Sunday, November 2, 2008

I Think I Just Saw A Pig Fly By

I know I have been a tad angry recently. Ok, maybe more than a tad...maybe fairly angry is more accurate. Ok, ok, you're right...it's more like ragingly pissed. Yea. That's more like it. I realized just how angry I was the other night as I cried about my job while making dinner (and then quickly feigned that my tears were about the onion I had been chopping- can't let a crack show in my oh-so-fabulous exterior, now can I?)

Intense, right?

I'm guessing that you've been able to pick up on my anger in my more recent posts. After all, I've never been one to feel or do anything subtly...just ask Mr. Mimi. (Love you, honey!)

Just in case you couldn't pick up on my seething irritation, I will give you an example. (I know, you're thinking "lucky me", right?)

Let's look at my week last week, shall we? On Wednesday, I definitely had a "crying over onions" kind of day. That morning, I had a meeting with the infamous Bacon Hunter, in which we discussed the ridiculously useless tests she forces us to give our students yet oddly refuses to allow us to correct, opting instead to uncharacteristically do it herself, yet then totally in character, give us the results two months later when the "data" is even more irrelevant than it was to begin with. So we were enjoying a wonderfully productive chat about that when she brought up this irritating little gem:

BH: (eyes only half open, face a mere inch or so from actually lying on her notebook) So, when can you get me the tests?
Me: I think by next Friday.
BH: Well, it's up to you, but I need to know exactly what day you will get them to me.
Me: Uh, by next Friday.
BH: But what day? I need to know so that I can email all the teachers of children I meet with that day and cancel.
Me: What?
BH: Well, I can't exactly meet with children when I have all that paperwork to do...

Uh, what?? When the Bacon Hunter has actual paperwork to do, she gets to cancel working with children in order to finish said paperwork between the hours of 8 and 3? So she can do what? Resume her hunt for bacon?? But when an actual TEACHER has, I don't know, say twenty math tests, twenty report cards, twenty writing rubrics or twenty reading assessments to do, we have to DO IT ALL while simultaneously managing to teach a full day....

But that my friends, was just the tip of the Iceberg of Bullshit.

Just a few minutes after our meeting, I was (gasp!) working with my students when three big, loud, strange plumbers walked into the classroom (without knocking, making eye contact or asking) and sauntered to the back of my classroom. They proceeded to turn the faucets on and off and use what we refer to as "outside voices". Clearly, twenty sets of eyes were riveted to these intruders (rather than to our shared story) as one of them (seriously) answered his cell phone and began to have what was clearly a personal conversation.

Knowing it is wise to choose my battles, I told the few who were despereately trying to maintain focus to just turn around and watch. Upon noticing all the little eyes staring holes through his back, the most offensive offender turned and said, "Lady, I'm just trying to do my job."

Yes, me too, my man, me too.

After lunch, the same three men returned to my classroom (again, without knocking, making eye contact or asking) to change a light bulb, which necessitated them standing on a desk. While a child was working. At the desk.

It was at this point that I started chanting "I love my job, I love my job, I love my job" in my head.

As we were packing up to go home (finally, the end of this ridiculous day was in sight!), our end-of-the-day routine is rudely interrupted by the flippin' phone. Relinquishing my tenuous hold on their behavior, I reluctantly went to answer the phone. The security guard at the front desk demanded that I send down one of my friends packed up to go home.

"But we're leaving in seven minutes," I said.
"I don't care if you're on the way out the door; her mother doesn't want to wait," replied my not-so-polite co-worker.
"This is ridiculous, we're in the middle of packing up. She isn't ready. We'll be down in five."
"Her mother says she wants her daughter now. She's sick of waiting for YOU to be ready."

Deep breaths. I love my job, I love my job, I love my job?

I bring my friends downstairs, say goodbye and head to office to check my mail, thinking the worst is behind me. As I enter the office, a familiar bark comes my way.

"Mrs. Mimi!" barks our secretary.

"Yes?"

"Are you going to pick up your pay stub or do I have to send you a personal invitation?"

"Excuse me?"

"Your pay stub. Duh! It's been ready since 1:00 and you still haven't picked it up."

(Did she just say "duh" to me?) "Um, well, I've been teaching since 1:00. So, no, I haven't picked it up yet."

"Then why you just standin there? You think I gots all day?"

No, I think you "gots" some major issues with simple grammar and a huge attitude.

So, yea. That was my day on Wednesday. My anger spilled over into Thursday, and Friday as the pointless interruptions and unwarranted attitudes continued to fly.

You can imagine what went through my head when The Weave popped into my room on Friday morning to hang for our morning meeting. (Well, you're going to need to imagine it, because even I wouldn't have the cajones to put that kind of foul language into print.)

