Geography of School

There is something that has been pissing me off all year…and I thought I knew what it was. It was right there, in front of me all year. Sort of. And I sort of sensed it. But I didn’t really get it until last week.

And it’s not what you think it’s going to be; the regular cocktail of assholes, dummies and meetings.

It wasn’t dummies at meetings. It wasn’t assholes sending me emails about meetings. It wasn’t feeling like an asshole or a dummy because I actually came to this meeting. It wasn’t assholes pretending they were not dummies at meetings. It wasn’t dummies being transformed into assholes during meetings. And it wasn’t simply pretending that people were not assholes or dummies in order to end meetings more quickly. It was actually something important that took me 8 months to figure out. I kind of feel like a dummy.

Part of it I had figured out a long time ago.

I am the only person on my floor, in my wing of the building, that teaches seniors. I’m on the middle school side of the building. So when I walk out of my room, I run into teachers who essentially do a different job than I do and work in a different place than I do. They have entirely different students, different administrators; different bell schedules, planning periods and lunches. I might as well walk out of my classroom and walk into the claims adjustment department at an insurance agency or a break-out session about cakes at a wedding planners’ conference. You don’t really know what I do, or who I’m doing it to, or who’s doing what to me; and vice versa.

So there’s this professional/social overlap area that has been unsatisfying all year. And there is no one to blame for that. It’s just scheduling and room assignments and the things people passing in the hallway either have in common or don’t. But the sum of it is that the people who I know (who didn’t quit last year) and who have the same kids as me are very far away. So I don’t have many of those normal, random, everyday conversations about kids, curriculum and administration that I used to have all the time.

You know…you pop into somebody’s room who you barely know because you are both just sitting there with your heads on your desks wishing you were dead anyway. You start talking. It turns out that you both have the same turd of a tenth grader with the messed-up grandma or the same genius who for some reason doesn’t do any work. Or maybe you share an ironic laugh about this morning’s assholedummymeeting. Whether they are absurd, scandalous, hilariously inappropriate, or even inspiring or useful; these conversations all have an important role to play. Now you are friends for life. (Facebook, anyway…whatev…)

But there was something else that, it turns out, bothered me even more. Somehow I didn’t realize what it was until last week. And it’s not so much that it pissed me off. It’s more that it cheated me out of a big part of why I do this job in the first place. And I guess that pisses me off.

Anyway, it’s that I never see my students. For the most part, they are congregated on the other side of this very large building. They cross the tracks for my class. And maybe another. But when I walk through the halls, I don’t see them. I see sixth graders running and throwing shit. Kids I don’t know and can’t even bring myself to instruct to stop telling one another to fuck off. I don’t know them. They’re like an annoying group of kids on the metro or in line to buy concessions at a movie theatre…this is going to be over in 2 minutes. I don’t need to get involved just so I can be told to go fuck myself. But what if I did get involved?

And then what? Chase you around for a half hour so I can find out your name so I can write a referral that I might just as well shove up my ass before I write it because that would save us all a lot of time because unless you kill somebody the referral will just be shoved up may ass anyway and count against me as a teacher who can’t handle shit?

I miss my students.

Here’s how I found out. We have been testing. The whole everything about the entire school is about the tests. Perhaps you have experienced this at your school. That will probably be a post unto itself. But in the chaos and upheaval of testing, my classes got moved back over to the high school side of the building for a few days.

Suddenly, I felt like I was on a planet where I belonged again. Kids are everywhere saying hi to me, asking questions about their grades or whatever…unstructured, casual interaction. Even though the whole testing thing sucks, those minutes walking down the hall last week were probably the best of the year.

(And it gave me many opportunities to do one of my favorite things. Here it is. I walk up to some fly dude. I get next to him and say in a real low voice, but loud enough for other people to hear, Hey…listen, I don’t mean to embarrass you, but your pants are totally falling down. Hilarity normally ensues.)

Geography. It’s important.

