Monthly Archives: September 2013

Not In the Lesson Plans

This is a re-post of something I feel very strongly about, as a continuing guest teacher in urban public schools……

If I can impart anything to the unsuspecting  middle- and high school students that  I see, it would be that life is NOT like school. It’s not laid out neatly, with scheduled class blocks, gym time, etc. and progress reports. It’s often messy [at least on the surface], but that’s where the real lessons are learned—hopefully permanently.  Plus, out of that “mess” is the beauty of living out one’s true self. Every classroom should have this image posted in a prominent spot:



In Requiem

Closing a school means more than just shutting the doors, and turning off the lights. The resounding vacancy felt is way more than just physical. It’s the slew memories, the triumphs, the challenges, but most of all—it was the people over the decades whose lives were touched by coming through those school portals. Looking at these images, you can still feel the lingering shadows of teachers, students, blackboard chalk, homework, assemblies, and countless connections made that many will carry for a lifetime…..

Photos courtesy of  Bill Healy—WBEZ FM radio in Chicago, Bill Healy is a photographer and producer at WBEZ. Follow him @chicagoan

More Than Just A Letter Grade

school grades


Since I started back working for the current school year, my second assignment was at a a large high school for the first week, where there were over a dozen vacancies where no teachers had been placed. 

All of us had no classroom materials or curriculum guides to choose from. and the building was 90% without air-conditioning, including the auditorium. So we were filling time-slots with oft-repeated “ice-breakers” that had worn thin by the second day for the kids. Naturally, they showed their discontent in typical teenaged ways—by completely turning you off. One of my classes was termed “Leadership,” but nobody seemed to know what it entailed or what material so I tried another tactic; I asked them –as an open-ended discussion—what “leadership” meant to them.

As I had all boys, a handful of them started to respond, but one guy rang out with “What kind of grade do we get to answer?” I calmly told him that this was no grade, as their permanent teacher hadn’t been assigned uet, and we were just readjusting to the school climate.

He then replied, “Then, it shouldn’t matter, if you can’t get a grade; that’s what school is for. Learn the stuff, and get a grade—that’s it.” The majority around him agreed. In their eyes, if their was no letter designation, it wasn’t worth their efforts.

I asked them about exploring an area or topic without the premise of getting a grade, and they said that’s a waste of time, as ALL learning is a grade. Even when I showed them that the adult world was NOT graded, but one’s actions produced the results, they were  still unfazed. To them, learning for its own enrichment was bogus. The concept of spouting  an instructor’s “facts” and completing soon to-be-forgotten paperwork for these coveted letters was what education actually  meant to them. How sad—the system has already doused their flames of inquiry.