Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Coffee and Funyuns

A few random anecdotes:
Yesterday, I saw a girl in one of my classes slowly unzip her leather jacket, stick her hand inside, slowly remove an individual-size bag of Funyuns, and stealthily hand them to her friend. Later, another student absent-mindedly unzipped his jacket, and a bag of Cheetos fell out onto the floor. I thought some of my kids were a little chubby, but apparently they are all just stuffing their outerwear with Frito-Lay products.

Last semester I was on "morning duty," standing by the door where all the bus-riders enter the building. All of a sudden I heard yelling down the hall. The shouts were coming closer and then a guy ran past me and started to bust through the doors. Right behind him was a fairly hefty young lady (she was the one doing the yelling). As her intended victim ran out the door, she threw a cup full of some disgusting coffee-type drink in his direction. Unfortunately, he had made his way out of the building by the time her beverage had launched, which meant that the drink ended up all over me instead. As she tossed her glass, she lost her balance and wiped out on the hall floor. She pulled herself up off the floor as I tried to process all that had just happened. I began wiping the coffee grounds off of my pants, waiting for her explanation/apology, but she just turned around and ran away. Absolutely no acknowledgement that she had just unloaded a glass of some nasty liquid all over a random teacher. (this is about how much attention most students pay to me) I spent the rest of the day explaining to people why my khaki pants were speckled.

The window repair man came to my classroom yesterday to examine the broken window situation. (An entire piece of glass shattered 2 weeks ago when a student tried to close a window. This is what happens in a building that is an historic landmark and therefore never gets updated...) The hole in the window happens to be right next to my desk, creating a perfect angle for the cold air to blow on me while I attempt to be productive. The repair man took a look at the window and asked, "Ain't y'all on the list of schools to be shut down?" When the custodian responded that we are on the list, the repair man replied, "Then I'm just gonna screw some plexi glass on the outside of the window. No need to go to too much trouble." And there you have it; the general attitude about our school until the blessed day when they finally shut it down in May!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Long Post

So, it’s been a while. I am 7 or 8 weeks away from beginning maternity leave (depending on whether a doctor will write me note stating that I NEED some time away from work before the baby comes), and I’ve missed several great opportunities to document the craziness that I experience every day at this school.
I’m continually shifting in my seat as I write this, trying to find a comfortable position because, yet again, I had to yell so loudly to get my students’ attention today that it has literally made my stomach muscles hurt. Until the last two weeks, teaching high school while pregnant wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be, though. The students were surprisingly happy for me when I told them the news last fall. Of course, several of them have children of their own (one girl in my AP class is due about a month ahead of me), so I guess they can relate to my situation. The process of choosing a name for our little one was made a little easier by the fact that I didn’t have to avoid the names of the “bad” students that I teach (as so many teacher-moms do), because names like Erion, Kareem, Khalil, Kendarious, Quentin, Akil, Dominique, Najee, Morrell, Jamario, Makkadoo, and Leon, were never on the list in the first place.
Although there have been LOTS of negatives about this year, I do have to acknowledge the positives. I needed to work this year, and the Lord provided JUST enough sanity in this circus so that I could make it through. Having my own classroom has been glorious. I can’t even explain how much better it is than a rolling cart. (Despite the fact that the room is currently freezing due to a large hole in one of the windows that has yet to be fixed…) Also, 2 of my 3 classes are AP US History. This is a year-long course, so I have been able to build a relationship with some of my students. The AP label doesn’t guarantee that they can read, write, or know that Europe is a continent and not a country, but it does mean that there is a higher likelihood of them coming to class and attempting to work. There are even a few who occasionally ask intelligent questions and reference current events other than rap and marijuana. I was incredibly touched when a few girls brought in baby presents for me (and the pregnant student in the class) last week. Finally, my entire department, all three of them, think this place is just as crazy as I do, so we’ve been able to help each other out and mostly keep each other from absolutely “losing it.”
I say “mostly” keep each other from losing it, because we did actually lose our 9th grade teacher in November. We still don’t know the details, but there was apparently some sort of confrontation with the principal, this teacher was taken away in an ambulance, and she hasn’t been back at school since (although her name is still on the roster of teachers and no one has been hired to replace her.) I met the long-term sub that currently has her classes one afternoon this week and tried to encourage her, but she had that “I’m-going-to-burst-into-tears-as-soon-as-I-get-in-my-car” look anyway. And I know that look, trust me.
If you watch the Atlanta news, you know DeKalb County is working on redistricting a bunch of schools next year. Since our school is about 60 years old, is way under-enrolled, and has been performing terribly for the last decade, we are on the almost-official list of schools to be closed. This is actually welcome news to most of the staff and students, who know that the county has long since missed its chance to save this place. And, unlike some of the north DeKalb schools on the list, no parents here are fighting to keep it open.
With the anticipated closing, it feels like the school is spinning out of control even more quickly. Teachers are just flat out leaving, so there is an unusually high number of substitutes in the building on a regular basis. We’ve lost the English and Math department chairs (one was involved in some scandal, the other just couldn’t take it anymore) One of the four administrators still hasn’t returned from Christmas break. Last week, our main principal was out for cosmetic surgery and another decided to use her vacation days at the same time, leaving only one administrator in the building the whole week. He had to deal with the usual morning fist fights and one student being taken to the hospital all by himself.
This post is now so long that it is probably unreadable, so I’ll have to write more charming anecdotes about the Blue Devils at a later date.