Tuesday, March 29, 2005

One of the toughest parts of the daily grind of being a teacher is that you can never take it easy, never half-ass it. If you’re tired, upset, hung-over, or even just afflicted with spring fever, there’s nowhere to hide out, no way to make it look like you’re working when you’re not. You can’t sit at your desk on the internet surfing gossip blogs all day. You can’t make frequent and unnecessary trips to the break-room (in my under-funded and over-crowded school, I have no access to a computer, and there is no break-room). If you come in and just go through the motions, if you’re unprepared, you still have to be in that room with all those kids for the same amount of time, and if you’re not on top of them they’re going to eat you alive (even more-so than usual).

There’s also no cutting out early, or sneaking in late. Bell to bell, you’ve got to be there, and day in and day out I am.

Yesterday was a first for me, though. I was late for school. I’ve managed to make it on time to Shitty High School, an hour from my apartment, every day for the entire year and half I’ve been teaching. Although it is an accomplishment, it’s not quite as amazing as it sounds. I’m on the late-shift so don’t start until 9:25, and I’ve been known to take a sick day in order to nurse a particularly nasty hangover. Still though, I go to work most every day, and I not only get there on time, I’m usually early.

I hop off the train and stop at the snack truck where Fabricio, the truck's mustachioed proprietor, without fail greets me with uncommon friendliness.

“What’s happening, how ya doin’?” I’ll grumble, fumbling for my banana-nut muffin and huddled against the cold.

“Like a young man!” He’ll reply, bursting with energy and grabbing my hand in a strong embrace. “But not as good as you! Ha!”

It’s hard not to like the man. He even insists on giving me extra muffins on Fridays when they won’t last over the weekend.

Muffin secured, I head inside where I have enough time to shoot a couple cups of coffee, make any copies I need and finish up (okay, start) my lesson plans for the day.

Not today though. In an act of pure malevolence the City required us teachers to arrive at 7:45 this Monday after Easter. Over the weekend I had rented a car and driven to visit the in-laws. We got a late start back on Sunday, and traffic on the Turnpike was at a crawl, so I figured I’d just return the car in Manhattan in the morning. The rental place was, after all, on the way.

Big mistake.

I left the house a little after 6:30, figuring a conservative 30-40 minutes to get the three miles into Manhattan was plenty, and from there I’d hop on the train and be on my merry way. Nope.

Everything was gravy for a little while. In my shiny new Malibu, I cruised the rain-soaked streets of Brooklyn bumping some Chingo Bling and thinking I could get used to having my own ride. Then I got on the bridge and everything stopped. And stayed stopped. I did get to pull over a couple of inches in a vain attempt to let a screaming ambulance by, but there was nowhere for the bumper to bumper traffic to go, so it just sat there, siren blaring and lights flashing as the rain came down.

That lasted over an hour, but I did eventually make it off the bridge, to the car return spot and onto the train, resigned now to my tardy fate. The ride up was uneventful - save for a crazy woman, dressed in grimy sweats and a Captain D’s hat and clutching tight to an ancient cassette-deck walkman - who got on the train singing in a painfully tuneless, and embarrassingly uninhibited, warble and was still belting them out when I got off.

No one stared or said a thing, but a couple of other passengers and I did giggle a little when we finally recognized this classic:

“Only when I'm dancin' can I feel this free.
At night I lock the doors when no one else can see.
I'm tired of dancin' here all by myself

Tonight I wanna dance with someone else…”

It was odd though, those banal words, coming from a woman who had probably never danced with anyone else besides herself, rendered themselves transformative, and through that poor, crazy woman’s bleating (and without benefit of that irresistible, '80s disco beat) I suddenly remembered what it was like as a child to hear sexy, catchy, pop music. I remembered that spell that songs could cast, when a lyric about dancing with someone else or seeing a fire in someone else’s eyes seemed to offer a glimpse into a magical fantasy world of adults, a world some of us apparently never learned isn’t real.

Anyway, I finally made it up to school a few minutes before 9:00, got yelled at by the payroll dragon (I’d like to think the stress I caused her helped further along her female pattern baldness, if only by a couple of wispy strands,) and dashed upstairs about twenty minutes late for my first class. I found my kids there, unattended and sitting quietly, looking bored but quite peaceful. Two girls were playing a game of hangman and the hidden answer had almost been revealed…

D_nd_ _sta t_ lat_ pass?”

