Last year during a staff professional development, we played a fun little game called Would You Rather? A moderator asked a series of ridiculous questions and the staff had to choose between two distasteful options, indicating our choice by moving to either side of the room. Let's play a few rounds! Would you rather ... Live without floss OR a toothbrush? Live without soap OR toilet paper? Live in a house with mice OR roaches? The game was hilarious and disgusting. It broke the ice, getting unlikely personalities to talk to each other. But lately I've been feeling like public school ...


My summer break started just a week ago. As a charter school teacher, I work all year round. Our summer break started after Independence Day and I'm back to work in mid-August. Yes, I'm at work when the dog days of summer first start barking, and I'm back to work long before those dogs have a chance to calm down. But my school's unique calendar also meant that both my winter and spring breaks were three weeks long. This allowed me to spend two weeks in Africa last March with one week to spare at home. Many of my colleagues ...


At the start of 2010, my husband and I made a resolution that drastically changed our lifestyle. It caused us both joy and pain. Some people scoffed. Others thought we were weird. We decided to live on much less than we earned in an effort to become debt-free. In January 2012, we had met our goal. We were free of student loans. Free of both of car notes. Our many credit cards all had zero balances. And while we weren't able to pay off our mortgage, we did refinance to obtained a much lower interest rate. We ended up paying ...


Teachers come in all shapes and sizes. Some of us are good teachers and some of us should have quit a long time ago. Some of us are excited about life while others tame thoughts of suicide with daily doses of Prozac. Some teachers are madly in love with their spouses while others enjoy illicit affairs after school. If any of this is shocking to you, than you may not have realized this simple fact: Teachers are people, too. We breathe. We cry. We struggle. The fact that teachers are regular people with normal joys and pains is rarely acknowledged. ...


On May 23, Indiana school principal Faren D'Abell guest blogged about why he took his own child out of Chicago Public Schools and moved to another state. D'Abell had the resources to "get out" of a low-performing school system, but he understood that the average student in large urban districts have few education options. I invited CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard to guest blog a response to D'Abell's concerns. With only one year on the job, Brizard has pushed aggressive education reforms aimed at restructuring the teaching profession, ranging from how student learning is measured to how teachers are paid. On ...


This weekend, I am hosting a spiritual conference for teachers of all pedagogical preferences, political persuasions, and ethnicities. It is designed to allow educators of like faith to pray together and to encourage us to express an aspect of our personality that we often conceal from our peers at work. Like everyone else, teachers hold secrets—some so painful, some so joyous it's hard to contain. Just last Sunday, a Jewish colleague of mine came to visit my church, a predominately African American congregation. She wanted to hear the soulful sounds of a gospel choir. She wanted to sit with...


I'm a "school mom" to two unrelated African American boys at my school. It's a term of endearment, and the card I use when I really want them to listen and do what I say. I code switch and speak to them in a tone and vernacular that they are accustomed to hearing at home. Sometimes, I just give them that look and they get the message. Being the only African American teacher in my school comes with an added, self-imposed responsibility. I feel I need to go the extra mile to help the black students assimilate to a school ...


A friend I used to work with nine years ago recently contacted me in response to my post Amber Alert: Teenage Boy Mentally Kidnapped by Gangs. He wondered if the 20-year-old man in the post who was killed in an apparent gang shooting was the same student he had taught in 2004 when the deceased was in 6th grade. The answer, unfortunately, was yes. I invited that friend, Faren D'Abell, to guest blog for me this week. Faren is a critical thinker and offers his thoughts on urban education from the perspective of an African-American man. Faren is a former ...


Since NATO is a peacekeeping, treaty-making organization, I submit that it comes back to Chicago for another round of negotiations. With youth violence running rampant in minority, low-income urban communities across America, Chicago is the poster child for a new NATO mission: Not Another Teenage Obituary. Now that's the kind of summit no one but the crazy people would protest over....


Did you know that this week is the official Teacher Appreciation Week? If you didn't I'm not surprised. I taught in Chicago Public Schools for four years before I learned that such a "holiday" existed. In my fourth* year of teaching, I remember receiving a certificate from the then-CEO of schools Arne Duncan saying thanks. But every teacher in the building—in the entire district—got a certificate and the school clerk put ours in the staff mailboxes without any context to it being Teacher Appreciation Week. Some teachers tossed it immediately, but I held on to mine. I found ...


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