Saturday, February 15, 2014

Words of Wisdom and Whatnot Ver. 2

We meet again, dear reader, here in the cold.  Two lights in the darkness, huddling around the middle of February, clinging to the dying embers of the season.  Two ships passing in the night, heading towards the safe, sexy harbor of delicious March.

Wow, that was deep.  I should write books or something.

Sensual digression aside, I hope all is well out where you are.  I have heard rumors of an Olympics happening, and there was a football game or something, and documented cases of people being mean to each other out in the world.  Here, in my delicious bubble, the Rage Cage is plowing on ahead (see previous boat metaphor), having its fair share of laughs, good times, interesting times, and the kind of times that lead to you looking at yourself in the mirror at 10 am and wondering where all the glitter came from.

I leave for Italy tomorrow, where I will spend a week shepherding three score 8th grade students through Rome, Florence, and probably at least one high end shoe store.  I assume it will be more fun than it sounds, and hopefully I will get a chance to take that photo where it looks like I am pushing over that tower thing in Pisa.

Because no one has ever done it before.  Maybe something more original . . .

I take it back!  Tower pushing photo people, I should have listened!

I am sure I will regale you with stories ad naseum upon my return, but I had a thought yesterday, as shocking as that might sound: February, much like accidentally hitting on a transvestite in an alley in Bangkok, is a good time to reflect back on what you've learned and where you are along this twisted road called life.

I think the spinner breaking was always an apt metaphor for turning 50.

Last May, on the cusp of beginning my new job as a fearless (assistant) leader, I wrote a blog in which I gave my best advice for teachers.  Because it was culled from a decade plus of hands on experience working in schools all over the world, it was both an invaluable tool and incredibly funny.  I know this because two people said so.  Or they at least used the word "tool" in their responses.  Read it here- it will change your life!

This time last year, as some of may recall, I had no job lined up and literally no idea what I would be doing after leaving Congo.  Things have turned around wonderfully.  I have a great gig, work with fabulous people, and have not, as of yet, been killed by a hammer.  Life is good.  In that vein I am following up my previous wisdom bomb with the three biggest lessons I have learned so far this year.  It seems every day is a new adventure in my shiny admin office, so I am sure I'll follow up on this later on when my wisdom muscles get even huger.

Principal Lesson (Get it?  Get it?  He he he.) 1)  Never ask a rhetorical question.
(note for my theater going readers- this will be shown in the form of a short play)

Really?  Prick.

Setting: Principal's office.  Three people are sitting around a table.  A dashing man (the principal) with stunning abs is on one end.  Across from his masculine frame are a young boy and the boy's mother.  The boy is quiet, staring at the ground, while the mother is visibly agitated.  They are both probably intimidated by the specimen in full array before them.  The principal leans backwards and begins to speak in a shockingly powerful voice, while his Logan-style sideburns make his chiseled features look even more, um . . . chiseled?

Principal:  So, I understand that he had insulted your mother, but that doesn't give you the right to fight someone.  Once things get physical, I am a lot less interested in who started it.  There are better ways to solve these problems, and-

Mother (interrupting): but he's a boy, and boys fight sometimes.

Principal (rubbing his chin in a thoughtful yet irresistible manner): Ma'am, that might be true sometimes, but we have a no tolerance policy at this school when it comes to fighting, as you know when you enrolled your student here.

Principal, eyes glistening with knowledge: Look, look at your mother.  Do you think she's proud of you right now?

Boy: What?

Principal, solving complex equations in his head while speaking to those in front of him: I had to call her into the office and tell her you've been suspending for fighting.  Do you think she's proud of that?

Boy, cowed by the wisdom and manliness of the words: no sir.

Principal, turning his handsome visage to Mother: We just want our students to understand that there are better ways to resolve conflicts.  Think about it: do you want your son to get into a fist fight every time another boy says something about you?

Mother:  Yes, of course!  He must fight every time!  My son is a man, not a lettuce.

Principal facepalms sexily, slow fade.  End scene.

2) Don't get consumed by To-Do Lists

If you are the type who gets satisfaction from checking off your daily list, crossing off that last item with your sparkly green pen as you walk out of the school in slow motion like one of those dudes from every movie ever, you will probably go crazy.  On a day to day basis I usually have no idea what will be going on.  Not because I am lazy, or completely disorganized, or hopped up on bath salts, but simply because a lot of my job consists of being available when people need help.  This leads to a day much like the one outlined below.  Before heading to school on the day in question, I had planned to have two parent meetings, help with some scheduling issues, and get into classrooms and see what's what.  Here's what actually happened:

A Day in the Life

7:30-7:50 arrive at school, find out two teachers are out, arrange coverage.