Mr. Teachbad

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30 Responses to Geography of School

  1. jobbahobaawobbasobba says:


  2. Tiff says:

    1. jobbahowhatever, you’re a jackass.
    2. Geography is key, especially in high school. I intended to teach said high schoolers, but fate dealt me the 7th and 8th graders. 7th and 8th graders (and 6th, from your post) do not fully comprehend the idea of hallway interaction, particularly with an adult. They do not truly comrehend an interaction at this point. The teachable moments that make themselves available in the hallways of a high school are lost at a middle school. As a matter of fact, I have shunned hallway duty this year because the constant demand for me to intervene in what appears to be a never-ending competition of which student can be the largest asswipe in the smallest amount of time was critically damaging my in-class relationships.

    Moral of my story, teachbad, is I sympathize. Testing too, but like you said- that can be a reply in and unto itself.

    • mrteachbad says:

      “the largest asswipe in the smallest amount of time”…I like that.

    • jobbahobaawobbasobba says:

      1) don’t be sore because you’re not first
      2) i think you need a lesson in ‘manning up’ and hallway justice.

      • Utz, The Crab Chip says:

        “manning up”? Listen, intervening in a hallway situation with students you don’t know leaves one of two possibilities.

        1) Student says “OK” and then walks around the corner to keep doing the same shit you told them to stop (75% chance in high school, 40% chance in middle school)

        2) Student says “who the fuck are you? Get the fuck away from me asshole!”, but since you don’t know their name you can’t write them up, so you either let them go, or spend the next 15 minutes following them around the hallways like a crazy homeless person on a city street. Then when you do write them up, their “punishment” is talking to the VP for 2.5 minutes then going back to class.

        Either way, all you’ve really demonstrated is how utterly powerless you are to get them to do anything.

  3. happyIquit says:

    the power of knowing students names can not be underestimated in either discipline or connecting. when they’re misbehaving the threat of “hey! hey you! in the red! keep your hands to yourself!” has no where near the weight of “David if I see you touch that boy one more time I’m letting your mom know you need to go back to kindergarten to learn how to keep your hands to yourself”. Knowing someone’s name and seeing them frequently makes both the teacher and student a “real person” and not just “some kid” and “some adult”. makes sense. expect to be isolated again in the future. once someone in charge at a school realizes something makes sense they will be sure to eliminate it from ever occuring!!

  4. Sean says:

    That is one of the BIG advantages of being in a small school. I will have all the seniors this year and I know all the kids, 9-12 by name. If a kid is screwing up, I always call them by name and tell them to “quit.”

  5. This is true. Two related observations:
    1. I hate test season, but I don’t mind proctoring the test, especially if I get the grade above me and have some of my old students in my room.
    2. This is the first year that I DO have teachers right next to me that teach the same subject, and am getting to experience that turd-of-a-student-discussion bonding time. It’s nice.

  6. gilda says:

    I hear you, Mr. T. When we were banned, in turn, to outside trailers a few years ago, it killed me not to be with my teammates inside. Little rivulets of 35 would stagger in and out up and down the ramps to outdoors, but it was very isolating. Our team of five have been lucky enough to have rooms near each other the last couple of years. It is the glue that keeps us sane while all five of us are on hall duty with our own 150, and the other team’s 150 crossing over each other to get to the next class. As this makes 300 6th graders in the halls every fifty minutes–well, I guess I don’t need to explain that.
    One feature of being near your teammates is that when you want/need/have to commiserate you can just step into the hall and cry with a friend for a minute or so before going back in to bang your head on the wall for the next period. Really-it works pretty well!
    Yep, the TEST is starting soon-the whole building in on TEST alert every minute of every day. I can’t wait until the TEST is over and we can start preparing for next year’s TEST. Surely, there will be to follow…

    • gilda says:

      …that should be “Surely, there will be more to follow…..”– need both eyes and glasses adjusted.
      Thank you for your postings-they are a true bright spot in my day.

  7. Miss Crabtree says:

    Teaching is one of the loneliest jobs around, even when you aren’t secluded from colleagues and kids. You come to work, go in a room, close the door, and get to work. It may be hours before you get the chance to interact with another adult.

