This sums up many a day in the classroom ...

This sums up many a day in the classroom …

You teach at Tech?

“I’m sorry.”

“Aren’t you scared?”

Or you just get the look.

This is not the best time to say you’re a teacher. In fact, it’s not the best time to be a teacher, especially in IPS.

It’s kind of like being a mother – all the blame is heaped on you – and you take it – just because it comes with the territory.

Throw in an urban, low-income public high school setting and the plot and politics thicken.

Test scores not up? Teachers lesson plans are not aligned to district objectives.

Students fighting in the classroom? Teachers are not consistent with discipline.

Poor attendance? Campus violence? Cursing? Lack of Respect?

Blame a teacher.

That’s the backdrop to a profession the holds the fate of all other societal institutions in its gradebook.

Teaching is both art and science. The problem now is that the scales have become unbalanced with “accountability” the trump card. The current generation of accountability defines student achievement with arbitrary scale of standardized test scores. The State in its infinite wisdom wants out-of-box answers to educational dilemmas to fit within the strict confines of its evaluation system. Lost in this most recent quest for The Answer is the art of teaching. Geoffrey Canada said watching a truly great teacher is like watching a Jordan or Pavarotti or Picasso.

Right now most of us don’t think being a truly great teacher is enough.

I am an IPS secondary teacher, which means I know I will get a pink slip each spring. No one, least of all, those in charge, no exactly how we are to be evaluated. It’s all a work in progress. But secondary teachers are supposed to know the solution for each of the nearly 100 students they see in a day – each from different backgrounds, poverty levels, intellects, interests, learning styles – I can keep going.

But that’s just the surface story.

Tech is a unique school, 16 buildings on 76 acres, the campus is on the National Register of Historic Places, a former Civil War arsenal now with 2,000 students, the majority black, on free or reduced lunch.

But that’s just demographics.

The real story is more complex, more diverse, full of joy and discovery. There is no waiting, no time for tweaking or for the state to swoop in and save us from ourselves. For my students, right now is the only education they have. What takes place in their classrooms each day will shape and define their lives and future.

Follow me on my journey inside and outside my classroom. Names will be changed but no events will be fabricated. Real life is a whole lot more interesting than fiction anyway.


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