Monday, October 19, 2015

Teachers Won't Take This Sitting Down

That was a comment I saw on a Facebook post announcing to the world that the principal of PS 24
had unceremoniously dumped all teacher desks and filing cabinets onto the street. Evidently the principal felt teachers should never sit under any circumstance. When teachers asked where they should work, she told them to use the lunch room. Evidently she doesn't want them frittering away precious time taking sustenance either.

Naturally, I'm curious what sort of person would take the Facebook photos and send them to a New York Post reporter. I mean, where's the team spirit here? OK, maybe it was me. In any case, I'm also curious, spurred on by another Facebook comment, whether the principal had her own desk removed. After all, don't we lead by example? Is that principal doing whatever it is she does in the lunch room as well?I don't sit very much when I teach. I'm fortunate enough to have enough mobility to do that, but I would not say being in a seated position precludes being able to help or instruct students. I sit when I give a test. I sit when I need to go over a paper with a single student. Sometimes I sit during announcements. In fact, sometimes I throw crumpled paper at the speaker if they go on too long. Once, an administrator found out I did this while she was speaking and confronted me. I told her it was nothing personal and she seemed to accept that. I wondered which of my beginning ESL students mustered the initiative to rat me out. Is that worse than sending pics to a Post reporter?

Regular readers of this blog know I spent a decade in trailer exile before my AP tossed me out. One morning at 7 AM, I discovered someone had thrown an ice cream party after school. I knew this because there were paper plates with what used to be ice cream melted and stuck to the top of my desk. My trailer was fortunate enough to be the storage facility for a huge box of paper towels, and there was a working faucet in the trailer. I did my best to clean up the mess, and students who wandered in helped me. It was pretty gross, but we cleaned it up.

Another morning, I arrived early and needed a paper or something I'd stored in the desk. I was pretty shocked to find that there had been a fast food party the previous evening, and rather than dumping the stuff on the desk, the revelers had dumped the stuff in the desk. There's an Arby's near our school, and I discovered the remains of sandwiches, fries, and most notably, soda inside the desk. It was absolutely disgusting, and everything inside the desk was useless.

I carried the desk outside the trailer, and a custodian, after having ignored my complaints about just about everything that happened in the trailer, came by 20 minutes later and asked, "Why didn't you tell us about this?"

No replacement was forthcoming, and I commandeered a small wheeled cart that had been left there. It said it was property of the science department, but no science teacher came forth to claim it, so it was good enough for me. Along with every other teacher who used that trailer, I daily dumped my books on top of it, and no one saw fit to use it as party central.

Toward the end of that year, I was elected chapter leader. Right after that happened, a custodial employee walked into my class with a desk and announced, "This is the last one you're getting." I guess I failed to perceive the humor, and replied, "I don't appreciate being threatened in front of my students." That employee didn't speak to me for at least three years.

But what's in a desk? That which we call a desk, when covered with ice cream, will still smell as sweet. Actually, there are a lot of things in a desk, like pencils and papers. There are tests of the kids who did not show up to get them back yesterday. There are all sorts of things that we put in them so as not to carry around. Same for file cabinets.

The lack of respect this principal has for teachers is palpable. You can see it in every desk and filing cabinet in that pile.
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