Tuesday, January 12, 2010
A View from the Other side or The Back of Heads
It's 3:00pm now. I'm sitting in a stuffy room, behind a desk. The air reeks of hormones that 25 semi-damp teenagers are letting out, particularly accentuated by the lack of ventilation. The ventilation is poor; it's a bit warm and I've been staring at the back of heads for about 3 hours now. This is my view from the other side...the other side of the teacher's desk, that is. It's 2010, 5 1/2 years since the last time I sat as a student in a high school, the last time I sat in those wonderful little chair-desk combos that work as chair, table, bed, and chiropractic-miracle worker all at the same time. I am still a student, a graduate student at the University so I guess, I play a duel role. I guess, it's why it feels so weird. Maybe that's why I'm good at what I do; maybe it's why I'm bad at what I do. Not too far detached from the student state of mind, if by detached I mean still almost fully immersed, I come to work everyday at 8:00am (give or take 5, 10, 20, minutes) and stand in front of a class of 15 or so ESL students all eager--I assure you--to learn. Right. Today was an irregular day. Today was TAKS benchmark day. TAKS stands for the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills. It's the standardized test that we take--or should I say give--the students to assess their knowledge that we as teachers have drilled in the brain for the past couple of years. It's the barometer from which we measure our schools, our districts, our towns. It's how we get funding, how we keep our jobs, how we lose our jobs. When it boils down to it, it's pretty much everything. The morning started out pretty much normal. After a night of tossing and turning, my mind a venerable whirlwind of thoughts that, no matter how hard I try, I can't shut off, I wake up. It's 7:30. I have to be at work (a good 15-20minute drive solely due to traffic) at 8:00. I still have to shower, because I was too lazy to do it the night before after I came home from jogging. What? It was cold, I barely broke a sweat. Don't judge me, you've probably done worse. Eh, what the hell, I’ll stay in bed for 5 more minutes. It's now 7:36am. Shit, one minute over. This could throw my entire schedule off! Maybe, one more minute in bed...I contemplate not showering and using a vulgar amount of Axe body spray deodorant. I decide against it. I hop into the hot shower for an invigorating part of my morning--sometimes, the most invigorating part. Hauling-ass, I get dressed head downstairs, grab a waffle that my sister has made me and head out the door. I jump into my car, pick a song, and speed off into the cluster-fuck of stupidity and carelessness that is the morning rush. I get to work, I'm not early, but I'm not late. I pick up the sacred treasures that are the test exams and answering sheets and I head to my room. Today's the math test, and I have no calculators. Great. Well, they're not my kids. Not my scores. Not my problem. Side note: you don't test your own students on benchmark days; you get assigned kids by classroom. I walk in and begin to separate and count the materials. 25 pencils, 25 erasers, 25 highlighters (why you need highlighters for a math test is beyond me), 25 booklets, 25 answer sheets, Word by word instructions, and...a...a breakfast corndog?! Sweet. I forgot I stuck it in there in the rush out of the teacher's lounge. Maybe, today is going to be a good day, after all. I commence testing, I go through the ins and outs of procedure, take attendance, handout materials, you know: teacher stuff. I sit down. Now, wait a few hours for the kids to finish. I'm sitting behind my desk, organizing my system of filing the tests as they come in and I have a sudden revelation. I'm the test administrator. Sure, I've been a teacher for a full semester already, and I've already administered another test prior to this, but there was something about this particular junction in time, something about this new room, about this new group of kids. Something about the blank stare that their giving me, the zombie like acknowledgement of the instructions, not really listening, but semi-pretending to listen. It reminds me of a certain young gun. He knew it all. He had smarts, a smile, great hair. Oh wait, that was me. I joke, I didn't have great hair. Whatever it was, today felt different. It suddenly clicked that I'm these kid's teachers. These kids--unlike my regular kids--raised their hand to speak, asked for permission to get up. They understood. They, for the mere fact that I was their teacher, their elder, respected me. The rest of the day, is uneventful. It's announced that the students are to stay with me all day. They finish testing about 11am and we don't get out till 3:30. This should be a blast. I don't even have a movie to show them. I have Romeo and Juliet, but that's a drag, I've seen it about 5 times already. Maybe, I'll put on that bootleg of Star Trek I have. I mean, err, that digital copy I have that I received on the DVD combo pack. Yeah. That's it. I decide, instead to read a book. Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. Great read. And now, I'm wasting both yours, and my time. What are the students doing, you ask? Nothing. Most of them have iPods or phone's with music players and they're entertaining themselves with that (thank GOD for technology), the others either asleep or talking, not too loudly, alternating turns going to the bathroom and drinking water, a service I'm more than happy to let them use. Get out of my class you little stinker. Ah, it's three-thirty and the kids are ancy. I let them out. The bell rings a moment after. I hit save.