At the end of the day, I skanked into the office in an attempt to avoid the bullet-like commentary of our barking secretary and found a note from The Weave in my mailbox.

I read the note on my way back up to my classroom. I was so shocked by what it said, that I almost walked straight into my locked classroom door.

She gave me a compliment.

Wait! Not ONE compliment, MANY compliments. About my lesson, it's tone, my classroom and my interactions with the children. Hold on, let me read this again, that can't be right.

But it is, I have received an actual compliment. I feel strange, and unsure of how to take this new sort of interaction. Should I trust it? Is it a trick? Is her note missing a page filled with other scathing remarks?

Yes, there is more. There's feedback. Actual constructive commentary that might help me improve my work with kids.

Addicted to the odd display of positivity and promise, I quickly read her feedback. It read, "During your morning meeting, you reviewed some strategies for addition problems with your class. Your kids had great ideas. Perhaps you could chart those ideas and post them somewhere in your room. Better yet, maybe you could somehow credit each child with the strategy they shared. Here's an example." And she sketches what this chart might look like, followed by a big smiley face.

Great idea, right?

It would have been, if she hadn't been sitting in front of the EXACT SAME CHART as she was observing our morning routine. Yea, we made one. And displayed it. And she sat right in front of it. Seriously, like two feet away.

(sigh). Her heart was in the right place, I guess. Now as for her keen powers of observation, we'll have to save those for another day. Baby steps, people.

In the name of not crying over onions anymore, I'll take it.

23 comments:

Jpm said...

I don't know how you do it. Really I know you do it for the love of the children but I get discouraged after reading your posts, I can't imagine what's like to be there day after day dealing with people who seem to have no common sense.
I admire your strength and courage and of course your teaching skills.

Mimi said...

JPM-
Thank you so much. That is so nice of you to say. I know it's easy to get discouraged - believe me. But this blog has really helped me to put all of those feelings aside so that I can try to fine some hope for the future and a reason to go in the next day. So thank you for that too...

Sarah Hanawald said...

You are my hero. Seriously! Your blog is the first place I send teachers who are just learning to use an RSS. And most one of them tell me that they ended up reading everything you've written.

Thank you, for all you are doing for the kids and therefore for all of us. You make me realize just how cushy my job is.

jonathan said...

Sounds like the beginning of a beautiful bs relationship. Be sure to show her the chart when she comes back. She'll be soooo pleased you followed her suggestion.

Jonathan
jd2718

Ms. M said...

So typical!

On the bright side, next time she comes in it will be as if you followed her suggestion without any additional work on your part!

Once, I also received a compliment and was highly skeptical.

missteachercasey said...

Wow. I have to say I am thoroughly impressed with/in admiration of your level of tolerance! I don't know how you do it!

And congratulations on the compliments!! At least something good came when you needed it! :)

Mrs. Such and Such said...

When I started reading your blog this summer and first heard mention of the Bacon Hunter and The Weave, I thanked my lucky stars I did not have to contend with those sorts of colleagues where I work. Well, my lucky stars seem to have a sick and twisted sense of humor.
With major changes in staffing including all new administrators and a new Bacon Hunter (I have a much less PC name for the one at my school...), I am laughing less and less at your misadventures as my own "colleagues" start to sound a little like yours.
I was just sitting on the couch with Mr. Such and Such asking what sort of talisman I could bring to school this week to remind me not to explode at my own little Bacon Hunter... who, has done NOTHING (not even order breakfast!!), but block my efforts at getting help for children, make my friends cry, and act as if she is the only person who has every really understood anything about teaching!!! Phew... I feel a little better now... maybe I need my own blog. :)
Keep it up, Mimi... we're rooting for you and for all of us.

Angela said...

An amazingly talented friend at my (for obvious reasons) former school also received a single compliment from administration. It was about her ability to work well with challenging children and maintain a positive attitude. That compliment was followed immediately by the news that she would be teaching the special ed inclusion class for our grade level.

Fortunately, she has received no other compliments since that time.

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Teacher said...

As far as the payroll secretary, I wonder if it is a job requirement to be overly rude. I was shocked when I started working at my school and saw rude secretaries. I didn't even know it was possible. How naive I was...

At the beginning of the year our principal explained that her focus and our focus needed to be positive comments this year. Hmmm... Shouldn't that be a given. As teachers, we are constantly making meaningful positive comments to our students. Unfortunately, I've gotten a taste of what positive comments from an administrator feels and sounds like... I've been poisoned, in a sense. At one time, in a far away school, I was happy as a teacher working under my principal, and I was happy with my administration. I miss those compliments and encouraging words.

