Current/Recent Reading List

25 September 2006

The Aftermath

First, let me rejoice about three things. I have twenty kids signed up to go see the NC Shakespeare Festival perform "The Taming of the Shrew". The Wolfpack won in the most dramatic, emotionally appealing way possible on Saturday (the brief father/son story: dad was a stand-out QB at State in the 70's, and now he's on the radio calling his own son's first game as State's starter - gotta love this ). And, finally, the Oxford American Southern Music issue arrived (a month late, guys).

As for the aftermath of our teacher-quitting episode on Friday, it is varied. A few horse-rears were, of course, thrilled to hear the news. But I spoke with four students who were genuinely upset about the whole mess, and were alternately mad at the teacher for giving in and leaving, and at the students who refused to shut up or behave for her. One girl made a fair point that, since 6th Grade, "perserverance" has been a character word for her class one month out of each year. "I don't want to enter college not knowing how to do a research paper," she said. A couple of others said that, while they didn't think she was the most personable teacher, they thought she was good at what she did, and they were learning. Maybe the toughest thing to hear, from one of my yearbook editors, was this: "I've been in a class (Spanish) where the teacher retired and they couldn't find a replacement for a whole semester. We learned nothing with the sub in there - it was awful. I don't want to go through that again."

Meanwhile, the other two teachers in my department are, like me, fighting mad. One of them, Ms. X, said she's tempted to give up her planning period just so she could take over that class and "taste a little blood." I would say, "Amen, sister!", but the problem with Ms. X is that she always wants to "taste blood", and due to this most of the kids can't stand her. If she took that class, all they would do is fight the rest of the year.

My colleagues also would like to seize this opportunity to let the principal know a few other things that were bothering the now departed teacher, and that bother them as well: we don't have as many English teachers as the other high schools in the county, our classroom computers are slow and outdated, some classes have 30 or more in them, etc. When this talk started at an impromptu dept. meeting today, I began feeling antsy, though I didn't disagree in principle. I apologize for the stereotyping, but my experience as the only male in a dept. of women is that meetings turn into, to use the polite term, griping sessions. I hate those, especially when Ms. X is involved. Not that male teachers don't gripe to each other, but it is just in a totally different way and takes half the time.

One more thing, relating to NCLB and the professional educator protection rackets that make sure hiring outside of the usual avenues is difficult. Over the summer, administration found a candidate for the English position who had a communications degree and was commuting to Raleigh. She had community ties, was young, and apparently really wanted to make the switch to teaching. Administration thought she was a perfect fit, and she was going to take the necessary classes to be certified in the usual five-year grace period (basically how I did it). The problem? Nowadays, if you have another available teacher who is already "highly certified", he/she has to get the first offer. The school board turned down the first pick, so this is how we ended up with our retiree teacher - and she was good, no doubt. But maybe this other woman, in the long run, would have been a better solution for our kids, and our department. Obviously administration thought so, but an inflexible system, unable to account for nuances, dictated something else.

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