Thursday, March 03, 2005

No More Mr. Nice Guy (You Don't Know Me)
When it comes to my co-workers, I try to be a nice guy. It’s not that hard; the people I work with are by and large a friendly and decent sort. I’m sure they think I’m somewhat of a freak - what with my earrings and facial hair and rumpled clothes and aversion to ties – but they are mostly women, and all older than me, so I just smile, mind my manners, make polite chit-chat, refrain from discussing my affection for the new TI album, and we get along just fine.

I’ll share an anecdote or two from my classes and maybe make a crack about the ineptitude of the security, but I try not to bitch and moan, and I’ve never officially complained about anything. I’ve been denied use of the VCR, told I can’t keep my lunch or my coat in the office, had rooms and classes switched on me mid-semester, even been asked to take on an extra-class of known hellions, and I’ve never said a word other than “yes’m.” Even in my second year, I know I’m still the new guy, and I’ve never seen the point in complaining about these inequities big and small, when everyone is dealing with plenty of problems of their own.

There’s one woman in particular who gets on my nerves. She’s an older lady (she actually attended Shitty sometime in the early part of the last century). We’ll call her Ms. Kuntstein. She wears lots of bright lipstick, sloppily applied, and in a vibrant hue of pink offset blindingly against the ghostly pallor of the rest of her face. Students have been heard to whisper that she has a dick, and they might know too. She reportedly sits in class with he legs up on a chair, control-top ‘hose exposed for all her unfortunate students to see.

Aside from being ugly, she’s a terrible teacher. She misses weeks of school at a time with phantom injuries. When she is around it’s not much better. I shared a room with her last semester, and would often arrive before the change of period to find the floor trashed, the room stinking of garbage, and kids running wild as she, oblivious, lectured some poor little trouble-maker …

“Don’t ever stand up in class. You can’t leave your seat. It’s inappropriate. You can’t stand up…”

She bleats on and on in her nasally Jewish Bronx brogue, repeating herself incessantly in that way New Yorkers have when they’re saying something disagreeable, as if repeating it enough times will somehow make it more palatable. Then after lecturing this kid well into the start of my class, she'll take another couple of minutes to gather up her myriad totes and folders and plastic bags full of papers.

This was annoying, extremely so, but I grinned and bore it, smiled and said, “How are you Ms. Kuntstein?... Oh really, not so good huh? Kids misbehaving… Oh well, have a nice day.”

So, when Ms. Kuntstein approached me last week and asked how my classes were, once again, I played nice, delivering a canned response about establishing routines and needing books, etc.

She wasn’t interested in what I had to say, though. She had plans.

“They were barking like dogs,” she informed me of one of her classes, the word dogs coming out like “du-wogs” in her whiney accent.

“I’ve never heard such a thing. Like dogs they were! I called for security five times.”

I commiserated as noncommittally as possible.

“Sounds rough, yeah. They can get pretty crazy, huh? I’ve got some tough classes too.”

“Well, I talked to [the AP] and she says since you have only the one prep, she’s going to switch this class with your 3d period. Your’ right there in the next room, so it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Yeah, right. No problem at all, lady. I’d love to give up one of my best classes for one your shitty ones. How about you take one of my shitty classes? Why don’t you do my Grad. School research project while you’re at it?

Unbelievable. This woman has been teaching for almost 30 years and she still hasn’t figured out how to control a class, or at least deal with it.

So I brushed her off, and hoped she was blowing smoke. I had yet to hear anything from the AP. When the AP did approach me a few days later, she mentioned the possibility of a change, and, as politely as possible, I indicated that I would rather not change, even going so far as to suggest that I am not exactly an exemplary disciplinarian myself. The AP said she would observe Kuntstein, and would probably just assign a para-professional to the class to help her out.

I was off the hook, I thought, until Monday when I came in and grabbed my weekly attendance folder and the 3d period bubble-sheet was missing and had been replaced with Ms. Kuntstein’s sheet, still bearing her name.

I was worried, but I hadn’t heard anything further about the change, so still held out hope that it was some kind of mistake. I asked around the office, and no-one had heard anything about a change, but the AP was absent, so no-one was sure.

I went to my class as usual, welcomed all the kids back from, and was beginning to return a stack of quizzes I had graded when Kuntstein showed up.

“You’re supposed to be next door. [The AP] switched our classes.”

“You sure? “ I asked. “She hasn’t said anything to me.”

“No. The change has been made. You have the bubble-sheet.”

Right. The bubble-sheet. I didn’t see any use in arguing further, but I was pissed.

“Here,” I said to one of my students, “hand these out. I guess you have a new teacher.”

I handed her the corrected quizzes, and gathered up my things in a huff. The kids looked shocked, both by the news and my obviously sour mood. I went next door and improvised a lesson on class rules to my new class of wild-ass illiterates.

After class I went to the office and inquired as to what the fuck was going on. No change had been made. Kuntstein had taken matters into her own hands, gone into my box, and switched the bubble-sheets herself.

I’m through being polite.

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