Sunday, May 18, 2014

No Quarter

                                            All that is left of me after this school year. I am a rind husk of my former self.

All I did was ask his daughter where she was headed to high school next year and was told that she came home hysterical after my bullying. A phone call to my principal was placed and a conference with said father arranged for the next morning and it turned out to be every bit as ugly as it was promised to be. During the conversation, I was called a liar. Never mind that this same father had previously--without warning or appointment-- cornered a very pregnant teacher in her class and angrily demanded to know why she felt his daughter was not ready for accelerated classes the following year. He refused to leave until she caved to his demands.

This father mocked everything from my posture (unlike him--my arms were uncrossed) and the expression on my face. Because I refused to cry or crumple in his presence, he said I was rude and sarcastic. He referred to me as a disgusting person, though this particular opinion was not adequately explained. He did not want to talk about his poor daughter's academics, but rather, her face-saving version of a simple conversation we had about academic plans for the following year. And because her answer to my initial question took the conversation off in a completely different trajectory (An aspect of school that many people support OVER academics and I can't say what it is for fear that this blog will accidentally pop up. Think, people! It starts with an "A" and it doesn't require studying), I was held personally responsible for the expression I had on my face when I dared to disagree with her answer.

And this father? This bull-necked gorilla of a man whose volatile demeanor makes Hitler look like Tickle- Me Elmo" decided it was his right to verbally curb stomp me and then mock me for failing to fold like a bad poker hand in front of my principal. ( Thank you, Russian ancestry).  My principal made a half-hearted attempt to reign him in, but Godzilla was having none of it. He had not come to listen to anyone else's side of the story. Clearly high on testosterone, an overblown sense of self-importance and some military grade horse stimulants, this father had come to take an enormous and metaphorical dump on me while the unwritten rules of the Parent/Teacher Conference Handbook required me to sit passively like an apologetic bag of meat.

Except for the fact that I did not apologize. However, thoughts of firing a t-shirt cannon full of thumbtacks directly into his face did cross my mind.

America, our schools are going down the toilet and the biggest reason out there (besides the underfunding of districts and the teachers who toil there) is that parents have way too much control. And when I say control, I mean that no one questions them when they "early dismiss" their child every Friday without question because traffic is heavy and they miss half of my class. Control in that we are no longer allowed to demand any kind of work standards for our classes as long as it keeps their child from being designated as Honors/Pre-AP/Accelerated. This just in: Not all children are gifted. You heard it here first.

Anyway... control in that I am forced to forgive/overlook/accommodate the fact that their child comes to school without completed homework, materials, sufficient sleep or breakfast. Teacher, feel free to use your own money to buy my hungry kid a breakfast burrito every morning on your way to work, but don't expect me to teach him/her to thank you or even follow your daily classroom instructions without acting like a major jag weed in the process. That would require me to actually p-a-r-e-n-t my offspring. And if you dare to correct my baby for his heinous display of disrespect, disregard for you or disruption of the learning process, I'm going to have your ass on a platter and your license to teach revoked.

It's not 1986 anymore when parents approached the school with requests and not demands. When an abominable report card meant consequences for the student, rather than threats to the teacher. When "Zeros Are Not Permitted" meant a kid wasn't allowed to skip a homework obligation, rather than an edict requiring teachers to offer a bottomless bucket of chances to turn in work for weeks after it was originally due. Parents still write to demand that you take the half-assed, hot mess of work that their kid probably just copied from someone else and then offer the chance to make "corrections" for a passing grade when it misses the mark My co-worker currently has a parent who demands she change a report card grade from January. FROM JANUARY, people! The kid had a 38 average and the teacher generously bumped it to 50. The mother wants it to be 70. Even though this kid refuses to do any work in class or out.

The inmates took over the asylum quite a while ago, my friends, and changing schools only puts a cheesecloth haze over the lens. Eventually, the grim reality comes into focus.  I've spent the last few days having crazy stress dreams which, if I am honest, were most likely underscored by the ingestion of both wine and cold medication. I am deathly sick with a cold that has taken my voice and most of my will to live. I would love to call in sick tomorrow, but I have five days until the Memorial Day weekend and I plan to see them through. Meanwhile, I look over my shoulder wherever I go now and I examine the mirror for any residual signs of the Resting Bitch Face that apparently spelled my doom last week. Because to hear this d-bag of a sperm donor tell it, everything is all my fault.

Monday, May 12, 2014

On Testing

So I have finally emerged from that buried alive feeling known as standardized assessments. My fellow public school teachers know this sorrowful reality all too well. Honest to God and Eckhart Tolle, there is nothing quite like pacing a barren classroom for 4-5 hours to test your "power of now". Because after eight unbroken months of doing everything but an interpretive dance in an attempt to accommodate our state's desire for 100% student engagement --our district's newest buzz phrase--all at once it becomes clear that even the laziest student has suddenly decided to give two craps about passing and my stuffy classroom--walls stripped of all educational wording or simply covered with soulless swaths of white butcher paper-- slowly fills with the unsettling aroma of heated hormones and flop sweat. My role--that of a constantly moving sentry-- is to make sure that students are correctly following test protocol without actually reading any of the test or their answers myself.

In an attempt to provide a testing environment with no distractions, teachers are encouraged to place strips of tape over the door bolts, so that no one is jarred by the comings and goings of administrators or students headed to the bathroom and face all desks away from the doorway itself.  I, on the other hand, must wait for another qualified and trained educator to give me a restroom break, a rare phenomenon that did not happen at all on the last exam and I waited three and a half hours for someone who never showed up. A phenomenon that I'm pretty sure violated some tenet of the Geneva Convention. It's like "The Nun's Story" where nobody is allowed to break the Grand Silence and we glide quietly on gum-soled shoes so as not to startle the testers into selecting a wrong answer.

Our communications with other adults are limited to soundless hand gestures: waves or finger Audrey Hepburn motioning for more salt from one of her wimpled convent sisters.  Computers off. Phones locked away. One may not read a magazine or make a grocery list while pacing. One may not speak off script to any student and if the school catches fire during the assessment? Find a way to secure the test. Not while risking student lives (to hell with mine, of course), but it's good to try. It's a grim academic semaphore that gets very old very quickly and I now have the IQ of a cold McDonald's french fry for my troubles.

I'd rather be slapped with a sock filled with anthrax than go through another testing season again, but you know I'm going to have to.  And the saddest thing of all is that the state would be more willing to take away my teaching license because I failed to take up a kid's phone before the test than for being a crappy teacher whose students can't learn.

This fish rots from the head down.