My public school beat-down

17 09 2012

It’s a sad story, but worth the read.

– dEV

#     #     #

As a girl, I saw my mom fight for her classroom. In my short time teaching, I learned how dangerous that could be


A photo of the author’s mother, far right, with her students.

Two years ago, I accepted an offer to teach seventh grade English at an urban middle school. I remember following a woman into a little office to sign papers, papers for a regular job not headquartered in the spare room in my house, a regular job with a designated lunchtime and human beings. The last time I did such a thing was in 1986. When the woman left to photocopy my signature, I translated the salary I was to receive on the back of her business card. It seemed low. It was low. But I had not arrived in that spot — a table pressed into the corner of the Dallas Independent School District personnel office — because I intended to make lots of money. I was going to change lives, I reminded myself. You do not make a lot of money when you change lives.

“Are you ready to start today?” asked the woman, returning.

“Today, gosh. That’s fast.”

She waited. I could be ready. Yes. I could be ready. She checked her watch.

Not an hour later, I clicked up the metal steps into Portable Room 1464. Twenty-five 13-year-olds whipped their heads around, like ballerinas doing chaine turns.

My mom was a teacher, and I grew up watching her take off in her Chevy Monza each day, a blur of fabric and scent. Cristal, by Chanel. She had a carpet bag, with leather handles, made from a remnant of a real Oriental rug. Each evening, she lifted the flap and spilled papers onto the floor of my parents’ bedroom. Dittos, they were called then. Worksheets made on a machine that cranked out copies from carbon paper, by hand. If you held the paper by your nose, you could smell the fluid. Intoxicating, it was, like rubber cement, but fruity. A bottom drawer in our kitchen was filled with unused sheets, for games of tic tac toe, or shopping lists.

But for the past 20 years, or so, I have spent all of my time writing. I am a journalist. I have seen my name in many places — magazines, newspapers, TV sets — but never on a middle school blackboard. I did what Ms. Spidell did in kindergarten and wrote my name up high, in the right-hand corner. I will need to say something meaningful, I realized. I turned around and said hello. Then, I said the meaningful part. “I am your new teacher.”

Wow. That sounded crazy.

Before I arrived, a month into the school year, the students had had five substitutes. The one there my first day took off within the hour, leaving me to navigate solo. “They are not bad kids,” he said before the door closed behind him. He didn’t say what kind they were. I would complete the rest of the sentence in time.

(Full Story)




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: