Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Best Wishes Mr. Sears

I recently learned that one of my intermediate elementary teachers from my days as a student is retiring after 39 years.  This particular guy (Mr. Sears) was probably the initial driving force in my developing an interest in becoming an educator (many other great teacher solidified this passion as I went through school).  The crazy thing is, I can't remember a single thing he taught me, and I had him two consecutive years!

This is in no way to imply that he wasn't teaching his students or serious about his job.  Now that I'm an administrator, I have pre-conferences with teachers who believe that what administrators want to see, or what great teaching is, involves passionate teacher led lecture.  It isn't, and only a small percentage of real masterful orators can pull off this style of teaching

What I remember about my two years with Mr. Sears was that I loved coming to school everyday.  It was fun!   One gimmick I vividly remember was that you had to roll dice to gain access to any privilege.  For example, if you wanted to use the washroom, you called 'high or low' on a die and if if your number came in you go to go.  If it didn't, you went back to your seat and crossed your legs till recess.

We loved this! In two years not a single student wet their pants in the classroom and I recall no word of bladder related illnesses with any of my classmates.  No parent advocacy groups were necessary here.  I'm sure that routine was long retired before he announced his own retirement.  These days such a gimmick would get you labeled a degenerate gambler, a violator of civil liberties, and result in your termination (and probably a law suit as well).  Back then though, it was just fun.

His whole class was like that.  If you wore the rival teams jersey he'd make you write 10 times that your team stunk.  If your desk was messy he dumped it down the stairs.  Everything had a gimmick to go along with it, and everyone wanted to be in his class.

The message here is that while curriculum and instruction are important, they do not replace the human being element of teaching.  Relationships are critical and will help our profession sustain itself through absurd government mandates, bad leadership, 'magic bullet' curriculum, new technology, and all the other changes that threaten our work.

Further, creating a love of school in a child means you've done your job regardless of what any standardized tests tells you.  But you can't create a love for learning by pummeling kids with homework and other tools of compliance passed along as lessons in responsibility.  Getting them to the table is the first step to getting them to eat.

Congratulations on fine career Mr. Sears and best wishes in your retirement.  To all those joining him in retirement after a career in education- thank you for your service to children.  It remains a wonderful and important job.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

It's A Zoo Out There...

We have a program here which 'buddies' up our sixth grade students with our kindergartners (and 5th with 1st, & 4th with 2nd).  We feel the small time investment through the year helps our building climate, reduces bullying issues, and helps a little with bus behavior.

At the end of each school year, the 6th graders and kindergartners go on a combined field trip to the local city zoo.  Obviously there are adult chaperons, but 6th graders are paired with their kindergarten buddies as they explore the zoo.

I stay far away from this one.  The zoo is a major pain in the ass.  It's never been below 175 degrees on any visit I've made, and you couldn't fit the average crowd into Madison Square Garden.  I have my own small kids, so I'm fully aware what a trip to the zoo entails:  lots of walking and pulling reluctant little people along, lots of requests for things you don't have to come to the zoo for (ice cream, time on play ground, toys, hot dogs), little interest in animals.  Even if you wanted to see the animals, because there are seemingly millions of unattended children on the premises, good luck getting up to any of the cages or tanks.  Beyond the elephants, or perhaps a stray pigeon, don't get your hopes up.   

The bus pulled up in front of the school to mark the end of this year's zoo trip.  As the students began pouring out of the door of the bus, I addressed the first few students.

"Hey gang, how'd the trip go?  You guys have fun?"

The first student looked at me, almost agitated, and yelled, "I am never having kids!"

His friend who was also standing there added, "Yeah, me either.  But if I do, you can bet I will never take them to the zoo."

I wish I would have learned these things in 6th grade.  :)

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Truth About Summer "Break"

As most educators are putting the finishing touches on what hopefully was another wonderful school year, the break formally known as summer vacation will begin.

Summer break is usually ushered in by a heaping dose of criticism from all those employed in other fields about 'all the time teachers have off.'  I'm on a 12 month contract, but these remarks piss me off nonetheless.

First off, teachers have traditionally had summers off for most of our lifetimes.  This isn't new.  If that was something that was real important as a job perk, non-teacher professionals should have chosen a different vocation when they had that choice.  All jobs have perks & advantages to them.  Teachers don't typically get free sky box tickets to events, corporate golf outings during the work day, expensive dinners, company cars, stock options, or other perks that are often associated with other professional positions.  Of course the difference is, teachers have to carry a cross around for getting President's Day off while someone in the business field can golf every Friday afternoon (on the company dime) while sucking back beers and never have to have their profession attacked or degraded.

