day that we are opening our enrollment boundaries even further. We are anticipating an increase in enrollment by approximately one-and-a-half times.

They are going to need a lot of subs to fill in the open positions no one else will take. We are going to need a hell of a lot more security. They are going to need to provide Valium in the nurse's office for teachers. Scratch that. As it is, we only have a school nurse about twice a week. I guess I will need to bring my own sedation.

The biggest problem in our system is the lack of consistency. The board never follows through with programs and each school has a revolving door of faculty and staff.

Students who will be seniors next year were enrolled in a school with about 700 kids. There was a different principal who had an entirely different way of runing things. They were in uniform. They were some of the pilot children involved in programs sponsored by the Chicago Reading Initiative. They went to elementary schools that would hold them back if they were not proficient in reading OR math.

The freshmen will experience hallway traffic of about 1500 kids. They will not wear a uniform. They will be a part of a whittled-down version of the Reading Initiative. They will not have been held accountable for math scores for promotion. They will, however work in programs sponsored by the Math and Science Initiative. They will work in overcrowded classrooms. Chances are, many more of them will be taught by substitutes who are not trained in the subject they teach. Many of them will have first year teachers who will need most of the year to get the hang of it because all of the first year teachers from this year will have gotten jobs in the suburbs or entered the corporate world (I'm not "treating" any of you, this is a stressful job that is too intense for most of us--myself included many days).

Our children (I mean the royal "our") have no idea what to expect when the get on the bus in the morning. As teachers, we have no idea what to expect after that first bell rings. This fear of the unexpected makes it damn near impossible to convince a child that learning about how Beowulf defeated Grendel will help him in his life in any way.

Then again, had Denmark used property taxes to fund its schools Beowulf may have not been able devise the plan to defeat him in the first place.  
A glimpse into the mind of a Chicago inner-city high school teacher. Email: ChicagoTeacher@hotmail.com

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