Wednesday, April 06, 2005

El Jefe
The ESL/Foreign Language department at Shitty High School is stumbling towards death like a blind old drunk who‘s managed to wander out into oncoming traffic on the Cross Bronx Expressway. We started off the year down six teachers from last year, and since then one more has quit out of disgust, one is out indefinitely with Crazy-ass Bitch Syndrome, and now another has gone missing, and rumors say he’s been suspended for the unsolicited rubbing of a rash on a female student’s lower belly.

We had a couple of vacancies already, and now with these added holes in the schedule to fill, the office is abuzz with a steady stream of bored, confused substitutes wandering in to pick up “lesson plans,” which are nothing more than manila folders filled with Xeroxed worksheets, worksheets poor Mrs. Robbins has to scramble around all morning to run off.

If all that weren’t bad enough, the AP is a doddering old fool.

She’s absurdly short - under five feet - with a short, curly perm of unnaturally red hair, and big, ‘70s, Grandma Magoo glasses. She spends her days puttering around the office, muttering to herself, napping, and misplacing things. She’s a sweet old bird, mostly, but she’s pretty useless, and actually manages to do more harm than good.

She speaks to the kids exclusively en Espanol which wouldn’t be a problem if the kids actually heard English anywhere other than in their ESL classes, but they don’t. She also never fails to take the students’ side in any dispute with a teacher, so, for instance in my first weeks at Shitty, when I wrote a referral for some aspiring young fast-baller who had beaned me in the back of the head with a spitball, and that young man’s mother came in to insist that her little angel would never do any such thing, I got sold down the river.

She’s almost zen-like in her adherence to the path of least resistance. When she does flex her puny administrative muscle to forbid teachers from using her mini-fridge or keeping their coats or papers in the office, she makes the lovely Mrs. Robinns be the bearer of the bad tidings. Her conflict avoidance is what leads to situations like Kuntstein’s attempted usurping of my class, but it also means as long as I fly under the radar, I can do whatever the hell I want. I think she’d grade me “Satisfactory” on an observation if I was doing a crossword puzzle while the kids ran a train on each other to the tune of 2 Hyped Brothers & A Dog’s “Doo Doo Brown,” (a song that turned one raunchy 2 Live Crew lyrical couplet - “lick my asshole up and down/lick it ‘til your tongue turns doo doo brown” - into a Miami bass, dance-floor anthem.

These “satisfactory” observations are sporadic and spontaneous, when she does bother to warn me that she’s going to observe she doesn’t show up, (I learned not to do any extra planning after the first couple of times this happened) and are then followed by long months of silence. When she finally does get around to going over the observation with me, it’s been long enough that she has clearly forgotten everything that she saw. She’ll ask a few leading questions, which I’ll answer politely, and then she’ll have me sign the necessary paper-work, back-dating of course, in order to comply with the myriad rules and regulations she is no doubt in violation of.

Her aversion to food or clothing or any other sign of actual human presence in the department office has but one notable exception, her rambunctious little three and half year old grand-daughter spends every afternoon in the office, clambering atop the copier, banging away on the file cabinets, pasting sticky notes all over the walls, and generally bugging the fuck out of me.

The little girl is actually quite a little cutie, and makes for a great procrastination device. I go into the office after lunch to make some copies, sit down for a second to rest my weary bones, and all of a sudden there’s an adorable little toddler in pigtails leaning on my knee and badgering me to draw pictures of her pets.

I oblige of course. What am I an asshole? How could I not? Besides, can you imagine a better way to score Brownie points with la hefa? Whatever it takes to keep those “satisfactories” coming.

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