Further, teachers salaries reflect the amount of time they work.  They are usually on nine month contracts, and teachers typically earn less than most college degree professions out of the gate.  It certainly isn't because their work is unskilled or unimportant, rather they work less of the year.

It's also a fallacy that on June first teachers trade their rulers for a swim suit and return on August 31st.  Necessary summer work increases every year as school districts and individual buildings prepare to meet upcoming challenges.  Teachers are frequently in doing committee work, as well as preparing their own plans and classrooms.  This work usually non paid (just like many evenings and weekends throughout the school year where prep time generally isn't acknowledged outside the education field).  I've worked at several school districts and the buildings are full of activity all week in the summer.

It certainly can be frustrating when someone's child gets a lazy teacher who's still employed because of tenure.  Those sorts of people most certainly exist, and they only serve to reinforce misnomers about the majority of educators.  It often feels that short of the TV weatherman, no profession gets universally painted with a bad brush because of it's outliers.  I thinks it's both fair and appropriate to point out that all fields have bad personnel that exist.  All fields have dishonest and lazy employees who collect checks they likely haven't earned.  In all these instances, these sub par contributors are in the minority.  

Enjoy your summers teachers.  You've earned them.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Some Kids Have Issues Larger Than Academics

Several years back we had a student who had, in my opinion, profound emotional issues.  Peter came to us in the middle of the year in 5th grade.  His teachers quickly dubbed him a psychopath.  He had just about everything working against him.  His mother was clinically bipolar and a raging alcoholic.  His dad was out of the picture.  Mom had a boy friend who was blown up while serving in the military and was rumored in have swastikas displayed at their apartment.  This kid didn't have a chance.

By 6th grade Peter had become a 'cutter.'  His pathetic parental units blamed the school for everything from bullying that wasn't occurring to the fact that we let kids have little pencil sharpeners (he'd take the blade out of them and use it to cut).  However, they did at least attempt to get him some help.

A therapist of some variety came to the school once a week to meet with Peter and met with the whole family on weekends.  They quickly stopped showing for the family visits so the therapist increased her efforts to see Peter at school where she knew she could find him.  Peter wasn't interested in working with her.  He would spend the majority of the time swearing at her and watching the clock.

One day while with her, Peter announces he wants to kill himself.  They talk about this a little, but Peter shows no signs of backing off his claim, at which point he's told by the therapist he'll have to be hospitalized.

This is not quite how I would have handled it.

Peter goes crazy.  He punches her, bites her hand, and takes off down the hall.  The therapist catches him, and they wrestle toward the main office.  I'm fairly certain he headbutted her squarely at least once.

My secretary appeared at my office door, "Um, I think you may be needed in the hallway." Yep.

I grabbed another male teacher (Don) and we pulled Peter into the teachers lounge.  He was enraged, and carrying on about what a bitch his therapist was and how he wasn't going to the hospital (though using language that would make a sailor blush).  We just let him go, and eventually he calmed himself down.

Meanwhile, Peter's therapist is in the room working her cell phone like a bookie.  Don and I were busy calming Peter down so I didn't know who she was calling and I didn't really care.  Evidently Peter again overheard something about going to the hospital and made another run for the door.  Don and I stopped him, so he wheeled and race to the opposite side of the room and hopped up on the air conditioning unit which ran along a set of windows.

By this point Peter was a crying mess and carrying on about not wanting to go to the hospital.  He started kicking the window- hard.  Don and I are both trained in restraint methods which are only to be used if a child were endangering himself or others.  We felt this qualified.

Peter kept kicking the window; each time a little harder.  We asked him to come down off the air conditioner several times and told him that we'd have to bring him off if he wouldn't, but he was having no part of it.  So Don and I hopped up and grabbed him.  That's when things got real.

Peter was in total shock.  In his mind, teachers weren't allowed to touch kids- ever.  After we got him down, we let him go since the danger of the window breaking was now taken care of.  Peter used the opportunity to pick up a book and smash me in the face.  10 seconds later Peter was pinned face down in the prone position.

He was screaming like I've never seen a kid scream.  The look on his face has to be one of the worst things I've ever seen, and it will forever be burned into my memory.  This kid's life was now catching up with how it had been running in his head for a long time.