Thursday, March 24, 2005

From the Mouths of Babes
My students have been abuzz all week about the end of the world. It’s coming sooner than you might think, tomorrow in fact, Good Friday.

These are the facts as I know them:

There you have it. It’s been fun. I’ll see y’all in Hell.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

I Ain't Mad Atcha
I have been known, in my classroom, to do and say things I am not supposed to do. Sometimes I cross lines because it is unavoidable and seems like the right and only thing to do. Sometimes I cross lines because I like my way better and don’t feel particularly compelled to give a fuck whether some administrator or other teacher might disapprove. Sometimes I just screw up.

Christopher is a big kid, if I had to guess I’d say he goes about 6’1”/200, and although I’ve never seen him in action, I know he’s been in his fair share of scraps. He’s got a big, c-shaped scar on the brow above his right eye, another on the back of his head, and the knuckles on his meaty fists are scarred and swollen into smooth, round discs. His dad is in Federal prison down in Alabama, and Christopher mentions him often in his writing. I asked Chris what his dad was in for, and he told me his father was in “wrong place, wrong time.” I left it at that; I’m not sure that Chris knows any more details himself.

Chris can barely write and is a big pain in the ass – always throwing something, yelling obscenities out the window, or turning his desk into a makeshift drum-kit. He needs a ton of attention, and will often only work if he’s sitting at my desk. He’s also a real charmer, and can be a genuine sweetheart - a big, burly teddy bear. I’ve caught him writing on the board before, “Mr. Babylon is…” with the rest covered up by his big, beefy frame. I’ll roar at him and come over ready to spit fire and he’ll giggle and run back to his seat revealing the punch line, “best teacher.” He’s also been known to take a random homework assignment and turn it into a typed and illustrated epic.

Tony, a block-headed kid with an under-bite, is a different sort altogether. He’s not stupid, and is in fact the best, most fluent reader in the class, but he’s stubborn as a mule and has far less common sense. He’s the type of kid that will tell me he’s done his work, show me something from a completely different class (often en espanol) and then insist that he’s right even after I call him out on it. I’m always catching him throwing something at somebody, and, without fail, the other guy “started it.” I’ve tried explaining how in basketball it’s always the guy that retaliates that gets caught by the refs. Maybe if he was old enough to remember Dennis Rodman it would have caught on. As it is, it did not.

The other kids screw with him constantly, partly because his reactions are so predictable, and partly because there’s something about the kid that just grates on the nerves. He sure gets on mine. I frequently find myself snapping at him or giving him a zero for the day in situations where I would be much more patient with anyone else.

I don’t know what he did, but the other day he pissed Christopher off something fierce. It was the beginning of class, and I was just getting everyone settled down, when I heard the eruption in the back of the room.

A desk crashed over and Chris was up and in Tony’s chest, red-faced and spittle flying, “Fuck you, nigga! Wha? Wha?”

Tony, hard headed as ever, didn’t back down. “Fuck you, nigga,” he jutted out and tilted his big, square chin for effect, but his eyes betrayed his fear.

By the time I got across the room shoves had turned to punches, and arms were flailing. I didn’t hesitate for a second. I went straight at the real threat. I slid in between the two of them and got right in Chris’s face, with Tony behind me.

“Stop it. Sit down.”

They continued swinging at each other around my head, so I put my hands in the middle of Christopher’s spongy barrel of a chest and shoved. I don’t know if I tapped some heretofore hidden reserve of grown-man strength or if he didn’t resist out of respect, but he went backwards, and I followed him, pointing him into a chair where he sat, breathing through his broad, pimply nose and fuming like a bull.

“Oooh! Oh shit! You see that, nigga?” the class reacted, but not to my heroics. “Tony pushed you, Mista. Whatchu gon’ do?”

“That nigga push Mr. Babylon.”

In the heat of the moment I hadn’t felt a thing, but apparently, in a moment of cowardly opportunism, Tony had shoved me in the back while I was saving him from a severe shit-kicking.

Since I hadn’t felt anything and didn’t feel like dealing with it, I left it at that. I stuck him in a corner, marked both kids a zero for the day, and tried to continue my lesson.

The next day Tony was at it again, mule-headed as ever, refusing to move from a desk by the window where he kept playing with the shades. This is where I said something I regret.

”Get up and move, you stubborn little punk. You need to learn some respect." Here it comes. "I should have let Christopher kick your ass yesterday.”

Oops. Oh well.

Christopher came up to me after class. I was tired and surly, and didn’t bother to look up at him as I gathered my stuff to go home for the day.

