Jim Power, who teaches five social studies classes at Cleveland's Central Junior High, quit a career in industry to become a teacher half a dozen years ago.
Each day he has a simple test for himself: "If there were 20 classrooms out there, and the kids had only one they could go to, would they come to mine?"
As a teacher, Power says, "you have to make them want to come to you."
Central, an aging, yellow-brick structure in Cleveland's East Side inner city, was integrated last spring. But the daily arrival of 17 busloads of children from other neighborhoods hasn't bothered Power.
He has the reputation of being a good teacher. The principal sent a visitor to his classroom.
Power seldom raises his voice. He does not try to "act black," a pitfall for white teachers, and he does not paddle students. He leaves punishment to the assistnt principal, who gives students with disciplinary problems a choice between a stroke of the paddle or being sent home.
"I grew up in the inner city myself, in Pittsburgh," he said. "I said right off -- no swearing and no playing the dozens." The dozens, he explained is slang for teen-age putdowns.
"Why do you want to go to that park?" Power was asking a classroom full of children.
Power was a symphony conductor, up on the balls of his feet, right hand gesturing as he talked, left palm out to invite responses or stifle interruptions.
Six girls sat in a cluster, hands up and waving, all at the edge of their seats.
"Because it's the best park around," answered one of the girls.
Then the bell rang, the students rushed out, and Power walked quickly to another classroom to fill in for a biology teacher off on a field trip.
Thirty seconds later Power was handing out worksheets on mammals in the other classroom.
To one student he said, "I want to talk to you later. I want to work with you on your grade. You stayed out so much."
"I learn from them each day," Power said. "All my classes are different. I couldn't do in the seventh period what I do in fifth. What's different? The kids are different.In seventh, its mostly no-shows. No problems. They just don't come to school. My fifth period is production workshop -- trade school kids. But I can do anything with them from soup to nuts."
Power also has 36 children in a seventh and eighth grade honors class -- 14 of which, he says, shouldn't be there."
I have kids who are nonreaders, too. I use tape recorders with them. They talk to the machine and we work with the reading lab. Now we've got them so they can fill out applications, " he said.