The therapist, who helped ignite this kid, calls the police without even mentioning it to me.  Predictably they sent about four squads, two fire trucks, and an ambulance for one 50 pound 6th grader.  The police came in and took over for Don and I.  They were informed that he was a biter so they put on gloves and several officers grabbed this little boy, secured him, and cuffed him.  "You're fucking arresting me!?" he screamed.

This all happened right around dismissal time so my school buses couldn't enter the property because they were blocked by fire engines.  I had half my parents standing around wondering what the hell was going on, and the other half would be calling when their kids bus was 30 minutes late.  To add a cherry to a great day, one of our kindergartners had a grandfather picking him up who was an amateur photographer for a local on-line 'newspaper.'  He called the paper up and reported we were in a lock down (we weren't), which turned this into Columbine for some parents (they ran with it, and later 'corrected' it).

Peter's mom showed up about 5 minutes later and the police reluctantly un-cuffed him.  He collapsed in the fetal position in the lap of a mother who he hated.  Peter was taken to the hospital by ambulance with his mom riding along.

You don't have many days in education that are worse than this.  I drove home with tears in my eyes, and visions of that poor kids frightened face as we held him down.

Peter returned and continued to cause problems at school.  Other parents didn't want their kids around him, and the junior high didn't even want him attending there.  The family eventually moved as these sorts of families often do.  In reflecting on his time, I'm not sure what we could have done differently.  There isn't always an answer.  I do know he's another example of a kid whose needs are bigger and different than passing a standardized test at the end of the year.  No child left behind, right?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Lost In Translation

I took two years of high school Spanish.  With that, I have been able to successfully order beer, find a toilet, and order a variety of different burrito combinations while in Mexico.  Beyond that, I'm pretty much useless.  So when it comes to communicating with Hispanic families in a professional capacity, I need a translator.

Both English speaking staff and students tend to be a little overly sensitive & suspicious when people speak a different language around them.  If people are speaking Spanish and they look and/or laugh in the direction of non-Spanish speakers, it generally sends them into orbit.  

"He was making fun of me!  In Spanish!!!"

"But you don't speak Spanish, how could you possibly know that?"

"Because he was laughing!"

Having said that, in my many stops, I have always had challenges with finding good staff to translate.  The individual I have translating often times winds up having a largely private conversation with the parents while the rest of us sit around wonder what the hell they are talking about.

It's not that I'm worried they are talking and laughing about my huge nose, but rather I use strategic language and wording in the course of my job.  When a staff member and parent have a lengthy back and forth, I'm not sure the message is coming across the way I want it to.  

No one was a worse translator that Juanita Gomez.  I'm not even sure what her title was at the school.  Juanita did a little of everything.  She wiped tables in the lunchroom, made copies, filed library books, and helped special education students keep on task in the classroom.  

Juanita was an old lady with long gray hair.  She was an incredibly hard worker and would do any job anyone asked her to just so long as it didn't interfere with her 15 minutes cigarette breaks.  If a tornado was coming down the block during those 15 minutes, Juanita would have been out there, standing across the street puffing away in her insulated flannel jacket.

I needed her to translate for a fairly run-of-the-mill parent meeting.  The kid had tossed a piece of food across the lunchroom and throw a little tantrum when asked to go down to the office.  Pretty minor in the grand scheme of things, but I wanted to make sure we were all on the same page moving forward.

I gave Juanita a run down of what happened, what I needed the parent to understand, etc.  She got it.

The parent arrived and joined us in my office along with the student.

I began, "Mrs. Gomez, please welcome Mrs. Alvarez and thank her for coming in to meet with me."

Juanita started talking in Spanish to the parent.  The somewhat nervous parent said a few words back, but Juanita was doing most of the talking- and lots of it.  She went on and on.  "Holy shit," I thought to myself. "All I asked her to do was say hello!"

Juanita was starting to move into a new level of intensity.  She was turning red in the face, sweating, wagging an aggressive finger at the kid, and her gravelly cigarette charred voice was at a near yell.  The mom's eyes were beginning to well up and then she start moaning, "Ay dios mio!" over and over again.

My head moved back and forth as I tried to make some sense of what the hell was going on and not sure knowing what to do.  Eventually the mom started sobbing hysterically, hopped up, grabbed the kid and her over sized purse, and charged out the door.

"Juanita!  What the hell happened there?!!"

"I told her that her son was a very very bad boy, and if he ever did it again he would be permanently kicked out of the school."

"But Juanita, I didn't tell you to tell her any of those things! I just said to thank her for coming!!!"

With that, Juanita crossed her arms and sat with this, "You didn't have the balls to take care of this" like look on her face.

