Monday, September 29, 2014

Teacher Detention

Many of my colleagues are being forced to stay after school today. The other day, a teacher pointed out to me it was nothing more than detention for teachers. She found this ironic, since students in her school are not given detention. Worse, none of the teachers had done anything to merit detention. This notwithstanding, UFT leadership managed to negotiate teacher detention on a twice weekly basis.

Every teacher (and a whole lot of other people) knows the Sunday night blues. Monday, despite your best efforts, it's time to get back into the grind. You have to get up early in the morning. When you were a student, your father told you one day you'd get used to rising early, and that, of course, is the biggest lie you've heard in your whole life. You'll have to wear shoes, which have always been an unwelcome lifestyle imposition. And your body, after a few nights of staying up late, refuses to cooperate.

Monday morning, you consume copious amounts of coffee. It's that awful French Roast your wife favors. Though it tastes and looks like mud, you know it's strong and hope for the best. You steal a Red Bull from your kid. Nothing works. You wonder whether it's viable to simply pump caffeine into your vein, and why no one has started such a business in back of a 7-11 somewhere. Nonetheless, you soldier on. You get into your car and not only maneuver to work, but also manage not to crash into anyone or anything.

You stumble into work, and your students are in a foul mood. It turns out their weekends are over too. They retreat into the world of their prohibited cell phones. You remind them that's unacceptable, but they take steps to conceal them from you. Smart phones are suddenly hidden under desks and behind books, in such numbers as to divide your already limited attention. You are outnumbered.

And then there's that kid who needs your attention every moment. She demands it repeatedly, in new and innovative ways. You try to focus on the task at hand, but she has a voice like a foghorn, a voice that cuts through everything and anyone. You can't focus on anything else, and neither can a single student in your class. You've already tried every trick and diversion in your playbook and she's devised a counter to each and every one. You are outshouted and outmatched.

Of course you are observed. Your supervisor shakes his head in disgust at this obstreperous student. He gets up to intervene, but doesn't know any more tricks than you. He fails to contain this 15-year-old threat to democracy and the American way, and does so spectacularly, in front of you and 34 other witnesses. The girl feels no one and nothing can stop her, her confidence soars, and she can and will be contained by no teacher. This week is gonna be tough for sure.

But for your boss, who studied for and took the AP job to get out of the classroom, it's a reminder that his classroom was always out of control. He couldn't wait to get that office gig, to sit and look at a computer screen, to sit in the back and conduct observations. It was an egregious error to confront that girl, that girl who's smarter than you and, of course, smarter than him too. After this very public failure, he jots down notes that will make sure Charlotte Danielson damns you straight to hell.

But he doesn't stop there, because at the end of the period it's time for him to run 80 minutes of PD. While he's got a list of crap to talk about, it's suddenly important for him to rationalize his miserable 15-minute observation. Naturally he does so at your expense, making invidious comparisons about data suggesting that some teachers control their class better than others. He coyly tries to avoid naming you, but manages to describe your age, your experience, your appearance, and your miserable attitude in excruciating detail. All of your colleagues know who he's talking about. It takes him 87 minutes, and everyone is fidgeting but afraid to get up and walk out until he finishes venting.

Fortunately, tomorrow you get 35 minutes for parental contact, so he'll only be able to belittle you for the other 35, assuming he doesn't go much overtime.
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