Tuesday, June 21, 2016


How does a teacher get a name like that? It doesn't really make sense on the surface. After all, who wants to have a name that's all caps? And why would anyone want to be confused with what's generally acknowledged to be a fixture at the outlet mall where you buy cotton clothes manufactured in foreign countries?

But we can't always control what people call us, and stranger things have happened. Anyone who's taught in New York City schools can attest to that. 

One day I was sitting in my department office watching a high school student mark papers. This was pretty odd. I mean, I had seen students help teachers do things, but I'd never seen a student actually correcting essays before. So I asked why he was doing that.

"I'm helping Mr. X., he said. "Mr X. gives me a stack of papers once a week and I grade them." I couldn't believe it.

"What are these papers for?" I asked.

"They're from his college class," the kid told me. As it happened, I was teaching college too, graded my own papers, and could barely imagine allowing anyone, high school student or not, to grade my class's papers. I would never, ever let a high school student grade my papers. What would I say if a student asked me about a paper? That I had to consult with my high school student for an answer?

So it was like that--college students were paying to take Mr. X's college class, and Mr. X. was giving their papers to high school students to grade. Clearly Mr. X. had more important things to do with his time. And after all, why would he waste his very valuable time doing stuff when he wasn't being paid? Especially when he had such a large free labor pool?

One of my colleagues found a girl in his class grading a bunch of papers too. He was pretty surprised to find she was doing this for Mr. X. He asked her if she was being paid to do this. She was not. He made her turn the papers over to him.

My colleague went to Mr. X. and read him the riot act. How dare he ask students to grade his papers, and where does he find the audacity to allow them to do it in his class? His class was for studying his subject, not for forcing kids to do his work, and for free no less? Who does he think he is, the GAP, forcing young people to work for little or nothing and taking all the profits for himself?

And thus Mr. X. became known as GAP. This name followed him, though, for only a short time. Within the next year GAP became an assistant principal. I understand the first school in which he worked closed, but guys like GAP always land on their feet.

Today he's walking around with an iPad judging teachers by the Danielson Rubric. And God help the teacher who does what GAP did when he himself was teaching, because that's absolutely unacceptable. GAP has high standards for everyone.

Except himself, of course.
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