Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Why Are You Here?

What do you say when a student asks you that question? I mean, they pay you to come here. That's one reason. You might also speak of your zeal and dedication. You are here to help. You're on a mission. There is no place else you'd rather be. That can get a little flowery, and kids might not buy it.

Now if you want to be really difficult, you could say this--Let me answer that question in two parts:

As to the first part of your question--Why? Everyone asks why. For years, man has looked up to the heavens, and asked why. Some of the wisest people in our history have puzzled over this issue. There are those guys in India who sit cross legged and meditate. They say OMMMMM... until it ends, and no one knows exactly when that is.

Me, I'm just an English teacher. I can't tell you why.

As for the second part of your question, am I here? Well yes I am.

As it happens, yesterday I was supposed to give an exam. It was a midterm exam, or a midyear exam, or perhaps a final exam. I don't know, really. But it was definitely an exam. My department's exam day was yesterday. But I had a meeting, and I didn't want to leave it with a sub. My kids are mostly good, but I have no idea how they will act with a sub. (With me, they'll act like they do with me.)

The thing was, yesterday I had a meeting scheduled during class time. So I told them on Friday the exam was moved from Tuesday to Wednesday. They asked me why. Now I miss a lot of classes because I'm the chapter leader. I tried, one year, to tell my beginning ELLs that I was the chapter leader. They looked at me as though I'd just fallen from the sky.

The following year, and every year after that, I told them I have two jobs. First, I teach you English. Second, I go to stupid meetings. They asked why. I said because the principal asks me to, and he's, you know, the principal. They nodded their heads, and it seemed everything was fine. Except it wasn't.

My former principal liked to constantly walk the halls. He also liked to check the trailers. On this particular day, it was raining. I heard a knock, and opened the door. There, outside, was the principal, in his suit, with rain dripping from his hair. He walked in the classroom and looked around. A girl raised her hand.

"Mr. Principal?"


"Why do you make Mr. Goldstein go to stupid meetings?"

He looked at her for a moment.

"I thought they were IMPORTANT meetings!" he said. He then turned around, walked back into the pouring rain, and let the trailer door slam behind him.

Yesterday, a kid walked in five minutes late. That's unusual in my class.

"Why are you late?" I asked.

"Why are you here?" he asked.

"You told us you were going to a stupid meeting," said another student.

"So you're late because you thought I wouldn't be here?" I asked the boy.

"Of course," he said.

"Sorry, but the meeting was canceled so I'm here."

Yesterday I actually gave out the work I'd left for the sub. I figured it wouldn't be fair to give the test I had ready, since I'd told them it would be today. The sub stuff was pretty good review for the test, but was a little more boring than what I'd have picked for myself. You always wonder, when you leave sub stuff. Will the sub get it? If the sub gets it, will the sub do it? Will the kids tell the sub they did it already? Will the sub believe them?

I don't know the answers to any of those questions. But I thought the kid had a pretty fair excuse for his lateness. I count myself lucky he was the only one. 
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