Friday, November 6, 2009

I'm in my third year, and I feel like I'm teaching. That makes me happier than I've ever been. My teaching is punctuated by phrases that seem obvious, "So we see that Hamlet is finally ready to, Kahlil, sit down, do something. His uncle's reaction, KAHLIL, SIT DOWN, AND KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF, shows his guilt." But most of the kids hear the part about Hamlet, and do their work.

Our building on the other hand, is a little out of hand. Teachers record a record number of assaults on their persons, mostly delivered via projectiles thrown either boldy or discreetly. Our hallways are characterized by the speed and roughness of a rugby game, and often at the end of day I pick my way through sheefs of paper through into the stairwells, and occasionally mustard smeers are placed at strategic points, like the newels of the banisters.

I am going to talk to admin shortly along with some colleagues about the situation. I know we have about ten new teachers this year, we've got the flu, and our children are difficult to deal with, but my personal number one pick for the insane atmosphere in our building is the disciplinary team. I have delivered three pink slips to this team. In the first case, two seniors got out of their seats and pushed one another. I told them to sit down. Intstead they grabbed one another and began to wrestle. They banged in the back wall. The taller senior used his bear hug to lift the shorter from the ground, from which point he slammed him down into a desk. At this point I told the taller senior to leave my room. Later I wrote the pink slips.

The response that I got from the team was that these two gentlemen's punishment was to serve two detentions with the instructor. I wrote them back. "Hey," said I. "I'm willing to give them a detention, but surely you know that this doesn't work as a practice for your team. It's against our contract. Secondly, are you going to tell them to serve these detentions?" Implicitly, I was asking, does writing a pink slip mean they will talk to a disciplinarian.

The response was this. "You didn't document any prior interventions." What this means is that I had no record of other disciplinary measures that I had taken with these students. I hadn't disciplined them for anything because they had been well behaved up to that point. "It is the instructor's responsibility to maintain the power of discipline in the classroom." I was not told who would tell them about the detentions, and I assumed this would be me. Since they wouldn't come if I told them they had a detention, I let it go.

But back to the bit about discipline in the classroom. This is the unkindest cut of all, not to mention its ironic reverberation. I had, until that day, felt exceptional about my classroom's discipline. Because my word and good sense had been violated so extremely, in an otherwise calm environment in which expectations and jobs were clear, I felt the disciplinary team should deal with it. Hey, they didn't listen to me. I told them to sit down.

Nope. Nothing from the team except for to tell me I couldn't control my classroom. Ironically, this kind of disciplinary help only adds to the anarchic situation. If you are powerless, and noone has your back, you're powerless.

Anyway, I'm philosophical. My newer colleagues are at their wits' end.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Goodbye, Macbook

It was the last day of the school year, and I came back to my room after chatting about ways to read signals from the opposite sex with a group of colleagues. I grabbed a platter my dad made, a crate filled with chess boards and a lamp which had had the shade ripped off it sometime during my first year. I get half way down the hall before I realize that my bookbag is light. I don't have my laptop. I unlock the door and look around. It's nowhere. Stolen.

I don't feel like a success when I think back on this year. My classroom was a cold mess, with kids hitting one another, cursing at me, and talking while I talked. It's easy to make excuses for this, but I think they are all self fraughting. I've been thinking for the last couple of weeks about my plans for next year. I figure I need a schedule I keep to, a way that I guarantee certain things get done in the classroom every week, and that might make it better. I need to work more. I need to be less personal and accessible. Blah.

The laptop was missing, and I let the only admn I could find around, the Turn Around AP, that it was stolen. She tells me to leave. I call our tech guy and leave a message, asking if maybe he picked it up, but I know he didn't. It was stolen. Last day of school, and this is what I get to chew on for the summer. There was Kwane, a kid I love, a drug dealer, with a wifey and a conscience about his side jawns, who drops by my room on Thursday, the day after graduation. He sticks out his hand and we shake. "Trott, bye. I'm a miss the shit out of you, dog."

There are my perennials, the small pack of alternately exhuberant and dweeby chess players and soccer players who sign up for soccer pre-season, asking eagerly about upcoming tournaments. I lead them to successes this year.

The laptop is not the only thing that has been stolen this year. I've had markers taken out of my desk, sheets of my classroom money taken out of my desk, once a student pulled a paycheck out of my coat pocket. But that's my fault right? One shouldn't have a paycheck out where it can be taken, right? It should be locked up. I had a conversation with a colleague, after I was missign something.

"I hate feeling like I need to batten all the hatches against the strorm of humanity that comes through my room."

"But that's the reality of where we work," she said.

She was right. I lacked the mental discipline though, to implement all this. The laoptop, I locked the room, but I know some kids have keys to the rooms. I should have carried it with me. I was relazed, it was the last day of school, but at the same time, the students figured it was their moment to live free, and act with out consequences.

Another colleague tells me its not my fault, my room was locked.

We have our end of the year party that night. I dont' tell anyone abut the laptop, I don't want them to have their flow interrupted. I whisper an expletive to myself every few minutes. I manage to still wrest some enjoyment from the night, and drive home. I type an email giving admin the times bewteen which the laptop was taken. I also feel bad because I'm taking personal days the last two days of the year, staff only days, because I've had a vacation planned since March, and the snow day switch isn't going to take my vacation. On the ride out to the woods and the river, I talk to my friend Liz about it. I wish I was more careful. I wish people didn't steal.

The first two days of vacation, I keep feeling like I left things undone, and I'm unsure about what my administration will do about it. Will they write me up? Do I maybe deserve to be written up?

Monday, finally back from vacation, I know I have to get myself to school and try and talk to somepeople about what happened, but I check facebook and email twice. I request two friends. I make coffee, and turn on the television before I tell myself that I need to to this.

When I get to school I qwk the guy at the security station, a metal detector and an xray machine, if any admin are in. Nobody is except the AP I've already talked to, she's running an assembly for our summer program. I call the tech guy. He says they looked and couldn't find the laptop, and that they might garnish my wages. It was a Macbook, so that works out to about a thirtieth of my salary. A paycheck.

I go down to the auditorium and listen as they explain the summer program. It's going to be pretty good. They've got about three different outside groups in here, and ten juniors as mentors. I'm hopeful. I thought about helping but realized I needed to do nothing all summer if I was gonig to come back with renewed energy in the Fall. Mr. C sees me and sits down. I tell him about the laptop. He lets me know that another teacher had her laptop stolen that day, and when I mention the garnishing bit, he laughs and says how can they garnish wages when we only make three bucks an hour. I laugh.

He says I should go see Ms. Andrews. She is the sweet lady who is our school's financial officer. When I go tell her, she asks me if my computer is a CFF computer. I tell her it is. She says that means they can garnish my wages. To give me the serial number she gives me a copy of the signout sheet for the laptop. I read it, and I signed, say I understood I was responsible to replace it if necessary. I type up an incident report and leave.

Next year will be better than this year. This is what I keep telling myself.