Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Red Spelled Backwards Is Der

Apathy Jack writes:

Been officially back for just over a week.

Here’s how that’s worked out.

Hugzor I

So I walk into my room, and, as my Year 9s are filing in around me, I notice that one of the chairs is occupied by a student I thought we’d lost. She leaps up and hugs me. I hold onto her tightly and tell her not to leave. After all of the work we put into this one, it was killing me to think we had lost her. But there she was.

Sitting at my desk, I find a note written by one of the creatively maladjusted students who hang around in my room in the mornings. For the last two years she has been wagging too much. It got out of hand last year, and – her behaviour being the result and cause of problems at home, if you get what I mean – the parents called in lawyers. She made a commitment to stop wagging. It was the effort of a few teachers – the fact that I was one of them makes me happy, but isn’t really relevant.

The note she has written is random, on a scrap piece of paper, presumably apropos of whatever she was discussing with her friends while I was out of the room. It reads simply: “Being at school everyday, miracles happen.”

That strikes me as the truest thing I’ll hear this week.

How to lose stuff part the first

“Hey Mister, I still owe you all of those books you lent me last year.”
“Hold on to them as long as you want.”
“Good, cause I sort of want to keep them.”
“You can.”
“What? Seriously?”
“Yes. If you want them, you can have them.”

Hugzor II

Headed to an assembly, one of my new Year 9s launches herself at me and hugs me. She was a witness to the display earlier in the morning between me and my special kid, and she is precocious enough to take liberties – and the piss - despite only knowing me for a week.

I raise my arms above my head and squeal “Get it off! Get it off!”

It’s probably best that she learns how high school works early on...

How to lose stuff part the second

“I saw (insert name of miscellaneous Lost One) over the weekend.”
“How is she?”
“Good. She still has some of your books.”
“I thought she might.”
“And more of your stuff.”
“Like what?”
“You’ll get angry.”
“No I won’t.”
“She has some of your CDs.”
“Meh. Anything I couldn’t find at the end of last year due to my shoddy record-keeping, I chalked up as a lesson. Anyway, I’ve built a certain amount of redundancy into my lending library.”
“What does that mean?”
“You’ll notice how I have two copies of a lot of these books now...”

Is this a tale of rough justice...?

So far (and I know it’s only early days...) it looks like I only have one really bad student. This is bordering on a miracle: Usually you count bad students by the class-load. He has gone out of his way to disrupt the lessons and annoy me, and has cast a pall over an otherwise near-ideal class.

Fortunately, his friend has decided to straighten up and fly right this year. The end result is that twice in the four periods I have so far taught them, the disruptive kid has been punched in the crotch.

And just so we’re clear: I don’t mean some manner of laddish play fighting punch – on both occasions the disruptive kid has screamed in pain, fallen out of his chair, and spent some minutes in the foetal position moaning and gasping.

But that’s still quieter than he was before, so I’ve designated his friend official Warden, and given him crotch-punching privileges.

Yes, Society, this does make me a good teacher.

Reunion with an ex-student

“Hey Sir.”
“Hey, how are you? How’s life?”
“Good. You know that problem I talked to you about last year?”
“I solved it.”
“I gathered that. That was the right decision?”
“Good. I thought it was. How’s your partner?”
“Uh, good.”
“‘Uh, good’ is different from ‘Good!’ What’s up?”
“We broke up.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Why?”
“I told him about that problem I told you about, and he had a different opinion about it than I did.”
“Yeah. He wanted to keep it...”

I want to be played by Micelle Pfeiffer

There’s the scene that I don’t think works as a written anecdote. It makes me wish I had a camera, trained actors, some lighting techs, and an army of Christina Aguilera clones so I could film some of this stuff. (There is a school of thought that one doesn’t need a Christina army to make movies, but I figure they certainly can’t hurt...)

The scene:

A FEMALE STUDENT is standing on a chair, writing “Remember to get my marks from last year” on the whiteboard in letters big enough to take up the whole surface of the board.

A tired looking TEACHER is sitting at his desk, slumped slightly.

TEACHER: Must you write it so big?

FEMALE STUDENT: You said you forget things. I’m making sure you won’t forget this.

TEACHER(sadly): I’ll probably remember...

FEMALE STUDENT: You didn’t remember when I asked you yesterday.

