Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Most Pointless Class Ever!

One week in, and I'm actually having fun.
Am I well-rested? No.
Am I smelling like roses? Heck no.
Am I in love with my little 8 pound Poozer (as I call him)? Most definitely.
Everytime I get up in order to change a diaper or help my wife feed him, all my negative feelings go away when I see his face.
And yes, I am changing diapers, dear reader. I promised my wife I would do every diaper for the first two weeks. It's the least I can do after what she went through in bringing Poozer to the world.
This post, however, is not about my son. No, it's about the class that I suffered through the week of my son's birth.
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So here's the deal: When you are going for tenure, you are required to take certain courses. In my district, it is now required that non-tenured teachers (such as myself) take a course on the "foundations" of teaching. Now, of course I don't begrudge my district for wanting its teachers to have a firm understanding of teaching as well as some tricks, but this "Foundations" class covers the first semester of what I did in graduate school. I'm getting ahead of myself, however.

Day One:
My wife had still not given birth at this point. We were going to have to go in on Monday night to induce (that would have been the nineteenth). Now, I was nervous that I was going to miss the birth of my son, so I called the co-ordinator of the class ahead of time to discuss this. After some pleasantries were exchanged, we got down to the point:
Me: "So, my son is to born on the 20th. He's going to be induced."
Her: "Congratulations."
Me: "Thank you. So, I may have to miss class so I can be there with my wife to welcome in my son. He's two weeks late...."
Her: "I...see."
Me: "So I need permission to miss class on Tuesday."
Her: "Oh no, I can't do that."
Me: "Ummm. I'm sorry? I don't think I understand."
Her response was long-winded, so I'm going to boil it down as well as explain to you why none of her answers worked for me.
Her: "Well, first of all, as you remember from the New Teacher Orientation...."
I never got the invite to the new teacher orientation. I was hired too late.
"We offer the class four times a year. You could have signed up for them anytime before this as I'm sure you know."
My school's co-ordinator spaced on telling me about this. Now she did have a rough year personally, but she forgot. I mentioned this and was told:
"Well...that's your fault for not looking into what you need to know, now isn't it?"
That's a very Minnesota way of answering. She continued on....
"There's also the fact that you need this class in order to work in the district. "
That's true. According to the e-mail I received shortly before the end of the year, the district warned me that failure to take this class would result in termination of my contract. Then she got to my utterly favorite part:
"Besides, you're not the one giving birth, your wife is. You don't need to be there."
At this point I can see the vein in my forehead. That's how angry I am talking to this woman. I can see my own forehead vein throbbing.
I get that my parents' generation and before didn't allow the husband to be there, but I was my wife's coach on this one. Hell, the stirrups in our delivery room were broken, so I had to actually hold my wife's legs up when she pushed (more on that another time). Back to the point. I didn't need to be there.
With no choice, I headed to class on Monday morning.
There were 26 of us. I was the only high school teacher. Everyone else was elementary or kindergarten. That did not bode well.
The two teachers (including the co-ordinator) were elementary teachers. They assured us that everything we did could be used in the elementary classroom.
"What about high school?" I asked.
"Ummm. Some of it can be," is the response.
Oh boy.
We spend the first two hours "getting to know each other." I can hear Maria singing in my head as I walk around the classroom asking people questions about their favorite politicians.
Getting to know you
Really, Paul Wellstone, huh?
Getting to know all about you
Well, Hillary Clinton is a classy lady
Etc. Etc. Etc.
Everything we did on the first day was covered in my classes at St. Thomas. I was so bored that I ended up telling my group during every group work how to make the posters so they reflected what the teachers were looking for in the assignment.
As one classmate would put it on the last day. "From the start it was obvious you were a Gifted/ Talented kid in a special ed class." Ouch.
At one point my phone rang. It was my wife. Her water had broken.
"My wife's water just broke. I need to go."
"You can leave in an hour," I'm told.
"An HOUR?!?!?"
"You need to finish the class first. Class is from 8 to 4, and you have to be here."
Again, the throbbing vein. I have this vision of my wife giving birth and saying, "Where's my husband?" My child wasn't even born yet, and I'm a deadbeat dad.
Class ends with an exercise about classroom management. One teacher mentions ringing a bell for attention. I envision my 9th graders giving the "WTF, Mate" look.
I go to the teacher.
"My child's birth is imminent. What do I need to do?"
"Are you saying you might not be here?"
"I love my job, but I love my wife and child more."