  8. Teacher of the F-ing Year says:

    Oh Mr.! You must be teamed and/or housed. That any teacher , in this day and age, is still hanging out there on their own is ridiculous. Teaching is a lonely enough profession without the strength of a team of your peers with which you can bitch about your own special f**kwits and their parents.
    Every teacher on this site should immediately go to their admin and waste some time trying to explain why teaming/housing/whatever you want to call it/ is the best thing for students and teachers.

    • Utz, The Crab Chip says:

      Well now I feel bad. Not only do I have to teach 5 preps… but I am the only teacher in the school that teaches any of them. My best friends in the school are the seniors I’ve taught for three years.

      • mrteachbad says:

        WTF?…Five preps and nobody teaches them but you? Look around you. Is it possible that you are home schooling and just have too many kids and have maybe totally lost your mind?

      • Miss Friday says:

        Mr. Teachbad, 5 preps for a “specials” teacher (art, music, gym, etc.) at a small school is common. And these places only have one teacher for each special subject.

        This year is a light year for me — I have 11 preps. No, that’s not a typo. Last year, I had 14, but spread over two jobs. It is possible I’m quite insane, the tests aren’t back from the lab yet.

        P.S. I’m also a music teacher.

  9. lisa2 says:

    I know how you feel. I teach pre-k and I am on the floor with 2nd and 3rd graders at a new school this year. I feel very alone and I can feel the disdain in the teachers’ looks for me. Yeah, you try to do my job! You that can sit at your desk and say, turn to page 38 and complete problems 1-14.
    Step into my world! You will go running back like a scared little girl. Oh, and where do I go to do MY testing (have to test individually, not in a group – that’s 18 tests each time!) why, in the hallway because I’m not important enough to have a special testing place! So while your kids are running, yelling, throwing things, I’m trying to get the best out of my student.

  10. The geography of most schools is fucked up. I haven’t done my lunch duty all year because I decided I actually did need 30 minutes (20 really) in the company of adults only. No one has even noticed.

    • Sean says:

      I got one better….I have not turned in a lesson plan this year….Figured the worst thing they could have done to me send me into retirement early.
      At this point in my career, I see no point in lesson plans. This may seem narcissistic, but I kind of know what I doing in my class.

      • Ellie says:

        I got one even better. My lesson plans go in faithfully every week but have nothing to do with what I’m teaching. In fact a couple of times I’ve turned in 5 sheets with 4 blanks. Whatever old ones I find on the computer get printed in random order. Of course no one’s noticed. For 29 years I’ve taught biology….I don’t need lesson plans.

      • Sean says:

        Well, I just cut and pasted the same plans for about 8-10 years before I gave up this year. ( I HAVE HAD THE SAME COMPUTER THAT LONG!) Shit, I am pretty sure none had anything to do with what I was really doing that week…I am like you, teaching school for us is like “riding a bicycle.” :-)

    • Simone says:

      ohhhhhhh you are so lucky! My assigned lunch duty is to police the hallway by the bathrooms and play traffic cop/TSA security agent to the students which aren’t allowed to stay inside during lunch and mustn’t go past a certain invisible line which it is my SPECIFIC duty to ensure they don’t cross or go past. After days of politely skipping to set up my labs (I teach Chem) while eating lunch and grading and juggling flaming swords I was politely reminded that I was “missed” during duty a.k.a get your ass down here before we send the po po for you.

  11. I "teach" Music says:

    Since I have been teaching, I have been the only one in my department and isolated on campus. Music is generally the first thing cut, and if it still exists its probably only one teacher anyway and they tend to get stuck in the left over buildings. At my current school I am on what used to be the middle school side of campus. There are only 2 8th grade classes left over here so I am surrounded by empty buildings and I am the only high school teacher on my side. My students are always late because of the “long walk” and they always want to leave early so they aren’t late for their real classes. Being all by yourself sucks. Being around students all day is by yourself is even worse.

    • gilda says:

      Dear I “Teach” Music-
      I would rather see ANYTHING cut but music. It is a language and discipline unto itself which enriches every life it touches. At 63, I am still taking piano lessons and thanking my teacher weekly for her skill in helping me enjoy the fabulous fabric that is music. I’m so sorry you are in the situation you are in, but please know that you are appreciated from afar! When I retire in June after 40 years of teaaching I plan to spend a LOT more time playing my piano-right now it acts as a little oasis of sanity in an insane job at school!

