One of the most anticipated social events of my year is the annual meeting of local Buddhists each November. This gala celebration, which coincides with founder Dawa's (owner of local store "Juliet's Jewels") birthday, always involves a visit by the "Jolly Lama" (Lama Dudjam Dorjee) and a wonderfully gourmet vegetarian potluck lunch. The crowd that turns up at this event is eclectic - various Asian nationals for whom Buddhism is a native faith, as well as a fair number of college kids, swingers, Unitarians, ex-hippies, curious, seekers, fruits, and weirdos. I am not sure which category of these I fit into...but the hi-lite this year, in addition to the Lama's speech (sort of like a church sermon, only far less annoying and more thoughtful) was some old geezer walking up to my gf "C" and I , and trying to pick us up. Now, GFT is a middle aged mom, far past her prime, who most days is about as noticed by most men as the wallpaper of your grandmother's house. My gf C is an attractive female who is several years older than GFT. We had spent the entire morning trying to set up C's friend D, a recent widow, with various men at this event, with no success. The mere fact that anyone would try to pick me up - and to this day C and I will argue about which of us, exactly, the guy was hitting on - we agreed to settle the argument with the decision that he thought we were a swingin' duo, a pair of chicks who would be willing and interested in forming a threesome with him - was hilarious. Never mind the fact that C's long-suffering husband, aka "Saint", was sitting next to us, talking to some random other metrosexual man. We figured the guy hitting on us assumed Saint was gay, and we're sticking to that assumption. No matter the truth of the situation, this event perked us up so much, we've been riding the natural high that followed for weeks now.
By a strange celestial coincidence, it happened that this year the weekend of the Buddhist fest was also the same one that the Indian Student Association at UNT decided to celebrate Diwali (a major holiday in the Hindu faith, somewhat analogous to Christmas.). So I got to have an all Indian multi-cultural weekend, and I loved it! The Diwali fest at UNT is a 5-7 hour long talent show, full of students in traditional costumes dancing and singing karaoke to Indian pop music. At the end of all this comes a dinner, which is always wonderful. The first year hubster and I attended, neophytes that we were, we went to the talent show portion ( agonizing hours spent listening to our student guides promising us "just one more - you must listen/see to this one!" before we could even sneak out to use the restroom) . Now that we are more savvy, we skip the talent show and just show up for the food. It is a large group and well attended- the food is always catered by a DFW area restaurant deemed "authentic" by the ISA. We had a great time visiting with friends and colleagues.....and the gastro-intestinal fallout of eating food that was spicier by several factors than what I typically eat, lasted for days.
It is no secret that I am a teacher…..I have kept my mouth closed all these years about what really goes on in your child’s school. But enough is enough.
I have been teaching what we used to call “honors” and which is sometimes now referred to as “pre-AP” as well as AP English classes for nearly 30 years, when I encountered a bunch of particularly whiney, entitled, demanding students (and their parents) one school year. Over the course of one particular autumn, I was called in to my principal’s office on a near weekly basis, and told the following things:
1) Principal called me down: ”You are not allowed to assign reading of a novel of over 100 pages, without breaking it up into smaller sections.” Me: “But I am teaching the same novel as the other teachers in my grade and subject, and teaching it in the same way with the same assignments and pacing.” Principal: “Does not matter. Change the assignment.” Guess what? I cancelled the reading assignment of that novel, or any other, over 100 pages. Because even in an “honors” pre-AP and /or AP English class….”parents are complaining.”
2) A few weeks later, I get called down again ….Principal says, ”I do not like the way you handled the (mandatory ”volunteer”) school holiday project. You put too much pressure on the students to participate. They are upset. Not all can do as you suggest.” Me: ”I just read the script you gave us, from the faculty meeting, and told us to read. I didn’t say or add anything else. I just did and said what I was told, by you, to do.” Principal: “You must go back to your class and correct what you said.” Guess what ? I cancelled my class’s participation in the program, forever more.
3) Principal called me down: “Parents are complaining that your recent assignment was graded unfairly. You will change the way you graded it.” Me: ”I have a rubric, which I gave the students beforehand, and went over it with them as to what was expected, and taught them how to do the taks involved. For those who did not follow it, I offered the opportunity to fix the assignment in tutorials, for a re-grade.” Principal: “Does not matter. You will issue a grade of “excused” for x, y, and z students, whose parents complained.” Guess what I did? I cancelled the assignment, for evermore. Even though the other teachers of my subject continue to do it.
4) Principal called me down, says: “You taught a poem yesterday that has the word ‘breast” it in. Parents are complaining. You will not teach this poem again.” Me: “In this poem, the word ‘breast’ is not sexual; it is a 19th century word that means chest, male or female. Also, the poem is in our textbook, part of our assigned AP curriculum, follows the TEKS (state curriculum standards) and has been approved by the state of Texas and the College Board. “Principal: “Does not matter. Parents are complaining.” Guess what ? I stopped teaching that poem.
