Saturday, June 10, 2006

Semesters of Our Lives Chapter 7

The Big Cheese

Richard and Jennifer returned to the building to attend the post-conference conference in the student cafeteria. They joined a group including Tier One and a few others, ostensibly to discuss what they learned from the mice and the cheese. It was hard to concentrate because Tier One had fallen asleep on the table.

A corpulent math teacher was talking over a microphone. “What kind of cheese do you have? What color is it? Is it old and moldy? Is it green?” The math teacher kept giggling at himself, producing awful feedback, and was rapidly losing the crowd. This grieved him deeply. “Hey, ya know, I spent five days in the principal’s office preparing these remarks. I’m just trying to make some jokes and lighten it up around here, and you guys are paying no attention at all. You know, you wouldn’t like it if your students treated you like this.”

The principal glared at the audience, with little noticeable effect.

The math teacher lowered the microphone in defeat, the feedback subsided, and the only sound you could hear was Tier One snoring. A perky young teacher took over for her disappointed colleague.

“Hi, everyone! I’m Angie Wittner. I’m helping out today, and I’d like to get your comments. What did you learn from the film today?” She gave a practiced Disney World smile (She'd worked there for two years) and continued, “Wouldn’t it be nice if all of you could use the new techniques the chancellor has introduced in all your classrooms? Why are there so many gloomy Guses out there? Let's turn those frowns upside down!" She pranced around like a spokesmodel, thrusting the microphone at various random victims.

Jennifer and Richard listened as several teachers gave their impressions. After a few rounds of this, despite his very visible gesticulations of protest, she approached Richard with the mike. He was sadly trying to invent a genuine-sounding reaction when Tier One suddenly grabbed the mike from his hand and stood up.

Everyone shut up and looked. Richard wondered how Tier One could wear shorts on such a cool day. He wondered if wearing shorts to the classroom was grounds for dismissal. If so, how could Tier One wear them every day? And how many "TIER ONE" T-shirts could one man possibly own?

“You all know me," began Tier One, "so I’m not gonna introduce myself. I’ve heard a lot today about cheese. The new cheese, I guess, is supposed to be better than the old cheese. But you’re asking the wrong question. It doesn’t matter if the cheese is old or new. You should be asking if the cheese is good or bad.”

Tier One acknowledged the polite applause of his colleagues, and continued, “I’ve been here since before a lot of you were born, and every year there’s a new cheese. They say we have to use this cheese because it’s the best cheese ever. Then the next year, they tell us, no, that cheese was no good, and we have to use this one.”

“This year, they’re giving us the very same cheese they used twenty years ago, and giving it a new name. That doesn’t make it taste any better, though.”

“Now, my wife and I, we love cheese. In fact, we go to a special cheese store to buy it. We don’t eat that pasteurized processed American cheese-style food-product, and we don’t go for that cheese you spray out of a can and caulk your windows with.”

“Do you know what the secret of good cheese is? It’s the same as good wine, or brandy. The secret is age. In some societies, they think age brings wisdom. You guys think you can pay some twenty-two-year-old college graduate to write some cutesy curriculum and it’s gonna change the world.”

“You want good schools? Do what they do in Nassau. Excuse me, I gotta sit down because my cheese is just about grilled.”

The entire cafeteria rose and gave Tier One a thunderous ovation. Angie, unaccustomed to being upstaged, fought back tears while the principal wondered how much Maalox he still had in his refrigerator.

Next: Richard learns the fine art of negotiation
blog comments powered by Disqus