Friday, December 17, 2021

A Multitude of Absurdities

I now realize that I have no idea what most of my students look like. Like most teachers, I've learned to recognize them from only the tops of their faces, or perhaps the shape of their glasses. I was startled by a student parent-teacher night who I didn't recognize at all, but because this parent had made an appointment, I knew who she was. However, if I saw her on the street I wouldn't remember. I have actually, mentally, filled in some of the faces somehow. Occasionally a student takes a drink of water, and shatters all my illusions. 

One day I had a student I didn't recognize. I had to look at my attendance sheet and figure it out by process of elimination. She had placed her hair in twin ponytails, thus obscuring the long straight hair by which I'd grown to identify her.

Yesterday, a student approached me in the hall and asked if I remembered her. She was with another student who I also didn't recognize. Then she pulled down her mask and asked, "How about now?" Then I knew who she was. But I know her as a full face and that's all I recognize. If I see her on the street with a mask, I won't know her. And I didn't recognize her friend, who also said she'd been in my class, at all. She didn't pull her mask down. To be polite, I acted as though I remembered her too. 

One of my issues this year is that I'm carrying too many things around. I feel like I must have a hundred dry-erase markers in my bag. I need other things, but I've squandered away most of my Teacher Choice cash on Korean masks and defogger for my glasses (with no idea whether or not defogger is an acceptable expense). My half classroom has a closet with two doors. It's locked, but if you pull the doors open, it surrenders instantly and you can get whatever you need. 

Mostly, what I need there are cardboard dividers. These are handy for days when you give quizzes or tests on the little tables we use. But one retired teacher has an entire drawer full of Useful Abandoned Crap. For example, one of my students pulled a page from a handout and asked for a stapler, which I don't carry. I looked in the box and voila! There were two. Also, I've got those dry-erase markers everywhere. It's getting so I can't find anything else under the pile of markers. 

I've been contemplating buying some sort of very large pencilcase with Teacher Choice, even though I've likely spent all my allotment. I decided, before venturing into Staples, to search the Useful Abandoned Crap. I found a box labeled "crayons" that looked perfect. I opened it and found maybe two dozen packs of unopened crayons. I dumped them in the drawer and appropriated the box. I've moved it to my drawer. (Of course if the retired teacher comes back, I'll return it.)

Every morning, I walk upstairs to my half-classroom. (While it sucks, I have my own classroom for the first time in my living memory.) I like to get there before the kids do, and anticipate whatever imminent disaster may be on the horizon. First thing I do when I come in is turn off the air conditioner. The power button on the AC does not turn it off for some reason. The remote used to work after four or five tries, but no longer does. So the only way left, now, is to climb up onto a table and unplug it. Say what you will about school custodians, but our PM guy never misses it, and plugs it back in every single night.

The most absurd thing in the school system, though, is the COVID count. It's smaller in the schools than the city. And of course it is. No one is tested unless they want to be. While they've finally allowed staff to be tested, they make us give them permission first, as though walking up as a consenting adult were not an explicit act of giving permission. I got instructions in my DOE email, but didn't understand them. I had to ask a third year teacher who's been my edtech guru ever since the apocalypse began.

I'm no genius, but I don't need to be in order to know that COVID testing is a scam designed to do nothing but relieve Bill de Blasio of his obligation to keep us safe. Christmas is coming, and though its aftermath may be predictable, it's also avoidable. Maybe not anymore, unfortunately.

I wish all my brother and sister teachers, laboring in this field of absurdity, a restful and happy weekend. Four more school days until winter break, and what's better than that?

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