Now days, I look to Sylvester Stallone for help with this issue.  Seriously.  Whenever someone is going to translate for me, I have them watch this clip first.  Sly models what I need: half sentence-translate-half sentence-translate-talk slow-repeat.  Now why didn't I think to look to Rocky for the answers in the first place? Estúpido.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Value Of Professional Appearance

I've worked with some strange people (to be kind).  If you've read any of my past entries you've probably already figured that out.  Lynda was was near the top of the list.

Lynda was teaching assistant who had been passed around to every building in the district like a hot potato.  She was in her late 40's I'd guess, and was a total ditz.  She (among other things) openly told people that she wore tin foil hats and decorated her house with "X's" to starve off possible alien attack.  Seriously.

I enjoy making a visit to a thrift store now and then.  I've found them to be good places to find used music and books cheap.  On one particularly visit I found myself looking through the used neckties.  Obviously most of these ties were never in style, and the few that were contained large stains.  But then I tripped across a Jerry Garcia tie in pretty good shape.

At the time Jerry Garcia ties were pretty popular and not exactly cheap (at least on a young teacher salary).  Here was a lightly worn one for 2.99.  There was just one problem.  I was pretty sure I hated it.  It was black with this obnoxious purple flower like pattern of sorts slapped across the front.

It was 2.99.  What the hell?  I grabbed the tie, reminded myself that I had no sense of style, and went and checked out (and then used some Purell...).  

I didn't wear the tie for a while.  It just hung there and looked at me.  "This tie is hideous." I thought to myself.  "Besides, you can't be wearing some shit you got at a glorified garage sale to work.  This is isn't college."

But there would be other days I would remind myself that I didn't know anything about abstract art, and of all the other fashion trends that I hated, but later conformed to.  So the day came where I said 'fuck it' and put it on.

This quickly became one of those instances where it was apparent that I should have trusted my judgement.  People were passing me in the hall and shielding their eyes.  Even staff members who were too kind or didn't know me well enough to bust my chops spoke up on this day:

"My GOD! That's the ugliest thing I've ever seen!"

"Did you lose a bet?"

"Did you get dressed in the dark today dude?"

I tried to explain to people that it was a Jerry Garcia tie and therefore automatically cool.  I wasn't selling it.  At all.

It was difficult to teach.  The kids wanted to talk about the damn tie.  As the morning went on, my colleagues were telling the kids to ask me about the tie before they arrived which just further wound them up.

Around lunch I was heading to make some copies when I passed crazy Lynda in the hall.

"Oh my!  That is the best looking tie I have EVER seen." she beamed never making eye contact with me as she starred adoringly at the tie.

Without speaking, I removed the tie in the middle of the hallway, handed it to Lynda, and walked away.

Stick to music Jerry.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Art Of Interrogation

As I cut through the upstairs library at the elementary school I was working at, one of my kindergarten teachers flagged me down.  The class was just getting ready to head back down to their class after checking out some books.  The students were line up quietly.

The teacher asked if I would mind pulling Mauricio and talking to him.  He'd used a swear word toward a classmate.  I told her it wouldn't be a problem and that I'd bring him back down when we were done.

Typically with a minor situation like this I'll bark the kid a little, he'll start crying, and I'll make him promise not to do it ever again.  Then on with the day.  I took Mauricio to a small unused office off the main library floor (I've worked in several schools and they all seem to be built with not enough offices in the main office area, and more than needed in the library... odd).

I sat Mauricio down and took a seat across the table from him.  Like a criminal interrogator I went to work on Mauricio. I battered him with a series of stern questions about knowing the rules, and 'how would he like it' like statements.  No reaction.  I spoke louder.  Even more sternly.  A fist pound may have been thrown in for CSI like effect.  I increased the level of my empty threats if he were to do it again ("I'll call mom!" "I'll suspended you!" "Have you heard of waterboarding?!).  Nothing.  At one point, I thought I may have seen a slight dab of moisture in his eyes, but I reasoned it might just be my breath or perhaps even tears of boredom.  I questioned if Mauricio even understood English.

I gave up.  I was defeated.  I hit him with everything I had, and he took the blows.  I had stuff to do, so I told Mauricio it was time to go back to class.  He obediently followed.

The kindergarten rooms were downstairs from where we were.  There was a back staircase that students didn't really use that was sort of a short cut to where we needed to go.  As I ushered Mauricio into the stairway, he totally freaked out.

"Where are you taking me!!!!?"

