An Hour In The Life of a Public School Teacher

7 and I sign-in. I smile at the new secretary, Mrs. Dexter. She’s nice in a vacant sort of way. She’s got an IQ best described as unpretentious. I watch her type a letter. “deAr Msr. evans.” She has never used a computer, never even turned one on.

She doesn’t answer the phone very well either. She has this annoying habit of answering, giving some answer, any answer, then just hanging-up.

There’s a call and I overhear the secretary inquire, “A call from some mother of some kid in Mr. Avril’s homeroom.”

Someone replies, “Avril isn’t here”.

Mrs. Dexter relays the message, “Mr. Avril’s gone out for a beer.”

Then she just hangs-up.

She takes the next call, someone asking how to get to the school, and she gives directions I realize will land the caller in the next county.

Another call. She asks the caller to spell stuff. After some confusion, she leaves a note for the principal. On my way out the door, I notice that, on the “From” line, the note reads “From: B. Threat.” The boss is in a meeting downtown. This message will sit there for hours.

Mrs. Dexter has a twin sister, a very bright woman, who also works for the school district. The twin took Mrs. Dexter’s civil service exam for her. For reasons I know not, this is like public information.

I go to my room. My pencil sharpener breaks. For three years, I requested a pencil sharpener. In the Metropolitan Public School District, all spending requests must go to the Board Of Education. So that was three years. Last month, I finally got a recycled beat-to-hell one. But this was a victory. And now my pencil sharpener breaks.

I figure I’ll give it one more try. I call Mrs. Dexter, and ask her to send a work order, and a few extra for future use. She sends a box of 144. There’s a new form, “Work Order, TR-22, Pubic Schools”. That’s when I figure it’s easier to just let it go. But it’s hard to let go. This electric pencil sharpener has been my quixotic quest, my windmill. I fill in the form. I get passive-aggressive and circle “Pubic” in red ink. I smile the smile of the prematurely dulled.

I tell Dr. Bora, the woman in the room across from me, about Mrs. Dexter. She tells me not to worry. Mrs. Dexter is being transferred to the security department.

8 and it’s morning announcements. Mrs. Dexter reads a long list of students, maybe two dozen, mispronouncing every single name along the way. “The students whose names I just read – ah, ah – you don’t need to do anything. Everyone else on my list needs to come to Room 314.”

Filed under: Prose, Publius