Friday, September 7, 2012

Not Everyone Is Meant To Be A Teacher

Teaching jobs are difficult to come by in many parts of the country right now.  With the economy a mess, retirements are down, and schools are cutting all over the place thus reducing the number of available jobs further.  It's certainly a buyers market for hiring administrators and too many talented young teachers are stuck working as aides or substitutes.

However, the above scenario doesn't apply to all points in time nor all locations.  My first teaching position was in a school that was like a revolving door for jobs.  They annually had so many to fill that they ended hiring people who I believe may have had some mental defects (not sure what that says about me now that I think of it...).  The school just didn't get the cream of the crop in terms of applications- particularly in traditionally harder to fill disciplines like math, special education, or foreign language.

But if we thought off season hirings were difficult to fill with good candidates, mid season additions were even more limited.  Thus, our next tale.

Our middle school team had gradually increased in the number of students we had and the administration felt that a part time reading teacher was needed.  A few days later, Norm Nichols was ushered into our team meeting and introduced by the principal.

Norm was a short chubby guy in his 50s.  He hadn't taught in years and prior to apparently being the only candidate without a serious felony on his record, taught theater in some small town (and apparently couldn't hold that gig down).  Norm dressed daily in full three-piece suits last worn fashionably by Elliot Ness, and carried a worn leather briefcase (with what inside I have no idea).  To top it off, Norm had a toupee that looked more like a fairway divot than human hair and had an eye that was either fake or dead in some variety. One can obviously see how a principal could meet Norm and come to the conclusion that he'd do a good job teaching 8th graders reading in a large urban school.

You can imagine how this went.

Norm taught while we had our shared planning (his part time status, combined with scheduling issues didn't allow him to join us), and did so in my classroom which was directly next door to the room the team met in.  Each day we'd hear inconceivable chaos, things (people?) hitting the walls, and then Norm's eventual manic breakdown... "Shut up!!! SHUT UP!!!! SHUT UPPPP!!!!!

At this point, daily, I would go over to rescue him.  He'd be dripping in sweat, out of breath, with his 70's tie loosened, and his hair divot hanging off his head.  I'd settle the kids about the time the bell would ring, leaving sweet Normy and I uncomfortably alone to chat a little.

"You okay Norm?"

"Oh yes." he'd say as if he really believed it. "We'll get em' tomorrow!"

"Yeah, okay.  But, um, Norm... listen.  There were textbooks underneath all of the desks when I left here. I see a lot of them missing.  Any idea where I might find them.  I kind of need them."

"Hmmm. I'm not really sure." he'd say, still trying to catch his breath.

"Ok, we'll figure it out.  Don't worry about it.  I think we have some extras.  But Norm, it appears the picture of my girlfriend has been launched into the wall and possibly stomped on.  Any idea which student did that?"

"Hmmm.  I don't think anyone was out of their seats..."

Sure Norm.  I just watched the wall become temporarily concave as one student likely tackled another during a guided reading of Waiting For The Rain.

"Ok.  Well.  Have a good afternoon Norm."

Thankfully, Norm wasn't back the following year.  Like many great warriors before him, I'll just assume he disappeared into a sunset of door-to-door sale work where his suits likely opened many reluctant doors for him.  Or not.

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