The Last Week Before Finals
This week, the district is doing everything it forgot.
For example, every school is to average six fire drills per academic year. Which someone forgot. We’ve had five fire drills in two days, including two back-to-back in one period.
Most of the teachers aren’t angry. We’re dissociative.
It’s Wednesday and first period my kids had to retake a standardized test. Apparently it wasn’t standardized enough yesterday. During 2nd period, the school gets a show. Yesterday around 6 PM, the district found out that it forgot that it had a grant to put on a show. The deadline to use the money is this week. So, second period, they put on a show. Today is Senior Ring Day. That started second period also.
I had second period free until I didn’t. Helen the vice-principal asks me if I can hold a few students. I have a planning period, but, more importantly, I can’t ever refuse Helen a favor. I say ‘Yea, OK, sure.’ She’s real nice, a rarity among administrators, a trait that needs to be cultivated. She sends 63 kids. ESOL kids, English As A Second Or Other Language kids, immigrants waiting to be tested. That’s all I’m told. I just tell them to chill. They do. They’re nice. Some listen to iPods. Two play “Monopoly”. And like that. This goes on for a bit. Then an announcement for all the kids to come to the gym for the show. The ESOL kids get up to go. They got tickets. They bought them at breakfast. They don’t know they’re here to just wait until they’re funneled into a test pit. This is the first they’re hearing it. I got to herd them back from the hall, thus turning me from the cool teacher who lets us play into — Poof! Zap! — Instant Wanker! At which point, Helen comes back and they’re herded into some test abyss. I’m left with no time to plan, a wrecked room, and that Wanker thing.
It’s third period. Which it really isn’t, because now they changed the schedule around in order to accommodate yet another show this afternoon I’m told it’s really 6th period. They changed this because 6th and 7th periods are often canceled because of shows. So they changed 6th period into now. But that’s OK because the now morning show just ran over into the not 3rd period that is really the 6th period but just for today. But that’s OK too, because they’ve just scheduled an afternoon show, which would have taken up the old 6th and 7th periods anyway. It seems downtown just counted and found out there’s a little more leftover money for shows. The kids are a little confused, and don’t know where to go until they show up. I’m left with a few minutes to review a question from their final.
Speaking of vice-principals. Helen’s nice, right. But the other vice-principal, Alicia, is given to truly incomprehensible ramblings. Like for half an hour. So when Tim is in her presence, he gets this dissociative look that is as fixed as Big George on Mount Rushmore. He claims that, when it comes to Alicia, he’s “developed an on/off switch”. So third period Tim gets into this long, one-on-one meeting with Alicia. He switches off. But he switches off too good. A half-hour into the incomprehensible bits, she stops. She panics. She runs out into the hall, stops the first teacher who walks by, and asks if she should dial 911. “Because Tim is totally unresponsive.” Like he’s got a brain seizure.
On the way to lunch, I turn a corner and can’t turn back fast enough. Alicia tells me that, for the rest of the week, I’ve got to give a standardized reading test “because my computer is finally working.” I was planning on reviewing for finals. Instead I say, ‘Sure! Why not? What the hell – I say standardized tests all around – on the house! In fact, like Ernie Banks used to say, Let’s Do Two!’ Alicia looks at me like maybe we should have some quality one-on-one time. So I just chill and mumble, ‘Ah, anyway, yes ma’am’. And I move.
There’s a memo posted inside the door of the teacher’s lounge. To save money, the district plans to lay-off all non-tenured teachers. That includes my lunch buddy, Sally, the 2009 Teacher Of The Year. So we eat in silence. Except when our choral “Kiss my ass!” is drowned out by the fire alarm.