  12. maia says:

    i’m not isolated from my team. but i moved over the summer (hubby’s job changed, so i followed) and i am still adjusting to being in a building where i only know the teachers on my team/floor. which is like, 5 people. it’s extra depressing, b/c i came from a school that had a freaking amazing staff. hell, we all lived near each other, went to the same gym, and overwhelmed the local bar on fridays b/c the entire staff went to happy hour together. we just couldn’t get enough of each other!

    and now? now, i hate faculty meetings even more than before b/c i don’t know who to sit with. it’s sad when you don’t have friends at work. =(

  13. Miss Crabtree says:

    OMG-you guys are great. I especialy appreciate all of you who have learned to game the system–I never write up lesson plans and no one ever asks, but if they did, I could produce some. You are correct–after teaching the same science curriculum for years and years, I hardly need to write it all down each year. I know the stuff. I do change it up all the time, but I don’t need to spend time documenting the changes–I take the time to make the changes.

    In our school, we must, must, must note our objectives on the board–we must copy the performance indicators or grade level equivalents out verbatim–for the kids. Right. I just put up something that is sort of close to what I am doing (in a general way) and leave it there for weeks at a time. No one ever comes in, no one ever looks, no one would ever notice that it was not exactly what I was doing. They would NEVER EVER know the difference, so I do not sweat it. They don’t know that I know that they don’t know. I love it.

    And Lady of the Evening: I am way envious of your maneuvers. I have tried skipping lunch duty. They did notice and they called me down–every time. Damn. But, I have not signed in at the front office for two straight years and they never say a word. So there! Take that!

    • Teacher of the F-ing Year says:

      Ha! Ha! We should all write a book about ways to give the finger to the system. At my school we are knee-deep in improvement checks, meaning we are supposed to be tracking weekly tests that nobody wanted to give in the first place because they didn’t match what we’re teaching. We are also supposed to track and post the results so we can all see how much we are improving. Admin insisted and got huffy when people didn’t do it so I put the paper on the wall and every week I dutifully make some random marks on it showing what “scores each class averaged.” Usually I put the class that ticked me off the least on top, sometimes I do it by class period rotation of the day, sometimes I go see how many kids are hiding in the stairwell and use that number as the highest class period. Nobody has noticed.

  14. Miss Crabtree says:

    You want data? We’ll give you data! I would not mind tracking something meaningful, but,… why waste precious time and energy on crapola?

  15. gilda says:

    Reminds me off a time when the adminiweenies decided –for no good reason–we all needed to sign in when we arrived. I took the sign in sheet and recopied it over a picture of Mickey Mouse giving the finger to all and sundry. The sign in sheet disappeared that day and we never heard a word about it again. The terrific thing about meaningless rituals is that NOBODY EVER HAS TIME TO CHECK THEM!!!! If it looks like it might be right, it probably is, so why waste time checking anything??
    TotFY-I’m loving the criteria of the class that ticked you off the least-may have to adopt that one right away! Thanks for the idea-I am in your debt.

  16. drives me crazy says:

    Oh my gaawwwd….I LOVE this blog….I am not alone. This shit is happening everywhere to everyone: not noticing lesson plans, always testing/meetings and not actually getting to TEACH, writing referrals knowing I should just go ahead and shove it up my ass because our Admin will fucking blame me for not “handling it,” then the next time you fucking “handle” it; then they say this displinary infraction should have been referred to the office (FUCK ‘EM)…lazy students, dumb students, insane students, lazy genius students….It’s not just me. I’m not the one who is CRAZY!!! Mr. Teachbad thank you… saved me a shitload on what I would have spent on going to therapy.

  17. Miss Crabtree says:

    Oh my gawd–yes. I feel like I should be paying you by the hour. If I met you in your office you would ask in a deep and stentorious voice, “Well, how did that make you feel?” And I could let it all hang out. OR, I can just read your posts and respond. Cheap, easy, effective. What more could we ask for???

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