By Larry Teren
“You don’t know what you are talking about.” Hey, I always know what I’m talking about but since this was a friend and I was in their house I was obligated to accept a dressing down.
Gwen was doing the talking while her husband Frank was chatting with my brother Gary. The four of us were sitting within five feet of each other. It made for the perfect situation of two conversations going on within earshot of each other. Gary was yelling at me not to shout and Frank was just trying to ignore Gwen because he heard enough of her the other twenty-three hours in the day.
Gwen: “I know you think teachers are overpaid and that they get two months off for free during the summer. You think they have it good. But, you don’t know what you are talking about.”
I was thinking of interjecting and asking if it shouldn’t be “about what you are talking” so you don’t end a sentence with a whatever. But, I was afraid she would hit me and I’m from that generation where you don’t hit women unless they’re bigger than you.
Gwen is sixty-six years old. (I hope she doesn’t read this or for sure she will slug me.) She is retired with a decent pension from teaching Spanish in the Chicago suburbs for boku years. She is not Hispanic but of that generation of gringos who learned a language other than English well enough to speak and teach it to others. She gets bored with her time here other than going to Florida for a couple of months during the winter. So she registers to substitute teach for the City of Chicago Public Schools. What is great about the gig is that she has an easy commute. She works at the brand new school built two doors away from her house a couple of years ago.
The school caters to a high percentage of children who live nowhere near the neighborhood in which it stands because there are a bunch of do-gooders who think that attending school in a nicer area than which you live will improve both your education and your desire to get educated. I can only speak from experience. I traveled by public transportation for an hour in each direction on two elevated trains and two buses for 7th thru 10th grade. It didn’t make me appreciate getting schooled any more than when it was two blocks away. In fact, the daily travel took a toll on me.
Oh, and in the infinite logic of the Chicago Public School System, Gwen was not assigned to any Spanish classes but to teach math, but don’t ask her to spell trigonometry. But, a buck is a buck and she doesn’t need a car to get to work.
Me: “Okay, why am I wrong?”
Gwen: “Because teachers are dealing with a jungle in the classroom. The other day, there was one girl who was being very disruptive, standing up and talking to anyone who would listen. I told her to sit down and be quiet. She said back to me, ‘don’t talk that way to me, girl’ as if I was one of her contemporaries. I told her to leave the class.”
I suggested to Gwen to be careful the student doesn’t tell her boyfriend/father of her child(ren) so that he goes looking for her with any kind of weapon.
Gwen: “You know these ingrates get free breakfast. That’s right- the school board decided that all Chicago Public School students get free breakfast because many of the kids were not getting fed at home before they left for school. That’s because the parents- or parent- left earlier in the morning to go to work. The older kids in the house were left to feed themselves and their younger siblings. Often they just skip it and go to school.”
I suggested maybe that they were given free breakfast rather than, say, lunch was because this way they could get the future drive-by perpetrators to show up earlier in the day.
Gwen: “It’s not just the attitude of the students but also some of the teachers. I was asked to mentor a student teacher who was trying to get full-time placement. The girl dressed like someone going nightclubbing and her word selection was very poor. These are the people we are letting teach the next generation of dropouts.”
In essence Gwen’s attitude was that teachers were entitled to battle pay. I say keep the pay lower but to put the teachers on an even keel with their students. Just issue the teachers weapons and ammunition. It will help solve the thinning of the herd problem as well as give an opportunity to those students who really want to learn to get the attention they deserve.
Ah, what the heck- I don’t know what I’m talking about, right?