Would you like to know what kind of day I had? That is not really a question, because you are going to find out whether you want to or not.
Actually, today started yesterday.
Yesterday, Minerva checked her desk calendar and remembered that she was going to an all day workshop. I had chosen for her to go, for in three years she has not undertaken any professional development, and I knew that this particular PD was in an area where her knowledge and skills were lacking. Minerva was not happy. Minerva it seems finds being nice for any prolonged length of time just as exhausting as I do, and she decided I was going to suffer for suggesting that she move out of her comfort zone of the circulation desk for one day.
So, she harrumphed about the library all day, until I said “look, if you really, really don’t want to go, then don’t go” but she knew that she needed to go, and so she just harrumphed in a more passive aggressive way. Even the carrot of a day in air-conditioning on a 32C day was not enough to lighten her mood. In the end I just ignored her but not before saying in my own passive aggressive way, “I know note to self, never ask Minerva to do something she doesn’t want to do”. I knew she would be quite comfortable, and would actually enjoy the day if she allowed herself. Heck, I go solo to 8 or 10 of these kinds of days every year, even in other states!
As Minerva was going to be absent, and I was teaching three periods, but at least teaching in the library, I sent an email out alerting the teaching staff to the times, and that the circulation desk would be closed.
Except I didn’t count on the art department sending students down to collect old newspapers for the art room. Oh, and the deputy principal sent a student down to borrow a book “urgently”. So while I was within eyesight of my class, but not earshot, three students decided to go for some joint bullying.
Bullying has a weird hierarchy at our school. The white kids bully the African kids and the African kids bully the indigenous kids. Oh and everyone dislikes the New Zealanders and the South Africans. In this case it was two African kids bully an indigenous kid. Apparently this situation has been going on for a couple of weeks in a number of classes, but I was unaware until I returned and saw the indigenous student sitting with his head bent over his laptop.
I walked over to ask if he needed help and that is when I noticed tears running down his cheeks. I asked him to walk over to another area, as my intention was to speak to him to find out what his issues were, when he just ran. Luckily I was able to see that he ran to the Responsible Thinking Room, where I knew the teacher in charge would speak with him. I rang through to tell them what I knew.
The two boys said he was bullying them, but a quiet girl sitting nearby said they had been teasing the boy by saying he looked at “gay porn” on his laptop. I wanted to thump both of them, but knew the process would start and they would be “handled”. Sure enough, not long after they were pulled from class for a “discussion with consequences”.
I had one more class with my gifted and talented English students, a very short, rapid 30 minutes. Three senior students suddenly appeared in the middle of the class and said that they had been sent by their teacher to get a particular DVD. Three students mind you, for one DVD. I told them to go back and tell the teacher that I was in class and could not help. Back they went, but only minutes later, an office admin from another section appears to say that the teacher had phoned her to ask her to help find the DVD.
We lock the DVDs away as teachers have a way of borrowing without permission and never returning, so Minerva and I are the only ones with keys. So it amounted to another disturbance. Office admin noted that the teacher had never spoken kindly to her until that moment. At this stage I was starting to boil.
If a teacher requires a resource I believe they should come before school, or in one of the breaks and borrow it, not plan on the way to the classroom and send students for the resource to waste half the class time; so that made me angry too.
I looked on the catalogue and the DVD had been borrowed by another teacher. Office Admin went to tell teacher. Then Office Admin and the three students return as teacher had asked her to select something else for them to watch! Yeah, well planned lesson, right.
I went ballistic and told the students to return to their classroom as the whole process was interrupting my class. There would be no further conversation or help.
Of course, after all that, I had lost any hope of engagement with my students, and felt like making an official complaint, but was wise enough just to vent later in an email to Minerva at her PD. It wouldn’t have been the first complaint against her. [Long term readers may remember the anecdote of the teacher who complained loudly that no one gave her an engagement card when she became engaged last year. It is about a third marriage. SAME TEACHER]
Minerva asked if I now missed her, and complained that I should have warned her the air-conditioning was so cold so she could have taken a cardigan.
Stick list, all round.
“We all of us need to be toppled off the throne of self, my dear,” he said. “Perched up there the tears of others are never upon our own cheek.”
― Elizabeth Goudge, The White Witch