Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Para or the Teacher?

I once had a para who made me crazy. She used to raise her hand and ask questions, but not generally about what we were discussing. She would send passes to my students so she could sell them Mary Kay products. And she would tell me, "Ernesto thinks I should spend more time reading to him." I was never sure what she and Ernesto were reading, but I told her to do it during his lunch period.

"Please send Ms. Fidget to work with another teacher," I told my supervisor. "She has her own agenda."

My supervisor was horrified. "What do you mean? What is her agenda?"

"I have no idea what her agenda is," I admitted. "I'm certain, though, that it has nothing to do with mine."

A few years later, I was in another school, and the tables had turned. Every morning after I taught first period, Mrs. Driftwood was late for her second period class. The para, Mr. Para, was always running around trying to teach the kids about the weather or something. He wasn't used to doing this, but he tried pretty hard. Often, my boss asked me to cover the class as a favor, and as she was generally wonderful, I obliged.

It upset me a little, though, because it was a beginning ESL class. I'd asked to teach that class, and Mrs. Driftwood had gotten it. I told my supervisor to give me the class, and let Ms. Driftwood have the class I taught the next period.

"It doesn't matter," she told me. "If she starts period 2, she'll be late period 2. If she starts period 3, she'll be late period 3."

One day, I found neither Mrs. Driftwood nor Mr. Para in the class. What the hell, I thought--I organized the kids in front of the classroom and began giving them the lesson they'd be getting if they were mine. Twenty minutes later, Mrs. Driftwood wandered in.

"Where's Mr. Para?" she demanded.

"You're asking the wrong question," I told her.

Later, she saw me in the room we check in. "Are you mad at me?" she asked.

"Of course I'm mad at you," I said. "I have to cover for you three, sometimes four days a week. These kids came to learn English and you can't even be bothered to show up on time."

Mrs. Driftwood retired at the end of the year. There'll never be another like her.

At least I hope not.
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