“Mr. Babylon, you gave me zero yesterday?”

I nodded barely, giving him the silent treatment.

“Cause I was fighting?” His voice was soft, almost babyish.

I bit my lip and nodded again, this time looking him in the eye.

He nodded as if to acknowledge the fairness of my mark.

“You good teacher, Mr. Babylon. See you tomorrow.”

See how easy it is, kids. Don’t be a punk, and Mr. Babylon won’t hold a grudge.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Back To Square One
Well, they changed my schedule after all. Kuntstein is still out with her phantom injury, and the change is for some other, random reason, so at least it wasn’t because of her. There’s a moral victory, I guess.

I’m losing both my favorite class and my nightmare class, which sounds like an even trade, except for that we’re a third of the way through the semester, and I had been feeling reasonably confident and successful in the classroom for the first time in these two long years, staying organized and on top of my planning and grading, and even sometimes proceeding with the semblance of a plan. I’m going to have to start from scratch with two new classes and lots of new kids, and all the progress I’d made and relationships I had begun to forge with my current kids will come to an abrupt halt.

Of course, I’ll miss my small, respectful, hard-working class. I’ve been having lots of fun down in the basement with them drawing on the dry-erase board, far superior to the traditional chalk in all my other classes. In fact I had just spent a good chunk of Teacher’s Choice money on a 30 pack of dry-erase markers – I’ve got colors you couldn’t even name – and was going totally nuts with the myth illustrations when the fateful knock on the door came. In protest I quit teaching, and obliged my students’ somewhat inexplicable requests (if they were attempting to flatter my frustrated artist’s ego in order to get me off-topic, it worked) for me to draw “Big Mac and french fries!” I should have lectured them on heart disease and obesity and corporo-fascist brainwashing, but they were so cute that I just shook my head and laughed as they pretended to be desperate with hunger and clapped and cheered and sang “I’m lovin’ it.”

I’m sure, most days, I’ll be glad to not have to deal with the Class from Hell, but I’ll even miss them a little bit too. The few students in there who do act halfway decently from time to time are really cool kids, and I’d even made a little progress in reprogramming both Santiago and one of the Devil girls. That class was a challenge (in much the same way that standing up under torture in Abu Ghraib is a challenge,) but part of me relishes such adversity, or at least wants to see if and how I survived it.

The big rusty gears of Shitty administrative incompetence lurched forward another notch, and once again it was my sleeve snagged, my hand crushed and mangled by the big, unfeeling machine.

Friday, March 18, 2005

True Romance
We’re just now finishing up that chapter on waves in our crappy textbook, and the last thing we did was read a short (page and a half) play about Poseidon and a Dolphin. We spent a couple of days on that, and then I had the kids write their own myths. I gave some suggested ideas: How’d the turtle get his shell? Why do monkeys like bananas? How’d the snake lose his legs? Etc. I got some funny responses, some half-assed responses, and plenty of kids didn’t bother to do it at all.

A number of kids didn’t quite understand the assignment. One kid named Juan took things to a whole other level. This is my second semester teaching Juan. I had him in a Level 1 class a year and a half ago when we were both new arrivals to the City and Shitty High. He’s always been a funny kid. Back then, before he knew English mind you, he insisted – with a dramatic flourish and an over-the-top “thassa spicy meat-a-ball” Italian accent – that his name was not Juan but was in fact “Ricardini.”

He was a real pain in the ass back then, though, it’s great to see him now; he’s learned a ton of English, passed all of his classes, and is now a Junior and well on his way to graduation and (if there are no immigration issues) a local Community college.

“How I Am Me” he wrote, and proceeded, in only slightly less than lurid detail to tell the tale of his conception.

Sixteen years ago Juan’s mother, a twenty year old virgin, lay naked on a beautiful and secluded Dominican beach. His father, thirty-five years old and a man of not inconsiderable success and experience, stood nearby staring at the lovely and innocent young nude.

At this point in the story, I paused in my reading, and asked Juan if he was sure this wasn’t a “dirty” story.

“XXX?” I clarified further. “Porno?”

He assured me it was not, but our little exchange had gotten the entire class’ attention, and they looked on eagerly as I continued to read. I made a big show of getting all hot and bothered; looking around uncomfortably, bugging my eyes, exhaling dramatically, unbuttoning my collar, clearing my throat, muttering, and fanning my face with my undershirt.

