I teach gifted English at Bastrop High School in Morehouse Parish. Teachers are to report tomorrow (August 10) for their first day, which will I’m sure be filled with meetings of all sorts, introductions of new teachers (no, I won’t send them notes warning them about anything. I haven’t even considered the idea!) and if we’re lucky some time to work on our room. Our school just built a new library, and the old library was carved up into two new classrooms and an upstairs teachers lounge. I received one of the new rooms—the only problem is that the contractor has not finished his construction, so my room is a wreck. No construction workers were there today. I don’t know why. Yet, with a new teacher wanting to get into my room, I had to move five years of materials (Have I really been at BHS that long?) from room 205 across the hall into 202, the room that looks like a tomb recently attacked by grave robbers. Although to be honest, Room 205 that I left is not in much better shape. It needed painting when I moved in five years ago, and despite my requests for painting, etc. nothing was done.
The good thing about my new room is that it is bigger and I will have LOTS of bookshelves! No more piles of papers and books on the floor! Gifted kids need and usually desire access to lots of books, and through the years I’ve formed several class sets for them. I just inherited some more boxes of classics from a teacher who will retire soon. I hope to get some more for them. The room should make research and group project work a little easier for them and for me. I have a decent library of a few thousand volumes at home, so as a fellow bibliophile, I understand their love for books.
Anyway, Friday, we are to have the big District meeting of all the teachers. Insurance companies and other sutlers will assemble tables in a giant flea market along the school’s halls, calling out like carnival hawkers to have teachers register for free drawings of giveaways (mostly junk, which I’ve never won) and try to set up appointments to take away some more of the little money teachers in Louisiana receive. I think the district gets some kind of commission from these sales, though I’m not sure. The good thing about Friday is we will be treated to a MacDonald’s breakfast, and after the other schoolteachers leave the high school, treated to a luncheon. Kind of a last meal before the savages (I don’t know what’s getting into me—I mean students!) arrive. When the administrators pass out materials in these first meetings of the school year, I’m always curious regarding what new duties we will have, what form of moving rocks will be added to our schedule, and what new rules will be placed on us. But, it’s all about the kids, right?
The kids will show up Monday. In spite of my working my rear off to get my gifted certification and AP certification, it seems my schedule will be the same as last year. I really am a believer in public education, but many times I don’t think those in charge have it together. Often I feel like Steiner in Willi Heinrich’s Cross of Iron. Steiner was a German corporal on the Eastern Front and he was a good and loyal soldier, but he knew Germany was losing the war. He blamed much of his troubles on the officers. If you like historical fiction, this is a must read. In our case, accountability has passed from the student to the teachers who receive the blame for low scores, failures, etc. If you want some REAL insight into the world and dynamics of teaching, read Frank McCourt’s Teacher Man, in which he reflects on his thirty years of teaching in New York City.
There’s a lot of bad press on teachers these days. I’m glad I’m at a school where the administrators are reasonable and understanding. Many of my peers are not that lucky, constantly getting chewed out over violation or interpretation of rules and policies. Yes, administrators often blame teachers for many problems with the students in this apathetic age. But we teachers know where the real problem is. We know.