With all the pink slips going out this year, I can’t help but being reminded of a story my mentor told me about when she first began her teaching career. She received her first pink slip in the mail from our district “Postage Due.” That’s right. She had to pay money in order to receive the news that she no longer had a job. That’s always one of the first stories I like to tell when people ask what it’s like being a teacher. I always say, “Well, it’s hard sometimes because you always get fired at the end of every year.” And it’s true, most first and second year teachers get pink slips as a matter of course at the end of the year. They come to me and ask me what they should do. Should they start looking for a new job? Should they start looking for a new career? I don’t know what to tell them, except maybe, “Hey, at least they don’t come ‘Postage Due’ anymore.”
I’ve been getting a lot of feedback here at Teach4Real.com from other teachers who find it refreshing to hear someone speak so bluntly about teaching. They enjoy the fact that if anything, I’m willing to talk about the blunts my students are smoking. They appreciate a little light shining on the crazy atrocities on each public school campus. With that in mind, I thought that, instead of ending the school year on a good note, we could end the year on a real note. My mentor’s story reminds me of many of my own ridiculous stories that come along with being a teacher. So I thought I would end the year with some (not so) funny stories about what it’s like being a teacher, and I encourage those teachers out there with similar ridiculous stories to comment below and share them with the rest of us.
I have a puddle in front of my room. As far as I know, Room J-9 has had this puddle for almost a decade, and there is nothing anyone wants to do about it. Let me describe the puddle so that you can appreciate it.
Any day that it rains, a giant puddle forms directly in front of my door. It is maybe four or five feet across, and even comes into my room a little bit. Yes, I’m serious. My students literally have to wade into my room on a rainy day. They lift up the bottoms of their jeans so they don’t get wet. If you saw this puddle, you would laugh, and then you would stop laughing after a minute or two when the horrible realization of it hits you.
Of course I’ve complained. They’ve sent people to look at the puddle. They even attempted cutting into the concrete with a water saw to make a little culvert so the water could flow out of the puddle. They didn’t need to provide any water themselves for the saw because there is so much of it in the puddle. It didn’t work. After that they gave up. Evidently technology today can create wireless rechargeable batteries for computers, but there is no way to get rid of standing water in a doorway.
Reminiscing on the year in this way helps me end it with a smile. I’ll give you one more example, and then I’m going to sit back and wait for you to send me some stories of your own.
Engineering issues aren’t anything new in J Hall. Whoever was assigned to design it must have forgotten about it until the last minute, and then just drew a bunch of rectangles. I think there are prisons more aesthetically pleasing. Basically J Hall is two long rectangles four classrooms long. It is two stories tall. There are medium sized windows by the doors, on the other wall is one window a human could not fit through. I guess I have to ask one question: Why are our schools built without any thought of character or aesthetics? Why oh why? I understand the need to use particle-board and Formica, because there isn’t money for anything, but the design could show a little imagination, couldn’t it? I have never seen a building uglier than the one I teach in. Ain’t that some shit?
Anyways, my second ridiculous story to cap off the year has to do with the construction of J Hall. It was built to house the English Department, and also to offer more bathrooms for a growing campus. The kids needed more bathrooms because there were so many more kids. So they built J Hall. Then (check this out), they didn’t open the bathrooms for something like 7 years. For real. For almost a decade kids were waiting in lines in the other two bathrooms (for 2,500 students), and going late to class all because there wasn’t enough bathroom access. Well, there was bathroom access — brand new untouched bathroom access actually — but it sat unused for 7 years. A sane person might ask something like, “Now why is that?”
It was because there wasn’t a wall covering the doorways. They were just doorways on a flat wall, so any time anyone opened the door, you could potentially see into the bathrooms. This was a breach of privacy, and therefore the bathrooms remained closed and locked. Eight years later, one of our revolving principals decided to spend the few hundred dollars required to provide the doorways with some privacy. In the end, I guess we’re lucky one of them decided to do it. God knows they don’t listen to us.
So I thought that now that the year is over, we can all sit back and kind of laugh at the ridiculous state of our profession. A fast food restaurant wouldn’t stand for inaccessible bathrooms or puddles in their doorways, but we’re cool with it when it comes to educating our children. And when the teachers complain about these things, they get pink slips that come “Postage Due.”
School is over, or almost over, for most of us. So let’s take a moment to laugh about the things that normally make us want to cry. Tell me something that has happened to you this year, whether it is a renegade puddle, or a pink slip you had to pay for. I want to know the ridiculous and repulsive. I want to know what is really going on at your school, because in this country, it’s probably just as fucked up as mine. Holler at me below in the comment box. Maybe if we all laugh together, it will keep us from slapping somebody.