Thursday, April 07, 2016

My Mailbox

I have a love/hate relationship with my school mailbox. I always approach it with a mixture of dread and respect, and sometimes I can't really differentiate between the two. It's become really acute since I became a chapter leader. Often, there are business-sized envelopes with my name on them containing messages like this:

Dear Mr. Teacher:

I have set aside time to meet with you on Thursday, April 7th, in my office.

This meeting is to discuss an allegation that you threw a cheeseburger at a student in your 4th period class.

You may wish to bring union representation, as this meeting may result in disciplinary action.

Very sincerely,

The Principal

Now this means I have to locate Mr. Teacher and find out what happened. Did he really throw that cheeseburger? Is it on video? Is he sorry and it will never happen again? Is he glad he did it and is he going to do it again tomorrow? Will he claim the First Amendment protects his right to hurl cheeseburgers as a political statement? Or did the kid just make it up and it never happened? Did an overzealous administrator tell the kid to make it up, and is Mr. Teacher so kosher he would never lay a hand on a cheeseburger?

You never know.

But then there are other messages you get. I've been published in the Daily News a few times, and there's always a little blurb that says where I teach. So every few weeks I get envelopes with hand scrawled letters, full of newspaper clippings that prove one cause or another. Often I get accused of being a communist. I'm thinking this is because what I write is pro-labor, and anyone who works must be a communist.

Sometimes I get long screeds on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. After all, I have a Jewish last name, so I must know about that stuff. Also, I must be on this side of it. Or maybe that side. But it's important I know the writer's side, and there are frequently clippings to show me the way.

Also, I used to get not only a record of every person who's been appointed to any per-session or comp-time job, but also a record of everyone who failed to get it. That can be fifty letters on a good day in a big school like mine. Recently they've taken to sending those records to my DOE email, so my box is just a little less bursting. And if I miss something important in my DOE email, I can always say I was busy reading 500 letters about postings, whether or not it's actually true. So there's that

Very early on, long before I was a chapter leader, I had a student named Rolando who saw me frustrated with a bunch of mail I had to pick up. He asked me what was wrong and I told him. He said the problem was that I actually looked at the mail. He told me that if I didn't look at it I wouldn't have to worry about it. In fact, Rolando was a proactive young man. He made sure I wouldn't be bothered anymore by entering the teacher check in room each and every morning before I arrived and dumping all my mail in the trash.

It really worked. I would get called into an administrator's office and asked why I never returned this or that form, and I would tell the secretary or administrator that I never got it. "Those monitors put everything in the wrong mailbox," they would say, and I'd fill out whatever the form was in front of their faces. Of course, who knows how many forms I didn't have to fill out because no one ever followed up?

I wonder where Rolando is today and what would happen if he were still around.
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