Trip Two – August 2005 to May 2006
Breakin’ Up Is Hard To Do, so the old song goes. Glenda is a wonderfully hard working, dedicated, and inspired English teacher. The bad news is that Glenda is a wonderfully hard working, dedicated, and inspired English teacher. The really bad news is that Jack was enrolled in her first period class. She has only been in the high school trenches for three years chasing the elusive “teacher tenure”. Sometimes, before school starts, I drop by her room to discuss the progress of several of my students in English. Our conversations always turn toward Jack and his “attitude”.
“All he does is sleep.”
“He does have his own agenda,” I said.
“What can I do? He irritates the crap out of me!”
“Does he disrupt your class?”
“No, not really. He seldom is awake long enough to talk to anyone.”
“Well, I guess that could be good news.”
“Good news? His principal is no help. He talks down to me and tells me I need to be creative in teaching Jack.”
Part of my unofficial duties, as instructed by this very principal, is to assist some teachers with classroom management. I shouldn’t let any of them know what I’m doing, but none-the-less, I should assist them. This is not really a problem. Most other teachers don’t consider me a teacher. I’m just the guy that relieves situations in their classes by taking problem students off their hands for a period of time.
I don’t think that Glenda believes she knows everything about teaching, but she has at least one thing in common with most other teachers, she is territorial. She owns her room. However, I understand the principal owns “her” room and she occupies it only at his discretion. The teachers that change rooms at the end of each school year can attest to this. There appears to be no rhyme or reason for this moving, but if you teach Math and English in this high school, be aware as May nears.
“Perhaps, if you send him over to my portable for third period we can help him with his assignment?”
“I can do that? It really would help me out, I mean help Jack out.” Her justified frustration was barely hidden.
“Sure, let’s try it for a couple of days. I’ll clear it with his principal.” Of course I didn’t have to clear anything. If it keeps a student or teacher out of his office it will be okay.
“I don’t think Mr. Smally likes me?”
“Don’t be silly. If he didn’t like you, you wouldn’t be teaching here for the past two years.” I didn’t want to inform her that she seldom crossed his mind unless one of her students landed in his office for discipline. “You know, you might want to move your desk a little?”
“If a student gets really upset and comes after you where would you run to?” She looked at the placement of her desk and realized that one end was against a wall that allowed only one route for escape.
Her mental light bulb flickered on, “Yes, yes, I see what you mean.”
I left, heading for my portable classroom, while she began tugging on her desk. If I had one “gentlemanly inclination” I would have offered to assist with moving the desk. I walked on. The thought briefly crossed my mind, at a future date, of letting her discover another misplacement of her desk. Away in a corner quite removed from the students. Many students will interpret that she is trying to stay far away from them.
Two mornings later we discussed Jack returning to her class. She was unhappy with this decision. “Is he going to continue sleeping?”
“I graded the work he turned in from his stay in your class.”
“How did he do?” I knew the answer having looked over his work before I slipped it into her mailbox.
“He did okay. I think he got a 81 on one paper and 76 on the other?”
“Not bad,” I said. I did not want to argue with her that he had scored higher and perhaps she was grading him more harshly because of his “attitude”. Also, I didn’t bring it up because Jack didn’t care what grade he received.
Jack and her continued the Tic-Tac-Toe game most of the year. He won many of the battles and lost the educational war. He will be taking English One again as a second year freshman. Glenda also lost the classroom possession war.
“I have to change classrooms,” she said. Angry would not be a fair description of her reaction to the news. Ballistic would be a better verb or adjective.
“Where you moving to for next year?”
“They want me to take Mrs. Baylor’s room. She’s moving to my room. What damn good does that do?”
“I don’t know. The principals seem to have their own plans for where teachers teach from each year.” Again I let the opportunity pass about who controls (owns) the classrooms in the school. I didn’t even feel like reminding her it wasn’t where she taught, but what and how.
“I told them I wasn’t moving unless I got Honors English next year. I’ll quit if I don’t get the course.” She didn’t seem to understand that she was five or six years shy of getting an honors class. Without tenure and several more years teaching at this school she was not getting an honors class. It is not your ability to teach, but how long you’re here that counts.
I recalled she was going to quit after her first year because she did not have first period planning. At the end of the second year she was going to quit because she didn’t get along with the inclusion teacher assigned to her. (The inclusion teacher made the mistake of thinking she owned the room.) Now she was quitting if she did not get Honors English and was being forced to change classrooms.
My belief is that she will be back, in her new classroom, in August. Glenda is a wonderfully hard working, dedicated, and inspired English teacher. Breakin’ Up Is Hard To Do with a lover, but Breakin’ Up Is Impossible To Do with your dream of teaching!