Tales from an inner city high school

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


I called a student's house today because I wanted to her parents about her progress. She is one of my brightest students, but is getting progressively worse as the year goes on. When I called a small child picked up. He sounded around 4 or 5 years old:


"Hi. can I speak to Ms. Hardy?"

"Who that?"

"Is you mommy home? Can I speak to your mommy?"

"No she not home. She went to buy shoes."

"Well, is there anybody else home that I can talk to?"

"Nobody home."

"Nobody's home? Are you there by yourself?"

"Uh huh. Goodbye!"

Thursday, January 25, 2007


"Alyssia Kay got popped!"

I heard it from a girl in my 6th period class, Alyssia Kay was pregnant. She got knocked up by some kid named Travis, a Junior. I'm not especially fond of Alyssia. I don't dislike her or anything, but she has a huge attitude and is really disrespectful. She's one of the few kids that have behavior problems mixed with good grades. She is always on the honor roll and is very competitive with the other kids.

The other teachers have talked about their firsts. The first time one of their kids got pregnant. Now, I've had a few girls that were pregnant when school started and have since had their babies, and a bunch of students that already have babies at home, but this is the first girl that has gotten pregnant on my watch. The other teachers talk about the changes that take place. The sudden surge of attention from boys, the inflation in attitude, the frequent absences, the drop in grades. "You're in for a treat" the history teacher told me today.

So is Alyssia, I guess.

Monday, January 22, 2007


There is only one copy machine in the school that the teachers are allowed to use. We have to provide our own paper and we only get 500 copies per quarter. I have about 180 students and have learned to save my copying for important things. Like exams.

All last week the copier was having problems. It wouldn't copy anything double sided, for instance, and then all of a sudden it took to leaving a black streak mark in the middle of the paper. Final exams were coming up and none of the teachers could make their exams for the students.

On Friday the machine was down completely because the repairman had left after forgetting a part. Today the students started their Finals and this morning I went to Kinkos. 180 copies of my exam was $74.90.

When I got to school there was a memo in the teachers' boxes: No reimbursements will be given.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


The students at my school are all low income so they are a part of the free lunch program. The lunch here is the same everyday in what they offer: nachos, hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, french fries, fruit, and milk. It never varies. The nachos are the same you might get a a movie theater with yellow liquid cheese and pickled jalepeno peppers. The hamburgers and hot dogs are microwaved and soggy. The pizza is greasy and cold in the middle. The fruit is unripe.

Along with the lunch the school also offers a variety of snacks. To pick they have the very popular Flaming Hot Cheetos, along with other assortments of chips and cookies, flavored drinks that claim to be juice, and slushies. Some kids eat only from these choices for their meal, avoiding the actual "food" altogether. Some students, especially the girls, see it all unfit and go without lunch.

The worst thing about this lunch program, the thing that really makes it bad, is that the students are not allowed to bring food into the school. They cannot bring their own lunch to school. Every students is required to put their backpack, if they have one, through the x-ray machine. If they get caught with food in their backpack in the morning the security guards throw it away.

And so a neighborhood, who's main food source is the Burger King across the street, is forced to throw away those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and apple sauce containers. They are made to eat what they are given; soggy hot dogs and slushies.

Eat that or eat nothing.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Tanisha, my assaulter, came back to class today. She brought a note from the attendance office asking the teachers to give her missing work from her suspension. She came up to my desk and said "Can you sign this?"

It was so weird to see her again, but at the same time not weird at all. I said "so you're back, huh?" and she nodded. We didn't acknowledge the incident that put her out of school in the first place. She didn't apologize and I didn't ask her to. She just sat down and her seat and acted just like she always has. She talked during my lecture and screamed at her friends, she put her head down and rolled her eyes, she drew on the desk and fell asleep before class was over.

Monday, January 08, 2007


Today was the first day back from Winter break. I felt anxious before first period started. I ran the lesson over in my head to make sure I had it right before I taught. It felt like the morning before the first day of school. I was nervous.

A few girls came in earlier than usual and ran up to my desk wishing me a happy new year. It seemed like they might have wanted to hug me, but the desk made the transition awkward and although normally I'm a very huggy person I'm still wary of touching students. The administration offers lots of warning against any physical contact. I immediately regretted not hugging them though, it felt silly.

When first period started I tried to get the attention of my students so I could teach a new lesson. First period is very difficult to teach because there is always a steady stream of latecomers knocking at the door. I have never had even 50% of my students by the time the tardy bell rings and when a kid comes late you have to make sure they have a pass so that they'll get a detention, often they argue with me at the doorway and won't leave to get a pass until I push them out and lock the door. It's an interruption.

The kids were excited to be back from break and one kid in particular, Jerrel, wouldn't quit talking. He was telling a very loud story about some sexual experience he'd had over break. "On my life, I swear!" he said following doubting eyes from the other boys around him. His story was graphic and he would quiet down for the dirty parts. I heard him anyway. Jerrel has one of those voices you can hear above all others. I asked him to be quiet a few times and finally I told him to shut up. I'd never told a kid to shut up before and I immediately felt bad about it. Jerrel retorted. "Man you shut up!" and then "Fuck you anyway" under his breath. I told him to leave and wrote him up.

When school was almost over for the day I saw Jerrel hiding in the stairwell, skipping class. I said "Jerrel, what are you doing?" He said "man, why do you hate me for?"

I was kind of shocked when he said this. It sounded like a sincere question. How did he know I hated him? Do I hate him? Is that wrong? I felt a wave of guilt. "I don't hate you, but you always act up in my class". He didn't say anything and I walked away feeling bad. Maybe if I tried to be nice to him he would be better in my class.

Walking away from Jerrel I remembered that before Winter break he had squirted juice all over one of the computers in my classroom and refused to clean it up. It took me 20 minutes to get the juice out of the keyboard and there are still pockets of blue liquid in there that I can't get out.

I hope he skips my class tomorrow.