A Hundred or So Ways to Get an Ulcer...Year Two
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
  The Honeymoon Is Over

The first week of school was a breeze. I could not believe how cooperative and attentive the little darlings had become. I got confident. I got bold. I got cocky.

I strutted down the hallway as students holla-ed at me.

"Yo Mr. _________!"

"Damn, Mr. _____________, I wish I had you this year for English."

"I miss your class!"

I figured it out, I was married to my job and I was floating adrift on marital bliss.

"So, how is the honeymoon?"

"Honeymoon?"

Evidentally, the first week of school is the "honeymoon" phase when the students become ideal kids. They are happy to see their old friends, happy to get a free hot lunch, and to some extent they are even happy to see their old teachers. They had two months to forget how much they grew to hate us last year.

The kids returned from Cancun, tan and happy and now they are being carried back from the threshold to the harsh reality of their everyday lives.

Tuesday was the first fight. Students were arrested.

Yesterday the "we run the school" attitude wafted through the halls like a putrid stench.

The kids realized they can do whatever and commenced talking shit to the teachers. They started ditching en masse. The vandalism resumed. Learning has been hindered.

It looks like I am at the very beginning of another stressful year.

..And I will make sure no ulcer had been left behind.
 
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
  I'm back, motherfuckers!
- Jay-Z

So I decided not to flee the ship. Today I returned to another year at __________ High School, a Chicago institution. I had a few other employment options, but much like a battered housewife, I have returned to my man. I mean, he could change. I could change him.

I hate to speak to soon. I hate to have to eat my words (and match each word with an antacid), but this year seems like it will be better.

Over the summer, there has been a regime change at __________________ High School. The principal is new, along with the assistant adminstrative staff. Even at the staff development meeting last week, things seemed to have changed drastically. True hope permeates the halls. This isn't "let's talk of hope and pray that good things will happen. That was last year's method. Proactivity seems to be the modus operandi of the operation. I pray that it lasts.

The students were in order today. I remember my first day of teaching. Students were climbing up the walls, threatening teachers, vandalizing the halls. I walked into a Liberian warzone. Today I felt as if I walked into a classroom.

I taught an actual lesson the the first day. Poetry. The poetry of Tupac Shakur. Students were to identify his style. This will be bridged into a larger lesson on poetic style. Students were interested, eager, and the ones who weren't at least seemed to worry about graduating this year. Out of all five of my classes, roughly 100 students (about a third have yet to enroll) only one student refused to work. This is compared to the 30% completion rate of assignments this time last year.

I am teaching writing this year. Along with aiming for the state goals, getting kids into college, and improving test scores, I hope that I can get at least a few kids will learn to use writing as I do, as a catharsis, as a therapist, and as I means to look at problems and solve them as effectively as possible.

I am positive I can do this.
 
   
A glimpse into the mind of a Chicago inner-city high school teacher. Email: ChicagoTeacher@hotmail.com

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