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.