Friday, February 18, 2005

Notes From The Education Underground: The TeachWonk Diaries

Just Another Brick...
Today, I had yet another serious classroom interruption that was caused by one of our management people. Here in Middletown, school counselors are considered to be "line" administrators with authority over teachers. That concept clearly needs to be understood in order to appreciate the impact that our counselor (Who I will refer to as Counselor Clueless.) has on Howard Taft Junior High School.

You see, Counselor Clueless is one of those administrators with attitude.

Counselor Clueless is young (her early 30s) speaks Spanish (fluently) English (sort of fluently, with plenty of grammatical mistakes) and has never taught a single day in the classroom. She doesn't even have a teaching license, though she does have a masters (that required NO thesis) from a notoriously easy private institution. Of course, her lack of actual teaching experience doesn't stop her from freely giving advice to classroom teachers about the latest teaching methodologies.

Now back to that attitude thing. Counselor Clueless just loves to remind teachers in a variety of (unspoken) little ways that she is a "boss" and we are "just teachers." For example, when she speaks to teachers, she always refers to herself as Mrs. Clueless. Even when she calls our rooms during the middle of a lesson to "pull" a child out of class, she will say... "Mr. Wonk, this is Mrs. Clueless. Send John Smith to my office." Naturally, she has that superior tone in her voice when she speaks to teachers.

At Howard Taft Junior High, teachers have struggled for years in order to get the Office (also known as the Lodge) to inform teachers before a new student arrives in the classroom. The reason why teachers want to know this is so that the teacher can meet the new student with a smile, a greeting, a book, and a seat. Even a phone call would do: "Hey, Mr. Wonk, your getting a new student today. His/Her name is _____."

Our current principal's predecessor agreed that it would be a good idea and implemented the practice. Our new first-year principal, Mr. Phish, has also agreed that this would be good for kids. Only Counselor Clueless doesn't think it's necessary and has resisted the efforts of Principal Phish to continue the practice.

So.. a student arrived at my classroom about 10 minutes into the lesson. Visualize this: The class is having a discussion. The kids are focused. Suddenly, the door opens, and an embarrassed, timid child enters. All eyes (including mine) are riveted on the stranger. We think that it's an office messenger, but it's a new student, who is scared half to death. Only when he or she places a small slip of paper in my hand that says "Add" do I understand it's a new student.

I have to stop our lesson in order to accommodate the new-comer.

After the first incident, about two weeks ago, I expressed my concern to several staff members. Sure enough, Counselor Clueless heard about my unhappiness and summoned me to her office where she informed me (nose lifted on high, and again with that superior tone) that the "Teachers Contract" did no require that her office notify teachers when a new student would be entering the classroom.

Rather than argue with Counselor Clueless that it's not a "contract thing" but a "kid thing," (She is one of those that is never wrong.) I politely listened to her rant and then I went to see Principal Phish. Mr. Phish assured me that there had been a mistake and it would not happen again. If fact, he promised to "streamline the process" with Clueless.

About two weeks later, during second period, about 10 minutes into the lesson, the door opened, all 35 heads turned to watch, and an embarrassed-looking girl entered. I could see that she is trembling. She approached me at the front of the room. All eyes were again riveted upon her as she slipped the transfer paper into my hand....

Not only is she Counselor Clueless, I've also begun to think of this creature as Counselor Heartless as well.

To view the Second Edition of The Carnival Of Education, please click here.

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