It occurred to me that this five year old boy had never been down the back stairs and likely had no concept of where he was in the building.  I'm not sure he even knew who exactly I was.

I wheeled and barked back in my best Harrison Ford, guy-yelling-in-a-suit-voice , "If you want to know all the answers, you need to learn to talk like a nice little boy!"

His eyes poured like a faucet and pleaded for nothing in-particular ("please, please!") as we descended the stairs.  When we go to the bottom and open the door way that led back into the main school, we were back in the kindergarten hallway.  Mauricio looked around, got his bearings, and stopped crying and yelling as quickly as he started. I'd never seen moisture evaporate so quickly.

Mauricio walked into his classroom like nothing ever happened.  Don't mess with the bull young man!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Mailman Always Delivers

I was hired to be principal of a school coming off a rough experience with the former principal.  My predecessor had been mired in various sex scandals.  By the time I arrived, anyone associated with the school who had a penis, from the custodian to the school police liaison, was rumored to have screwed her.

According to legend, she was that good looking, and dressed the part.  Our sixth grade boys weren't too happy to see the young curvy female replaced with a dude with a huge nose.

I started on the job in the summer prior to school resuming.  The building was generally empty and I was able to get a lot of paper work done.  Every day I would have to stop to buzz the mailman into the building.  He was nice guy, but he loved to make small talk.  No doubt this guy had an incredible internal clock because he would small talk me for something like 45 seconds every day and exit as quickly as he arrived to continue his route.

I hate small talk, and this guy was always bringing up the most obvious types of topics (the weather, local baseball results, traffic, etc.).  Try having a conversation with a virtual stranger about the fact that it's hot out in the summer day after day for 45 seconds.  It sucks.

But like I said, he was nice guy and it certainly would have been rude to do this to him (jump to about the one minute mark :), so I just dealt with the boring chit chat each day.

So one day he comes in and throws down the mail and starts in about how hot it's been, and how he was at his kids baseball game the night prior and how muggy is was there, and can you believe how many mosquitoes we've had this summer, and blah, blah, blah.  I started filling teacher mailboxes with the mail as he talked so I didn't have to look at him while he babbled.

"So I guess you're not going to show me your tits, huh?"  Did I hear that correctly?

"Um, excuse me?" I said turning, suddenly more interested as it appeared we were done talking about the heat wave.

"Yeah, the other principal, that lady.  She'd always bend over and give me a good eye-full of her tits every day.  It was great man.  But you've been here a month, and I'm starting to get the impression you're not going to do that for me."

I certainly had a good laugh with the guy.  I apologized for letting him and down and pointed out that I'm not sure he'd find my chest hair quite as arousing.

As I was I talking, he waved good and hit the road.  Our 45 seconds were up.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Possible Perks Of Working Late

I was a little pissed at Mike who was our head of building and grounds.  I needed a night custodian and Mike was setting up the interviews.  Mike is pretty much the nicest guy in the world, so when one of the candidates said he couldn't make it till 6:30, he said okay.

The last interview before this goof started was at 4:30, so I would have been annoyed under normal circumstances having to sit around roughly 2 hours for an interview.  But on this particular evening, a major snow storm was set to hit the area.  I live a decent ways from work and snow is no friend to my commute.

Sure enough, as we sat waiting around for this last interview, the weather man picked tonight to be spot on with his prediction.  Huge flakes paired with giant gusts of wind engulfed the area.  Snow began to pile up quickly, and I started wondering if it might be easier to sleep on the nurses cot (aka, feeling sorry for myself).

To the candidates credit, he showed up on time despite the terrible conditions.  He seemed like a decent enough fellow, but it was pretty clear early on he wasn't what we were looking for (making staying late even more frustrating).

When the interview concluded, I walked the guy to the door while giving him the usual post interview lines ("We'll be in touch").  As we got to the doorway I said, "Be safe driving."

"Oh, I don't drive.  I rode my bicycle here."

There was already about six inches of snow on the ground.  I watched as this guy unchained his bike and began attempting to peddle through a fucking blizzard.  He looked like someone swimming against a heavy current.  His tires were spinning in place and the wind was literally blowing him back.  Mike and I stood in the window watching this train wreck and trying our bests not to pee in our pants.  Man, was I glad I didn't miss that!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

How To Help Wreck A Kid

Lance was one of four siblings at our school.  He was the second oldest.  Rumor had it that there were at least three different fathers.  Mom was a decent lady but young, uneducated, and despite offering quality lip-service was basically hopeless in terms of affecting change in her children.

