Monday, May 24, 2010

Washington Park


When it finally gets warm in Chicago, I want to spend all my time outside. I mean, I want to sleep outside. I need the time, see, to soak up as much sun as I possibly can before winter comes and I want to hide under a rock. A warm rock.

My students disagree.

I was getting coffee this morning when I noticed Ron sliding into the building, so I stood in the doorway of the teachers' lounge so I could give him some shit. Wow, I said. Look at that. It's 8:45.

"Yeah," he said, and paused. "I overslept."

That's a lot of sleeping, I commented mildly. I glanced over my shoulder -- the coffee was still brewing and I had nothing but time.

"I needed that sleep. I almost got killed yesterday."

Sure you did.

"I did, I swear. I was up at Washington Park with my parents and they started shooting. I had to dive under a car."

That startled me. Washington Park? That's only a few blocks from my house.

"We was up at the park to barbecue, but we got the hell out of there. That's why I'm late to school."

I sent him a long look. When did this happen?

"Eight o'clock."

Eight. No wonder. Running around Washington Park after dark is like running around Central Park after dark: not smart.

Ron said goodbye and took off for his locker.

Washington Park is a pretty historic place -- it was designed by Olmstead and built for the Columbian Exposition as all the most beautiful places in Chicago were. Oddly, it is really the jewel of Chicago's park system, but most tourists don't spend a lot of time there because it's between Hyde Park and the hood. It's the people's park, though, and the people actually use it. My NHS kids and I were talking about doing an end of the year picnic up at the park to celebrate.

I talked to the NHS president midday. Perhaps we needed to shift the day, I suggested. Or maybe we could do it on a weekday, after school. You know, when there aren't guys with guns running around.

We agreed to think on it, and I continued to sweat out the rest of the day in the library. Last summer they installed "air conditioning" in our building, but all it does is blow a bunch of hot air through the vents.

I don't even need to make jokes sometimes, no?

So I had a full house of kids in the library after school today. None of them wanted to leave, but I finally kicked them out around four so I could get some work done. An hour later, I packed up my stuff to leave the building.

As I made my sweaty way down the hallway, I noticed the same group of kids hanging out by the front door. The had the door open, but all of them were still inside. Go outside, I said. It's a nice day. Look, sun.

"Yeah. Sun," said Devaughn.

Devaughn is a senior, and in two weeks he's going to graduate. When I was a senior, you couldn't keep me in school. I'd have breakfast at the Egg & I and wander in to school sometime before third period (I was terrified of my English teacher), and the next day I'd repeat. I couldn't wait to get out of high school, and yet here my kids were, unwilling to go.

So I said they needed to get out and do something. You know, have fun.

"Fun?" said Davaughn. "When the sun comes out in my neighborhood, they start shooting you in the head. I'll stay right here, thanks. Look, I'm inside, but I ain't got no hole in my head."

I had no easy comeback. When a kid is right, he's right.


2 comments:

Bee said...

:-) reminds me of 'Freedom Writers' where the teacher inspires class,played by Hilary Swank..

Chicago maid service said...

Gone were the days when you can walk around free .. go anywhere you like ... whether its day or night. Its hard especially when you have kids. What's happening to our society nowadays?!