5) Principal called me down:”Students are complaining that the group work you have assigned them is unfairly graded.” Me:”I don’t have any group work assignments, for that very reason.” Principal: “Nevertheless, you will stop it.” Me???? How do I handle or “fix” something that does not happen?
6) Principal called me down to her office: ”Students and parents are complaining that you are never available for tutorials before or after school. ”Me: ”I have been working and present on campus, available in my classroom for students and parents, from 8 am till 6 om or later for the past several years. If a student cannot find me for tutorials during those hours, then he or she isn’t really looking.”Principal: “Never-the-less, you will post your tutorial times on your wall and be available for students.” Me: “OK, but my times are already posted on my wall. Have been for years. I see a dozen or more students before or after school, already, as it is, every day.” Principal: “You will fix this. I had better not hear one more complaint.” Me:?????? How do I handle or “fix” something that does not happen?
7) Principal called me down: “You need to change your overall grading. You must have a weekly quiz over material you have taught. You may not assign homework. You may not have completion grades. You must have one grade per week – no more, no less. You must allow students an infinite number of re-takes on daily quizzes or any other assignment, including tests and essays. You cannot penalize a student for not following directions, or turning in late work.” Me: “This will destroy academic standards, and lower student learning outcomes. Testing scores will decline; students will not be prepared for college.” Principal: “This is the rule. Our board and curriculum have voted on it.” Me: “OK” (To myself: I already do this, so????) Ironically, the principal STILL says this statement on a WEEKLY basis to EVERY teacher at our faculty meetings. Which leads me to suspect that some teachers are not doing it….but not me. I am doing it.
8) Principal called me down: “You are not allowed to have reading assignments that fall over student’s holidays.” Me: “I don’t. My reading assignments, and pacing (due dates and such) follow our department and campus guidelines. I do what all the other teachers do. Students are assigned reading during the school calendar days, but if they are reading it over the holidays, that’s their own choice.” Principal: “Parents are complaining. You will stop this.” Guess what?????
9) Principal called me down: “You haven’t been teaching “x”. I want to know why.” Me: “On the computer generated printout that you gave me at the first of the year – the one that shows my name, and my schedule, with the code numbers – and the classes I am teaching, it says I am teaching “y”. “Y” is what’s on the schedule. I didn’t know I was supposed to be teaching “x”. Principal: “We sent you to that one conference for a day, a few years ago. You are trained in “x” now. Me: “Yes, but our campus (i.e. “you”) never bought the texts that went with that course. All I have available to me are the texts for “y”. After several requests for the associated textbooks, and being told “no”, and going with the printout from administration that shows what I am to be teaching, I just thought decisions had actively been made, and that I was to be teaching “y”. No one ever had a conversation with me about we should do in this matter, and my efforts to ask about it were always rebuffed.”
10) Principal called me down: “You are getting a new student tomorrow. (Four weeks from the end of the school year.) “Susie” has no credits in x, y, or z and we want you to teach her all of them in the remaining time we have left, so she can earn her credits and graduate. We are putting her in your “z” class (with 30 other students). You will devise some packets for her to complete that cover the material.”
11) Principal called me down: “We hired Mr A as coach, and he’s going to be teaching some classes, too. He’s not certified in teaching yet, so , as a work around, we are going to be putting your name on all his classes, but don’t worry, he’ll do all the teaching, grading, and paperwork. It’ll just have your name on it.”
12) Principal called me down: “I want to know why you haven’t published as many issues of the school newspaper this year.” Me: “My budget was cut to $0 this year. We have no textbooks, no computers, no typewriters, no photography equipment; we have no supplies of any kind.” Principal: “That is no excuse.” Me: “I went to the book-keeper and asked for funds, and he refused. I asked you several ties back in the fall, and you told me ‘there was no money’. I just do not know how to run a student newspaper and actually publish work without a budget or classroom supplies of any kind.”
13) Principal called me down: “We will not be able to fill your request for a set of classroom textbooks this year.” Me: ”What can we do to fix this problem? I really need those books to teach my classes…..” Long conversation ensues…..turns out “someone” had made an “accounting error” and “mistakenly” reported that we had tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of textbooks that we didn’t actually have. They went "missing" somehow......
And, for the record: a) My student test scores on TAKS and STAAR have continually been 10% higher than anyone else in my campus, district and state. My AP test takers scored 3’s, 4’s and 5’s 75% more often than local, state, or national test-takers. My PDAS (teacher evaluation system) rating has always been high. I am not a lazy teacher - I am a good teacher. I care about my students, about their learning, and the skills that prepare them for whatever lies ahead. I follow the rules, and keep my head down and my mouth shut.