All the children were behavior issues.  The youngest was beginning to fall behind, and two of the older one's were already special education students.  But Lance was bright.  His grades wouldn't tell you this, but he passed his standardized tests every year, and always came up above average when we examined data per RtI.

Lance arrived in 4th grade, and was certainly on the lazy side.  He didn't work hard in class, and then didn't complete his work at home.  On a daily basis, he would start his day off with being scolded by his teacher about not completing homework, followed by a call to mom.  He regularly had his recess taken away to complete work.  The work he did bring back from home was rarely at the level of his peers who came from more supportive households.

These measures did not increase the amount of homework we got back from Lance.  Mom became annoyed with the calls and stopped answering the phone.  By about midyear, Lance was also starting to have enough.  So he started accelerating his misbehavior so he could get kicked out of class quicker so he wouldn't have to listen to it.  The issue now became teacher disrespect in addition to failure to complete homework.  Despite failing most daily work, Lance still passed his classes because he was able to pass tests without doing homework or being in the classroom half the time.

By the time Lance reached fifth grade his reputation was solidified as a trouble maker who wouldn't work.  He spent the remainder of his years at our school getting kicked out of class, doing nothing, and being yelled at.  When he was asked by the social worker what he wanted to be when he grew up, he responded that he wanted to be like his mama and get paid to do nothing (receive welfare).

His teachers honestly tried.  They communicated with the parent.  They provided him the materials he needed.  They attempted to hold him to a high standard.

Soon after Lance got to junior high he'd become a known drug dealer.  The family later moved when mom got a new boyfriend.  I wouldn't be surprised if he's incarcerated right now.

Lance had opportunity and he failed to take advantage of it.  His mom didn't honestly support his improvement or truly partner with the school when issues arose.  However, I believe on some level we need to take some responsibility.  We battered him with homework and projects on a regular basis.  We did this despite knowing that he had no kitchen table at his apartment.  We did this knowing his mother couldn't (or wouldn't) help.  We did this despite knowing his siblings had behavioral problems which would prevent even a motivated student from getting anything done in that environment.  We did this and justified it as 'teaching responsibility' or 'because all the other kids in the class had to.'    We failed to differentiate.  We failed Lance.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Teachers Shouldn't Give Students The Answer Right Away

A colleague of mine who works with special education students recently had a 4th grade male student approach her.  The boy, who is highly autistic, asked, "Mrs. Soandso, do you know what wee-wee is?"

This would be an uncomfortable question for just about any teacher.  With autistic kids, one can't always be sure what they're going to do with the information, how (or when) they might repeat it, etc.  Still, the teacher also wanted to be make sure that the student wasn't involved in some sort of abuse issue.

"Um, well, sweetie, a wee-wee is a body part you have between your legs."

The boys burst into hysterical laughter.

"What are you talking about!?" he shouted still laughing.  "Wee-wee is what French people say!" and he laughed himself blue in the face.

Teachers... they always have their mind in the gutter.... :)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Is This Seat Taken?

It was my first week at a new school.  Counting student teaching, this marked the fourth school I'd been at in six years so change and meeting new people wasn't a big deal for me.  One of the things I always do, particularly as an administrator, is get to work early in order to visit with staff.  This is a people business and building relationships takes focus.  However, this wasn't really work for me because I generally like shooting the breeze with others and, um, telling stories.

Making friends with the ladies in the office was of particular interest to me though.  These under appreciated individuals are so critical to success in every sense. I wanted to make sure they liked me.  Every morning I would go in and sit and talk with them for fifteen minutes or so.  There were two secretaries and a sort of jack-of-all-trades aide who also helped out in the office.  They were all nice ladies, but I also kind of felt that no matter what we were talking about, they were kind of laughing me.

The only thing worse than being laughed at, is being laughed at and not being in on what's funny.  The first thing I usually do in these instances is check my fly.  All good there.

After 4 or 5 days of feeling like the target of light giggles and withheld laughter on the part of these ladies, I confronted the situation.  "Ok, what is so damn funny?!  The three of you have looked like you are about ready to fall apart laughing every time I've been in here since I started. My ties aren't that bad are they?"

They all lost it.  They were laughing so hard none of them could respond.  Finally one of them gathered herself enough to talk.

"It's nothing you've said sir, it's just (pause, wipe eyes of tears, deep breath), when you come in you sit in the chair we put the kids in who have wet their pants."  That just refueled the laughter.  Not sure if any of them wound up needing the chair.  I'm happy to entertain.  :)