I went back to the story and found the man still staring at the nubile young lass, quickly falling in love with every smooth, ample curve and dark, mysterious recess on her glistening mocha-colored body.

At this point I actually was beginning to feel a little flustered, but I soldiered on.

Soon the man removed his swimsuit approached the woman with a simple, unspoken proposition. He was a man, she a woman. They were alone on the beach. They were nude.

Nature, as it is wont to do, took its course. They made and fell in love. They went back to town and met each other’s parents. They were soon married, and nine months after that fateful day on the beach Juan was born.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Soon We'll Find Out Who Is
(The ideas in this post have been bubbling up for awhile, but thanks to Jeff Chang and his incredible book for bringing them to a boil.)

I teach in the birthplace of the biggest cultural movement of the last thirty years. Hip Hop was born in the Bronx.

Kool Herc was living on Tremont Ave, still a 15 year old Jamaican kid named Clive when he figured out how to jerry-rig some extra juice out of his dad’s sound system, started throwing parties, and shortly thereafter – in a moment as miraculous as when Charlie Parker forgot about chords and invented Be Bop – figured out he could send dancers to another level and keep them there if he isolated instrumental breaks on his records and juggled back and forth between two copies, extending the climax as long as he wanted.

Afrika Bambaataa was less than 20 years old and living in the Bronx River Houses projects when his imagination transformed a film of British sentimentality for the glory days of Colonial Empire into the seeds of a collectivist, pro-black, manifesto, when his leadership and charisma turned enemies into party-people and gangs into a collective of forward-thinking stylistic mavens, when his ear for all things futuristic and funky added Fela and Kraftwerk to Herc’s formula of endless breaks.

Thousands of other kids were right there with them; the first to rock an end-to-end-burner, the first robotic wild-style, the first to fly off the floor in a helicopter, the first narrative rap, the first to drop a multi-syllabic internal rhyme, and on and on, and it don’t stop.

I look at my kids and I don’t see it. I dig and dig. I poke and prod and pry. They can bang a mean beat on the desk, but only one they’ve heard before. They can crip-walk and booty shake and meringue their asses off, but their moves are mimics; they wouldn’t make much loot on a subway car. They tag all over the walls and stairwells, but there’s no style to be seen, no craft, no technique, just territorial pissing. They spit rhymes down in the teacher’s cafeteria at the monthly open mic, but aren’t saying anything new. They’re talking loud, ain’t saying nothing.

I try to challenge their preconceptions, to encourage real, deep, thought. I have them look at where they are as opposed to where they want to be. I have them look at what the newspapers and radio-stations are saying about them and their community. I have them write poems. I have them write short stories. I have them draw. I have them sing and dance. They’re smart kids mostly, and funny as hell. Many are hard-working, mature and responsible. Most are incredibly generous.

None are innovators, none are leaders, none are revolutionaries.

Will the cycle come back around? Are - like their fore-runners in the Young Lords and the Ghetto Brothers and Bambaataa the Black Spade - the shifting, nebulous identities of the gangs about to blossom into organization, into forces for positive change? Is there a new music waiting to burst forth from their endless Fitty and Reggaeton and Dipset derivations?

Not yet.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Living the Dream
I have a recurring anxiety nightmare. In it I am back in high school. I’ve never left, I guess. I have an AP European History final exam. The problem is that I have skipped the class every day for so long that not only am I completely unprepared for the final, I can’t even remember where the class meets. I wake up in a cold sweat every-time.

It’s a silly dream, fueled by a personal history awash in irresponsibility, but it’s never actually happened. I’m coming close this semester in Grad School, but I actually attended my classes (well, one of them anyway) last week, and still have time to get things together.

For many of my students, though, that nightmare is pretty close to reality. I have kids that show up once a week, once a month, once a marking period, once a semester, and some not once at all. They'll show up a week after a test with no excuse and ask if they can make it up.

Some of them have legitimate reasons for missing class so often. They are poor and have jobs and can’t make afternoon classes, or they are poor and have night jobs and can’t make morning classes. Some kids, because of over-crowding, don’t have lunch scheduled (or have it 9:00 AM) and leave to go home and eat. Others have “Random Family”-style lives so fucked up I couldn’t even begin to understand what kind of things they’re dealing with. Some kids just like to roam the halls banging on doors, smoking trees in the stairwells, and running from the cops.

I am supposed to encourage all of these kids to attend my class, to hound them, to talk to the counselors, to call home. I rarely do. No Child Left Behind? Whatever. My classes are crowded, wild and tough enough, the last thing I need is more kids in the room. The smaller my classes, the better they go, and that’s a fact.