7:50-8:05  Get news one of the teacher buses will be late; open the classroom doors up.

8:05-8:45  get yelled at by  parent because of a previous days' Honor Code violation (see lesson 3).

8:45-9:15  kiddo comes to office in mid meltdown.  Have him sit and talk with me while drawing a picture of a tree with a hat on it. Afterwards send them back to class, but he lets me keep the picture.

9:15-10:00  two kids sent to the office for fighting.  Suspensions handed out, parents called, etc etc. Gave them a lecture about how stupid it is to fight with your shoes untied.  

10:00-10:30 called into a classroom to assist with some squirrelly kids.  End up staying and participating in a discussion about what growing older means. Managed to sneak in a reference to Inhumanoids.

10:30-11:00 Parent meeting.

11:00-11:15 Help some Grade 2 Kids with their books.  Talked to them about Garfield and showed one of them how to tie their shoes (oh god, don't get me started on the whole shoe tying thing here)

11:15-11:40  Have my usual veggie and rice lunch, while talking with a science teacher about lab ideas.  

11:50-12:15  Write out letters to the parents of the suspended kids from the morning.  Also, put three confiscated phones in my lock box.

12:15-12:50 Lunch time- went outside and patrolled around.  Showed some little guys how to play four square, tried to get a kid to attempt a windmill dunk on the basketball court, and yelled at a HS kid for cutting in front of the MS guys on the lunch line.

12:50-1:20  Met with the HS AP about some discipline issues.

1:30-2:00   Parent meeting

2:00-2:45   A parent of one of the suspendos from the morning shows up unexpectedly to speak with me.  I am called both heartless and angry, which seems a bit contradictory.  Meeting ends with a promise from the parent that I will be fired.  This is the third time this has happened this year, and I look up to see our secretary laughing about it.

2:45-3:05  Go to the ISS room to speak with the two boys and make sure they have their work and all that set up for the next day.

3:05-3:20 Day is over.  We herd the kiddos out of the school and track down a bunch of 4th graders who are hiding in the bathroom for whatever odd reason that 4th graders do anything.

3:20-3:50 meet with a math teacher and go over some curriculum ideas for the 3rd term.  Also watch a cool Daniel Bryan "Yes!" montage on Facebook.

4:00-5:00 Run on the track and get huge in the gym.  In spite of my imposing mass, I am interrupted in my run three times by students coming out onto the track to ask me questions.  I make a mental note to run faster so they can't catch me next time.

3)Always Keep Your Sense of Humor, Especially in Witty Retort Form.
I know I mentioned this already in my last heap of wisdom, but I can't stress it enough.  Being able to laugh in some of these situations, even if only in your own head, will go a long way towards preserving your sanity. An ability to whip out good quips can be a wonderful situation defuser (at least for me, haha).  As an example, one day a parent came in to argue with me about a consequence I had given to her kid.  Even though both what the student had done and the subsequent punishment were clearly mandated in the handbook (which I took great pains to point out) she was very upset by the whole affair, and said that since her child was upset, he had already been punished enough, and no action was necessary.  I listened to her, but respectfully disagreed.  She got very angry after that.

"You are not a man, you are a robot," She shouted "You can't just tick tick tick tick tick (she was making checkmark motions with her hands whilst talking)!  Students need mercy, not punishment.  You do not understand children.  You can't just tick tick tick!"

"I understand you're upset, but we have rules here- I have rules to follow too,and-"

"- Mister Norris (my predecessor) would never have done this.  He had a heart.  He cared about the students, not like you."

"He sounds like a great guy."

She stood up.

"If he was here, you would never be here!"

"Ma'am, I know that.  You see, I replaced him, so if he hadn't left I wouldn't have needed to come here, so-"

"-That's not what I meant!"

"Oh, I knew what you meant, I just figured you have already insulted me enough today."

She walked out to see my boss.  I leaned back and finished my tea.

Tomorrow I will be on a plane to Italy- feel free to be consumed with jealous rage until we meet again, you vicarious bastards you.