A MALE STUDENT sitting in front of the TEACHER’s desk picks up a whiteboard eraser, and carefully aims at the FEMALE STUDENT.


MALE STUDENT: Come on, I can get her.



MALE STUDENT looks almost sad at the mistake OTHER MALE STUDENT has made, and, like it was a chore, stands up, and rolls up his sleeves. He walks slowly over to OTHER MALE STUDENT, and stands menacingly over him.



THIRD MALE STUDENT: Bro, what’s on your arse?


THIRD MALE STUDENT: There’s something on your arse. You must have sat on something.

TEACHER(sighing deeply): I thought I cleaned these chairs...

MALE STUDENT: Oh well, I’ll just have to wipe it off.

MALE STUDENT sits in the lap of OTHER MALE STUDENT, and starts bouncing up and down, to cries of “fag” and such forth from classmates.

OTHER MALE STUDENT: What do you want for Christmas, little boy?

TEACHER: I think we can all figure out what he wants for Christmas. Now can we do some work here...?

Fade to black, sounds of bouncing, grunting, and faint sobbing throughout.


As part of my newfound position as teacher in charge of a bunch of stuff, they’ve given me a raise which amounts to around twenty dollars a week, after tax.

I have had one day off in the twelve since the kids came back, and, last weekend, I bought twenty dollars worth of stationery to handle the paperwork that the new stuff entails.

Still, I can’t complain – it did allow me to have the following conversation with my ex-student who works in the stationery shop.

“What are you going to do with all of those folders and files?”
“I’m going to file things.”
“Since when have you done that?”

Shite-erer Of Worlds

I am moving behind the tree line and will be fading from the world as most know it to be. I think it’s time to say goodbye to some things. It’s time to terminate things. It’s time to maim things so they remain alive long enough to get finished off by predators at dusk. It’s time to close accounts, let the end be the end and done.
-Henry Rollins

Those who follow the politics of Hoodrat Academy for Higher Learning may remember that the Creator and the Preserver have put in an application to be co-heads of the department.

They have the support of almost every other teacher in the school, and of some national English bigwigs we’ve had some dealings with. I myself wrote a very passionate letter detailing how incredibly well the department was running under their temporary aegis.

Yesterday, they found out that there had been no applicants for the position of HOD except the two of them.

The Principal is re-advertising the position. He is so against the idea of giving it to my guys that he isn’t considering their application, even though the absence of an HOD means that we have a retired Maths teacher and a retired Home Economics teacher teaching classes in my department, even though the three of us are preparing over a dozen lessons per week each for these relievers on top of all of the other additional duties we have assumed, to say nothing of our normal workloads. Even though he doesn't have anyone else at all.

This sends a very clear message about how much we are valued. We all work through our lunchtimes, and on our weekends. We have stayed at the school despite the horrifying working conditions, and we three are the only English teachers in years to produce classes with literacy rates which match or surpass the national average. We have been loyal to a school that has not earned it, nor rewarded us for it. We have bled sweated and cried for our students – and in our cases this is not a trite epithet; between us we’ve literally done all three in the service of our school.

And we now find out that it means nothing to the Principal.

He hasn’t officially turned the application down. If he does, I hand in my resignation. Which is sad – to get a new job, I’ll probably have to cut my hair.

And, of course; abandon students who I love like they were my children, who have told me that I’m the only teacher they can rely on, who I have promised that I will be there for, to help them survive high school, no matter what.

But so long as I keep making jokes about how shaving my beard is the worst thing I’ll have to face, I’m sure I can block all the other stuff out...


David Slack said...

Jesus. This is wrong.

Is it possible that once again there'll be no other applicants?

Apathy Jack said...

It's possible. This will be the third time the position has been advertised. The first there were some applicants, but they were all so bad that they weren't even considered, and the second time, as I say, there were not applicants whatsoever.

I don't want to leave, but if I do, at least I will leave devistation in my wake: One of the other two English teachers is also going to resign, so the department will go from being staffed at sixty-percent capacity, to being staffed at twenty percent capacity, and we'll make sure that our exit interviews are conducted by the Problem Solver that the Ministry of Education has grafted to our school (yes, the school is THAT badly damaged)...

That, of course, isn't my preferred option. My preferred option is that I stay and that my team and I continue to fix my department and help our kids to grow in education and in themselves. I don't want to go, but if I do, I'm going out like a hurricane - mainly out of spite.