Monday, September 23, 2013

"Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit, and lost without deserving" -- William Shakespeare

Amen, oh god of the quill.

What favorable, even if "unmerited" reputation that I have just took a roundhouse kick to the face. And, believe it or not, it was not a result of anything I did. The possibility that another person out there can inadvertently make me look bad is terrifying--I can barely keep myself out of the hot-seat, let alone stop anyone else from burning my ass.

But the most recent, undeserving blemish to my reputation did make me the center of attention, so I guess there's an upside. What's that saying: there's no such thing as bad publicity?  Oh wait, as a teacher, my reputation is more fragile than that of any politician.  Really, do you think a teacher with surname Weiner who had an extramarital affair could ever set foot on a campus again?

During this past summer, my high school held a leadership.  I was not invited, my school doesn't dare ask me to lead anything except the damned into the apocalypse, but even though  I was not there in body, I was there in libido.

As an icebreaker, my colleagues were asked to share their most embarrassing moment.  One of my colleagues, Evie, who attended the retreat felt a shortage of humiliating anecdotes to contribute (a conundrum of which I cannot relate) and took the liberty of using one of mine. Since I consider Evie a friend, my fuck-ups are her fuck-ups, but her fuck-up of my fuck-up could land me in jail.

"One time I caught Holly having sex with a student," Evie shared with the more upstanding, more influential teachers of my school, which included my principal, my three assistant principals, and both my department heads. 

Not only did Evie throw me under the bus, but also hijacked it and backed it over me.

She tried to back-peddle by explaining that she had misplaced her modifier, but that just turned into some kind of sexual innuendo about me misplacing my modifier, so now my fellow teachers think that in addition to me boffing my students I am also a hermaphrodite. Trust me, if I wanted them to believe either, it would be the latter.

Now, just to clarify, that is not even remotely what she caught me doing. In fact, she didn't catch me doing anything.  A couple years ago, Evie, myself and two other colleagues had to "do our time" teaching in a set of portable classrooms--constructed to last five years but were around eight years old by the time I got into them.  Even though the teaching conditions were several degrees below adequate, they were perfect for misadventure.  While up there, my classroom flooded after every rainfall; the portable across from me was invaded by a swarm of bees; we were greeted daily by rabbits, squirrels, and the occasional coyote; and if any of us teachers found ourselves bored, we could just wander over to the abandoned greenhouse and catch a handful of students smoking weed. But the finale, literally and figuratively, was when the teacher across the way from me, Paul, saw from his classroom window two students having sex on the baseball field.

It was during the 6th period final on the last day of school.  These teens planned on ending the year with a bang.

I am not the one who caught them, I was the one elected to go and interrupt their fornicating because a) I didn't have a class that period and b) I am known for being quite ballsy.

I know, not helping with the hermaphrodite rumor.

"Hey Holly," Paul yells.  I go to my doorway to see him braced in his with sophomores trying to squeeze out of the room.  "Take a look around the corner of my classroom."

I peeked around the corner and a young lady riding a young man.  This was no amateur show; at her age, I would have had no idea how to do what she was doing.

My solution was to just turn the sophomores loose on them, but Paul was afraid of legal ramifications. As if there wouldn't be any for that 38 year-old teacher who strolled up on the soft-core porn and said, "Excuse me, do you think that behavior is appropriate?"

I may be a bit of a bulldog, but I am not stupid.  I was not going anywhere near that situation. Instead, I just went with prudence and phoned it into the office.  Of course, being the last day of school, the secretaries figured that I couldn't be calling about anything that serious --the seniors had graduated the night before so the margin for disaster was much smaller. As it turned out, when I called to notify the dean that, "two students are fornicating on the baseball field," I was on speakerphone.

So much for avoiding legal ramifications.

Evie could have used the phone call as "her" embarrassing moment.  But nooooo, instead I had to hear from what seemed like every one of my teaching fellows: "Evie announced at the leadership retreat that you had sex with a student." They quickly added, "She did explain what she really meant, but it was really funny."

How nice; I'm the life of the party even when I'm not there.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I'm Pretty: Which Class Is This?

When I pose questions to a class of students, this is not what happens:
Mary Ashley York's Blog
It's more like this:
Old Sailor Blog
With me saying, "Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?" which only evokes laughter instead of knowledge.

Getting the entire class to participate in discussions challenges  all teachers. Either no one volunteers or the same three students volunteer. If a teacher just cold-calls on a student, he/she will either not have the answer while at the same time feel "picked on" and in the future will be even less willing to participate. Frustrated with the lack of response, I downshift into bad teaching by spoon-feeding the class the answers. After a few periods of doing this, I feel like I need to take a hot shower and scrub my entire body with pumice. 

To bypass these issues, I have created a system that engages the whole class. Okay, maybe "engages" is wishful thinking, but at least it keeps them on their toes.  And it lowers my angst, which overall, it critical if I wish to remain employed. 

The system is simple. I inform the class what answers I expect them to provide, give them a few minutes to make sure they have that answer through small group discussion (which is the lowering anxiety part), and then I get out The Cards.
Each student has his or her name written on an index card.  I mix them up with the flair of a Las Vegas card dealer--believe me, students will learn how to "count them" so they know when their time to share is coming up and then will slack off until that time. I walk down the aisles tapping the stack against my palm. No student meets my gaze; they won't abandon the belief that eye contact will dictate which card I randomly draw.

If I pull a student's card, he/she must provide me at least a legitimate attempt to provide the right information or risk losing participation points.

When I reached for my notecards the other day, the chorus of groans indicated that they had only needed a few of the new school year to assert their power.

Holding the cards above my head, I asked, "Who can tell me the answer to number one?" Of course, there would be no volunteers--no willing volunteers.

I lower the cards, and snatching one off the top, I bellow, "Amanda Smith."

I survey the room; the students survey the room.

"Amanda? You have the answer to number one?"

No response. It's too early in the year to know who is who, and my seating chart is hiding. I knew one student was absent; must be Amanda.  Figures.

The snap of another card being drawn, "Jacob Melendez."

Searching eyes. A few mutters.

"Jacob? Number one?"


I thought only one student was absent.  These kids better not be testing my authority already.  

"Okay, let's try Frank Larson."

No Frank either.  Where is that damn seating chart?

"Erika Bermudez?"

More muttering, but nothing remotely resembling the answer I want.   I set down the cards and begin shuffling around the papers on my desk looking for the seating chart.  Damn kids; as soon as I know where Amanda, Jacob, Frank, and Erika sit, there'll be hell to pay.  

"Ms. Vance." 

Finally, someone is paying attention.  

I turn to see a young lady who sits close to the front of the room raising her hand.  Her neck has sunk in-between her lifted shoulders and she smiles meekly. 

"Ms. Vance," she says.  "I think you've got the wrong set of cards.  None of those students are in this class."  

I pick up the cards and shuffle through them.  Shit.