She thinks it over.
"Fill out these sheets and get them back to me before four o'clock tomorrow. Do that, and you get your credit."
I raced to the hospital where I spent the night. As my wife slept, I did my "homework" by monitor light.
Day Two:
My wife had not given birth yet. I asked the doctor how much time I had. Because I had enough, I raced over to St. Paul in time for the beginning of class.
I signed in, handed over my homework, and started to leave.
"Where are you going?" the teacher asked me.
"Back to my wife's side. I did all the homework, including the sheets for today. I'm done."
"How?" She asked me.
"I told you before, this is all stuff I've done in previous classes. You'll find my answers are correct. See you tomorrow."
And with that day two of class ended. My son was born that night. I headed in the next day.
Day Three:
"You look tired," my desk partner says.
"I didn't really sleep much. New baby and all."
"So we heard," he replies.
This class doesn't go much better. My new desk partner is deaf in one ear, has worn the same clothes three straight days, and his cellphone (with a Ricky Martin ringtone) is constantly going off as he is trying to buy a house.
Let's put it this way: I was a new dad who smelled of new baby, and yet, I smelled better than him.
Day Three was dedicated to scaffolding. Not the architecture kind, mind you, but the education kind (works in the same way, more or less).
I spent two years on scaffolding. My lesson plans use the technique. It's old news to me.
Yet there we are, for almost eight hours mind you, looking for ways to show the whole class how to use the technique.
I mentioned before that everyone else was teaching elementary or kindergarten. This is where the problems started. We had to have sample lesson plans. Mine was based on one I actually taught on Romeo & Juliet. The rest of the class couldn't get into it because, "it's too advanced."
It was a typical high school level lesson. No harder than any other.
During our working lunch (I should mention we never took a lunch break. We had to work over lunch, which...well...you get the idea.), I sat alone. Not by choice, mind you. It's just that the rest of class either worked at the same school or worked at the same level. The only guy who talked to me was an elementary teacher who thought his son was going to be in my class next year. He would grill me over the entire four days about IB, texts, and more.
Day three ended with a visit from the president of the school district's teacher's union. Nice lady, but she was a snob. Whether she meant to or not, she bashed high school teachers as being, "a little too unwavering...unlike middle school and elementary teachers who are a little more flexible."
Perhaps it was the fatigue. Maybe it was the anger of being in a class that was teaching me NOTHING, but I said something. It wouldn't be the last time.
"Flexible, huh? Is that why we have to re-teach the kids HOW to be in a classroom. You know, the whole raise your hand, work for your grade, and pay attention thing?"
"You must be a high school teacher," she says.
"Yup."
"I didn't mean to offend you," I'm told.
"Inadvertant or not, think through what you say to us. We are your voting public."
I would not get a response to that one.
I returned to the hospital to be with my wife with more homework. I would later discover that I was the ONLY person made to hand in homework.
Day Four:
The last day. I took pictures of my son to class with me as a way to make me a little happy. The work was forgetable this day. I didn't do anything except present for my group, because I needed SOMETHING to do. What can I say, I'm a showman.
At lunch I was given an impromptu baby shower by a few of my classmates. The leader, it turned out, was the guy whose son was to be in my class (Hey, the kid gets an automatic B+ now). It was very nice, but many of the students walked off, and a few later told me that they thought it was rude that I interrupted class to have a shower (It wasn't my idea...but who cares? Some people just lack humor, dagnabit).
The final hour was atrocious. I can think of no better way to decribe it. The president of the union returned to talk to us...again. This time it was about elections and getting us to sign up. As she sat there talking to us about what was happening in the district and Washington D.C. and such, it dawned on me that the entire class was just a ploy to get us to sign up to work for the union. They needed people to go door to door on voting day, they needed people to make phone calls, and they needed people to mail letters. Our final survey even gave us "the chance to help by signing up for a job."
I was pissed. I was tired, and I was pissed.
On my survey I wrote out some comments (this was what got me in trouble at St. Thomas).
What I didn't know was that the president of the union (and I am intentionally not capitalizing, folks) would read them.
"Would you tell me who wrote this please? I'll read it aloud. 'If I had one suggestion it would be to not take up class time with political aspirations. That is for outside the class. We complain about how we have such little time to teach in class, so why practice what we are angry about all the time?' Who wrote this?"
I had no qualms. That was only one of several things I wrote.
"I did. I mean it as well."
"Explain yourself," she said to me.
"I am told I have to be here, or I lose my job. My child is born, but I can't spend time with him, because I have to be here to learn what I already know. Then rather than let us go early, you take an hour to talk to us about politics and almost require us to sign up for some sort of work. You want to win a politcal battle. Grassroots doesn't work anymore. Go for television.
In all honesty ma'am. I feel you have wasted our time with this and have not fostered a good relationship with your constituency but have, in fact, perhaps turned some against you."
She was silent. Everyone was. I heard a pin drop in Edina...and I was sitting in St. Paul.
"Well," she stammers," does anyone have anything positive to say."
The room remains silent.
After finishing up, I start to leave and am stopped by the president. After exchanging words, she gets to the point.
"Would you like to work for the union?" She asks.
"No. I have a new child. I'm busy. Thanks though."
"I don't mean sending out fliers and such. I mean actually working for us."
"Oh God no," I reply. "I'm happy as I am right now. Get back to me in a few years...like ten.
And I left.
30 hours of completly wasted time. I felt guilty everytime I left my wife in the hospital with my son. "Sorry honey. I have to go sit on my ass for eight hours and learn nothing. Have fun with diapers, feedings, and such."
Did I survive? Sure.
Am I happy? Not even close.
But...now I get a nice vacation until August...then I have another classs. Sigh.
Namaste.

1 comment:

cat said...

That is really sucky. I cannot believe how they could not understand you needing/wanting to be there for your sons birth. Damn, what a bunch of insensitive bitches. A lot of people dropped the ball so you could not have taken it earlier, and that is not your fault.

I am glad you were able to get to the birth though! :) How special!

Also I agree with the part about politics in the classroom! I am pleased that you stood your ground and said what you said and when she asked who wrote it, fessed up! Good for you! Although I would expect NOTHING less from you Leab! Then she asks you to come and work for the Union when she knows you have a newborn... that blows my mind!

Well, I hope all is still well you you, Mrs Leab, and Leaab Jr.