Laura 2 said...

You wrote an incredibly real entry about working in a hard place. I too come home and cry over the onions about these kinds of days. If it was just the kids and me in the classroom, it would be easier. My best shone through the day the tech guy walked into my classroom and asked if I was the one who called him a liar. I love my job too.

Emily said...

Mimi, you are a teacher that ROCKS it girl! That's all I've got to say! Keep doing what you're doing!

I'm sure the compliments from The Weave helped boost your spirits...other than the obviously oblivious part where she doesn't even notice the chart... Oh well...

John Spencer said...

I have noticed a certain inverse relationship between how helpful an organization is and the rudeness of secreteries:

Very Pleasant: Secretaries at Law Firms. Though they sold their soul to the devil, they got a great set of manners in return

Pleasant: Secretary for a small business

Fairly Rude: Secretary at a doctor's office - though the organization takes care of the body, the secretary creates a headache for all

Very Rude: School secretaries - though we are charged with taking care of student's mind, a school secretary will act outright mental

Extremely Rude: Church secretaries - Apparently they haven't read the writings of Jesus?

J said...

i'm so sorry that you've been crying--I thought i was the only one! you are an INCREDIBLE teacher--it's easy to tell from your writing here, your attitude and your ENDLESS patience! i'm thinking happy thoughts for you. hugs!

forever39 said...

Your blog is what kept my head above water last year when I had administrators like yours. After a change for the better, the joy is back in teaching. I know that you love your little friends, but find another school that is a better fit. You deserve great leadership because you ROCK in the classroom.

Ilene said...

Ms. Mimi- I'm so sorry you had such a negative experience. I am wishing you well and that you have strength to carry on. I just figure people who are so totally clueless can't be all that happy because they don't even know what's going on around them!

Anyway, I have a good story to cheer you up. If you think it's just administrators that are ridiculous, think again. Today there was a fire drill at our school and I calmly and quietly walked my class outside. We happened to be in front of the science specialist who had a 4th grade class in her charge. She led them out, waited with the group, then, as the students were being directed back into the building, she had a very pressing phone call to take on her cell phone while walking a class inside!!!! She was talking to her dog-walker about what time to let her puppy outside! I couldn't believe it. Not only was the fire drill not finished and all students were expected to be silent, but this was in full range of all the kids who knew exactly what she was discussing. Totally inappropriate!

Mary Louise Brooks said...

Before becoming a teacher, I was a secretary for about 15-20 years. I worked in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. While working as a secretary, if I had ever done some of the things our school secretary does, I would have been on my ass long ago. Our secretary watches soap operas on her computer. Loudly. And the computer faces the waiting area! Our secretary takes off days without notice.Or suddenly remembers apointments and leaves in the middle of something. Our secretary doesn't have sign-in sheets for us but makes it a point to circle our names in red ink when we don't sign the sheets that have mysteriously appeared during the day. Our secretary connects her iPod to her computer speakers and plays music for all to enjoy. Did I mention that the seating area is maybe 10 feet away from her desk? Our secretary prints our checks 2-3 days after the fact. When we go to pick them up, she'll tell us it's not a convenient time for her. Our secretary eats at her desk and wonders why a colony of roaches were found nesting in it. Last, but certainly not least, our secretary has favorites. Don't we all? If you do not give her a gift for the holidays or admin day, you're on her sh** list for all eternity. BTW, she's a Jehovah's Witness and, according to their rules, cannot accept gifts of any kind. She never pitches in for a card or a cake (because that's against her religious beliefs) but you better let her have a slice of that cake or it's on THE list for you!

Lopai said...

I just came across our blog. It's awesome! I have days like this over the years. You would think it would get better but I've been teaching for 8 years now. You just learn to deal with rude people. A very wise person told me once to kill them with kindness.

Carmen said...

Days like that are EXACTLY why I am thrilled I quit teaching. After about the 100th time you say "I love my job, I love my job", you kind of realize that that is, of course, bullshit, and you hate your job! Well, I should say "me" and not "you".

I started subbing some after I quit teaching, and you know what, MUCH better. Because if the principal or the kids are too bad, you just don't have to go back again.

Of course, the money isn't quite as good, but it's worth it.

Too much for teachers to do in the course of a day, a week, and a year. Yuck. Cheers to you.

Cierra said...

You are great. You only deserve compliments. You have really made me consider starting a blog already to vent my complaints and frustrations somewhere other than at the people I love. Thank you for all of your inspiration that there are really great teachers out there.

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Ginger Snaps said...

I had one of those days today, but I actually cried. In front of kids. I was so frustrated and upset I just lost my cool. =(

I feel your pain.

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