Ironically, when I got into teaching after a short time working with drop-outs in a GED program, I thought I would be the teacher that didn’t let the kids slip through the cracks. I thought I would be the one teaching the big crazy gangsta, the kid all the other teachers were afraid of or prejudiced against, to read. I’d worked with those kids before – homeless and court-ordered and violent – and had gotten them to learn. I was sure I could do it again. I even wrote a couple of essays to get into the Fellows about it.

I was a fool. I don’t have enough time, energy or resources for the kids that are there, let alone the kids that aren’t. I'm not about to encourage young Javier to come to my class when every time he does he tries to start a fight with me. Only when I really like a kid, or they’ve previously shown me the desire and ability to learn and not step up in my face and call me "white boy" when asked to take out a piece of paper, do I make an effort to rein in their rampant cutting.

I saw Ivonne, a teeny-tiny, adorable and apparently quite feisty little thing who impressed me greatly with her intelligence and maturity the two times she attended my class, walking in the hall the other morning.

“Howdy stranger,” I offered.

She raised an eyebrow.

“Long time, no see. You coming to class today? Where’ve you been?”

“I suspended, Mista.”

“Suspended? I haven’t seen you in weeks. What have you been doing, fighting?”

“Naw, mista. I not fighting. Is just… girls be pickin’ on me.”

“So you fought them?”

“Naw, it’s just, they was messin’ with me.”

“Alright. Anyway, come to class today, okay. I have some stuff to give you. Your writing is really good.”

That afternoon as I was taking attendance, I noticed Ivonne was nowhere to be seen. My other students told me she’d been suspended again for fighting. It’s not easy being cute and 4’11” at Shitty High.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Stoke
The book we’re using in my Level 4 ESL classes has a chapter entitled “Waves.” It talks about all different sorts of waves –from emotion to immigration - has a poem and a play about waves, and then moves on to some other topic, chosen, it appears, at random; nutrition I think.

I’m all for teaching English through content (ie just teach the kids something, and by being forced to read, write, and talk about it, they’ll learn the language,) but I don’t see the point when the content is as lame as this stuff, and there’s no attempt at all to connect it with grammar or vocabulary.

As far as I can tell the book is mainly useful as busy work, and even that’s a stretch. Still, it’s all we’ve got, so I try to use it often enough to plow through a couple of chapters every semester, and I usually try to connect whatever else we’re doing to its themes, such as they are.

So, today, while the book said we were supposed to be calculating the wavelengths of a piece of a string, we watched “Step Into Liquid.”

I showed the original “Endless Summer” last year, a classic early 60s film of idealistic youth, shimmering sunsets, and perfect waves. I was soothed and enchanted. My kids were bored to tears. They actually asked if we could do work instead.

“Step Into Liquid” was a little more their speed. It doesn’t look 40 years old. It’s faster paced. The waves are bigger, the action more “extreme.” One guy from Texas, when describing how badass it is to surf the wake of a supertanker five miles out to sea, even says “no bullshit,” which went over big.

“Oh shit, nigga said, ‘no bullshit.’”

Reactions to the movie in general varied widely. A few kids, despite my best efforts to remain vigilant and drop books next to their desks or stick pencils in their ears, managed to catch a nap. A few kids chatted amiably throughout. One group of girls wouldn’t stop chanting “Machete,” to the point that I wished I had one of my own, and one amorous young couple made it halfway around first base before I could separate them.

Barely anyone followed my directions to take notes. Mostly, though, the kids paid attention. I decided not to stop them from yelling questions at me, or even directly at the TV, as I figured being engaged was more important than behaving decorously. It was like my own Magic Johnson theater.

“Ai, Diablo!"

“Run nigga! That wave gonna eat you!”

“Oh, hell no. 100 miles in the ocean? Not me. I don’t be fuckin’ with no sharks”

They oohed and aahed over the giant curls, vicious wipeouts, and death-defying rides. They learned all about how funny sounding Irish and Australian accents are. They got to compare and contrast Oahu with Lake Michigan (and buff, tan surfers, with fat, pasty ones), and the ladies were quite taken with the California thuggin’ white-boy good looks of Jesse Billauer. They were appropriately shocked when the camera panned out to reveal him to be a wheel-chair bound paraplegic, and they seemed genuinely moved by love and friendship of his surfer friends who helped him to ride the waves again.

All in all, I was pretty stoked.

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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