Sunday, October 18, 2015

Its just not fun anymore.

An early JK, I am the one in pink on the left, facing away from all the others.
I love it when a title just drops in my lap!  At the Mask Affair opening last night, Chris T., his wife and I had a wonderful back and forth about the status of today’s classroom. His words were that educational reforms have “just sucked the fun out of everything!” which could be applied to just about everything nowadays thanks to regulations, expectations, and the PC-ation of our nation.  However, for the sake of not requiring you to wade through a rant equivalent to War and Peace, I shall limit myself to “what if I were back in the classroom…..?”

25 years and counting on maternity leave so no chance of my getting my old job back, but nor would I want it. The school switched over to block scheduling 20 some year ago and I did not understand it then, nor do I now.

Substituting worked for a while until I dropped off of that list too. When it became my job to track down a job and not their job to fill the job, I decided the early morning auto calls were not worth the potential back wrenching to get the phone. Choosing between options (without knowing what was being offered to teach) seemed counterproductive to the process.  Back in the day (oh stop groaning), the “caller” called the night before and offered the job by subject and grade….6th grade math anybody?  Sure! A buck was a buck and if a lesson plan (or movie) was left for me, I could teach anything.

Fast forward 20 years or more. The substitute teacher (me) now checks in at the desk…after breaching security, getting a badge, registering my car and posing for a mug shot.  The exasperated secretary hands me a folder (binder size) for my use that day. I merrily make my way down the hall (with the use of a GPS in today’s mega schools) to my assigned room and settle in to look over the lesson plan……

But first, one must read through the security lock down or crisis in the classroom procedures. Check. Then it was the fire drill, tornado drill, bee in the hallway drill etc for evacuation or shelter in place procedures. Check. On to the custody and information sharing status for students who had this unfortunate situation regarding which parent could know what about whom and when and who could pick up or sign out who and when and when I was to not notify anybody about anything. Check. Okay, good now I can read my les………………nope, nada, first have to read the medical status and procedures for kids with allergies, medications, special requirements and when during the day such needs need to be met (and who I could tell, when and why and heaven forbid there is a bee in the hallway!!) Check. Now I can………………….sorry, first one has to go thru the do’s and don’ts of the particular class room such as restroom breaks, number of tissues per student per day, looking out the window violations, and so on…..  Check.   OMG a student has arrived!

Hi, what’s your name?  Troy.  Oh, hmmmm you are not on my list.  Its under Joseph R Smith, but my cousin is named that so I use the abbreviated version of my middle name but I have three middle names because of a hyphened name someplace along the line after the divorce, but then “she” got a dog and named it my other middle name so I had to go to plan B and now I spell it with a silent “e” so I am not confused with Troy E who is a girl.  Have a seat.

Found the lesson plan after skipping a bunch of stuff that would probably not make any difference because class would be over before I got thru it all.  Seems we are going to be drawing today  (everybody should spend math class drawing when the lesson plan is written in a language I no longer speak and requires a computer).  Hey, one has to be flexible in these trying times of modern interaction with the future leaders of the world.  Kids, take out a pencil and paper.   Pencil…it is the long skinny often yellow stick like thing with a pointy end and a pink rubbery thing on the other.  I know, some are plastic and click to dispense the lead, try and work with me okay? Thank goodness we aren’t in the Snarky studio room where my personal pencil sharpener is mounted upside down and backwards…much to the delight of dyslexics everywhere. 

Everybody draw a circle.  Chaos.  How big? Where on the page? How many? Right now? With what?.... Smarty pants in the front has to inform me that they are now required to justify their work and the process of how it was done, why and how they feel about it.  Um…it is an f-ing circle kiddo.  But I am game so let us proceed with this required element of our educational development so as not to hurt anybody’s self-esteem.  (Seriously, could we please just have a tornado drill about now?)  The simple circle….Troy(e), how do you feel about your work and why did you do this particular shape?  I know I told you too but that is not good enough…. Oh, your result is making you feel sad because it is not a big as girl Troy’s circle?  Is this a problem for either of you? Does anybody care about how “I” feel about this?  No I will not tell your aunt’s sister who is on today’s list as your legal guardian until 4pm when it becomes……..what? You need to use the restroom?  Nope, can’t allow that, could be a bee in the hallway.  I don’t care how that makes you feel, I have to go write down my justification for the answer and how I came to that conclusion and its effect on the rest of the class although only the janitor is going to be inconvenienced by this situation. 

Suddenly cries ring out…..Mrs. K do you hear that? What? Quick what is our crisis code procedure for whatever is going on? Panic!! It is a car alarm in the parking lot, page 6, second paragraph, grab your work and proceed in an orderly manner to the hallway outside of the main gym unless the alarm is on the west side of the lot then turn right and trot at a reasonable rate of speed to the cafeteria….unless it is lunchtime then go….oh forget it.  Hey kids, inside that circle you made, put two dots and a curved line. We call that a smiley face…, it is not an emoticon. It is art. Have a nice day.

I love teaching as do so many artists I meet. The front of the classroom warriors who claim the title of “art teacher” however are a special breed doing a job I could no longer stand to perform if everything a student did had to be justified, verified, validated, rated, recorded and dissected in minutia for its’ process, purpose and product. The powers that be have truly “sucked the fun out of everything.” Even art, which I would justify as a crime against humanity and it makes me feel sad.  Kudos to Chris and his fellow art teachers that face this crisis in our classroom on a daily basis and still make it work. 

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