Tuesday, June 26, 2018
The Last Day
The last day of classes. I've had so many of them. I never used to be happy about them. I would have taught all year round and did for many years. Since becoming an ATR, it's all I've been waiting for all year. (I guess there are worse things to wait for, right Mike?) It's the expectation that tints and taints everything. Living in the past or the future, we miss out on everything real - the present. Every June I went to a tremendous amount of retirement parties, even for those I didn't particularly know well or like. Expensive and waist enhancing. Once I told everyone I wasn't going to a particular retirement party. 'What?! He's been an educator for 30 years! Your time will come - you'll have the best classes, all the per session you want and a room named after you.' So of course I went. Guilt. That particular party wasn't the usual fare of tearful long speeches. Z. was a cantankerous old bastard. He gave a brief thank you, so to speak. He said, 'I just want to tell you, I hate all of you - each and everyone'. You could have heard a pin drop, and everyone laughed for a full minute, because they knew he meant it. I respected him for saying it. I'm not sure it made me feel better about going, but out of the hundreds of end term parties and retirement parties, it's the one I remember.
A quarter of a century later, and I'm older than he was, treated like a pariah and asked to help file for Horrid Halitosis Helga in the main office. Say no and start getting constant observations in Chinese or Trigonometry coverages. Say yes and you humiliate yourself for someone who won't return a hello or good morning. A quandary. I'd prefer to say 'f*** you, darling', but once you get over the nerve of being asked (after covering classes all day), you can have some fun.
Suddenly, one forgets the alphabet and time slows to a crawl. Each file takes ten minutes, instead of ten seconds. Then it's, 'No more office work, Sub, thank you.' That was my experience a couple of years ago. This year it's better. I spent a long time here and became close with a lot of the kids and staff. Mostly the older paras, fellows and first year teachers.
Even though I don't have a set routine, seeing a friendly face and someone to talk to can make a big difference. I like the principal. He wasn't friendly or mean - just highly efficient. He's been here for many years and announced his retirement. (This is the first time in the last five Junes that I heard of any staff member retiring or even seeing someone old enough or with enough years in to retire. Almost the entire staff here is under 40, most under 30.)
No end term party and no retirement party. Not even a discussion - it was like someone said, 'Tomorrow is Wednesday'. No one cared. I thought about that for awhile. I was in this school five years ago and out of the sixty teachers that were there then, there are only four teachers left and the principal. This isn't a career anymore - it's a job. Detachment is survival. Don't get attached or too comfortable. Those that do will be staked through the heart.
Bloomberg started us down this path. He broke up large schools; closed teacher cafeterias and common areas under the guise of these new schools needing more space for teaching - a redundancy in physical areas made it rational. An individual budget (Fair Student Funding) for each school insured that veteran teachers would no longer be sought out, as well as making them targets because of their higher salaries. Schools as businesses. One of the first things you learn in business is to eliminate redundancy. You shouldn't have five principals in a school, you should have one. If a teacher's position is eliminated, the next available position should be filled by that teacher. There shouldn't be a new hire if there are teachers without positions. (How can this nonsense be sold to the media and public? Tell everyone the excessed staff are terrible teachers and make sure their union goes along. Hiding the real number of ATRs is also important, as the media and public may question all the new hires if there's already teachers in the system getting paid for not teaching. Also with the acquiescence of the UFT on the vilification of ATRs, the media may scream for ATRs to be laid off. Something that would destroy the UFT much quicker than an army of Bloomberg clones and a Janus meteor.) They'll get dues for the veterans and the newbies - a dream for Mike and the Quail Boys.
I do know a few ATRs that are retiring and want to wish them well. Thank you for your service to our students. We need to open our collective eyes to the present and recognize what's going on. Not today though. Today is the best day. Today was the last of school. Enjoy everything and always live well.