Those Who Can’t Teach, Control Education


My go-to teaching story for describing the student atmosphere where I worked is when I kicked a girl out of my classroom and she threw an open condom on my floor, shouting about how turned up she was before striding out the door. The thing about teenagers disrespecting teachers, though, is that if you sign up to be a teacher in America you’re asserting that being disrespected by teenagers is a major part of your job description. The unexpected is how much adults will disrespect you for being a teacher.

A few weeks ago, a video was making the rounds on the Internet showing how ridiculously demeaned and condescended to American teachers are – an example from none other than the district where I myself taught, Chicago Public Schools. There does come a point where you become a parody of yourself, Chicago Public Schools, and then as you stand in the way of everyone you were built to support, you go from being travesty to being tragedy.

What most people don’t realize is this Professional Development session made headlines because someone happened to record and release it, not because it’s unique. At all. Certainly, that session is on the far end of the badness spectrum, but teachers don’t go a day without some other adult wasting their time, looking down on them, treating them like second-class citizens and daft non-professionals – all while they still have hours and hours of actual work like planning and grading waiting at their desk that they wish they could actually get back to. This happened all the time.
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Chicago is …

  • a hot dog salesman grimacing at the mention of ketchup
  • a man panhandling at a stop light
  • a sea of North Face jackets jogging next to Lake Michigan
  • a river dyed green
  • the third largest city that still calls itself the Second City
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Snow Day


I pulled up to Des Plaines Oasis while Sadie was still babbling on in the passenger seat about her night-class professor, some mustached old Timothy-Dalton-now-lookalike with cheap blue blazers that were too big even for his strange gorilla frame, Phillip something. “There’s a whole way,” Sadie was saying, “like, the whole system, of how everything has been designed to keep women from power.”

“Jeez,” I said, trying to look through the thick ice and snow built into a haze across the windshield. “It’s murder out here.”

The parking lot was covered in white and terrain hazards in snow drifts and mounds so that it looked like a construction zone where parking spots had hastily been carved out of a hilltop. The wind outside continued to blow the falling snow around in a faint fog that could blind you for more than a few feet.

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Observations on Train Travel

For my Christmas vacation, I rode the train from New York Penn Station all the way to my hometown train station in Alton, Illinois, which happens to be less than a mile from my parents’ house. The trip involved riding the Lake Shore Limited from NYC to Chicago and switching trains at Union Station.

fail trainAs you might guess, it was not a short trip. Continue reading

TheMidnightDiner Christmas 2013 Video Special

We’re happy to present our Christmas Special Video for 2013 from Hot Doug’s in Chicago, Illinois.

Jeff made a stopover in Chicago on the way from New York to his hometown of Alton, Illinois. We took the opportunity to compare hot dogs and awesomeness:

Three Scenes in Chicago, Illinois


Part the First

Warren is on the South-bound Red Line when his phone buzzes in reply.

“I don’t know how I could be sure.”

He stares at it for a while, thinking of what he could say. Luckily, the phone buzzes again.

“I’ll call you in a little bit. I’ll tell you then.”

He looks at it, feeling a tug on a little towing hook from where his lungs don’t meet to the latch on the front of the train car, that says it is unlawful to move between train cars, fragile motion across the fishing wire that might connect them. The train is leaving Belmont, the second to last stop before the track goes underground. The only other person in the car is a disinterested-looking teenager in a red windbreaker staring out the window.

Warren contemplates the sharp, unavoidable dangers of his life. He closes his eyes. What if, he had asked Max that morning, during their cold dawn jog down the Hollywood Avenue curve onto the far North Lake Shore path. What if they just avoided the whole thing. Continue reading

The Windy City Does Not Blow


So an ex-girlfriend was telling me some time ago about a friend who came to visit her in Chicago for a concert. She lived in the Andersonville neighborhood, which is on the Far North Side, and her friend asked her, “Do you think it’s okay to park my car downtown all night?” And my ex-girlfriend was like, “No, what is wrong with you. Just leave it here, outside my apartment.” He was confused because he thought that outside her apartment, where you’d see nothing but trees and apartments, was downtown Chicago.

He was from the suburbs (aren’t we all), and he knew there is a big, shiny part of Chicago with skyscrapers and parks that have giant beans in them, but he and his friends referred to everything within the city limits as “downtown.”

I grew up in a rural town. If someone in Chicago asks where I’m from originally I have to say it’s in the badlands and corn fields past the Northwest Suburbs. And if someone farther away than that asks, I’m tempted to say Chicago, because it takes more than enough time to just explain that my name isn’t “Joshua,” that I don’t want to deal with it. However, if I do say it, I am a filthy liar.

Our beautiful city of lakefront and hot dogs (if you know what I’m saying)

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