Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Let's say, for instance, you're proctoring in a huge art classroom. It is like an oven. The girl in front of you wipes her brow and looks at you imploringly, her eyes saying, holy crap, can't you do anything about this? You look back at her, wanting to be the Superman she's Waiting For, and ask, "Does the AC work?" The guy next to her says the other teacher says it doesn't, but you, being the big hero, have to check.
So you turn on a switch, hear a sound, but you have to climb up on a table to ascertain whether or not the sound means anything. It does not. You then climb down, and contemplate plan B, allowing air to circulate. You go to the back door, ask the girl blocking it to move up one seat, and then use her former seat to prop open the back door. Then you go to the front, where a trash can has the door open two or three inches and open up that door fully with another student desk. You then note the miracle of air circulating from window, to door, to windows in the hallway, and you think, "This is not so bad. Maybe I can be one of those hero teachers like in the movies and have some insipid movie star pretend to be me."
But just as you're getting set to calculate how much your consultant fee ought to be, disaster strikes. There are posters all over the room, and they are rustling, because whoever put them up only taped them on top, never contemplating that some day there might be air in the room. How can kids concentrate with all that noise? Is there any tape in the teacher desk? You find some Scotch Tape in the second drawer, but darn it, the teacher just used it all and placed it back in there empty. The next one? Nothing. Just some papers from ten years ago that never got handed back. The next one? An antediluvian English textbook. It is not until the very last drawer that you hit the mother lode--a thick roll of masking tape. You tape one, you tape another, but the noisiest, most rustling poster there is way in the back.
It's by the air conditioner, and you have to climb up on the table again to get at it. Naturally the Spanish teacher picks that very moment to come in and do her dictation. She looks at you like you are out of your mind. You look at her and try to convey silently that while you may indeed be out of your mind, it's not for this particular reason. After all, here you are risking your neck so that the children can hear her read about whatever it is she's reading about.
You tape the noisy poster, and does anyone thank you? The girl who was about to collapse of heat stroke before your heroic efforts? The teacher whose voice would not have carried above those rustling papers that sounded like Niagara Falls? Does the mayor come and give you a medal? Does UFT leadership repent, go back to the bargaining table, and try to get the $50,000 NYC owes you before you're in a wheelchair?
Nope. None of these things happen. And if that isn't bad enough, the teacher who's coming to relieve you shows up three minutes late, three minutes in which you could've had a revelation, determined the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything, or perhaps even figured out what it is that is causing that pain in your toe.
But no. That three minutes is lost, you will never get them back and worst of all, no one will know of the heroic obstacles you overcame to ensure none of those kids would disappear into a pile of sweat underneath some gum-encrusted relic the NYC Department of Education interprets as furniture.