A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

You know, teaching is sometimes a dirty business....

I've been reviewing the Nixon administration with my regular history students, and so I shall borrow his patois to tell my tale-- without, hopefully, the sense of overarching paranoia mixed with hubris that only Tricky Dick could manage to maintain within one personality without getting psychological whiplash. The words of that great sage of never giving up are boldfaced for you, for those that want to play along as I tell my tale.

Ms. Cornelius has been dealing with a few issues, my fellow Americans, that not even my little dog Checkers could wag away. My favorite uncle passed away, as did my godmother. The advanced placement test is upon us, and time weighs heavily against AP teachers everywhere as an enemy every bit as wily and inscrutible as Chairman Mao, and yet meet it we must. But as I remind my students, *a man is not finished when he is defeated, a man is finished when he quits.* So I want you to know that I have not given up, but I have just been fighting the good fight, and I apologize for my recent silence. Here is my tale:

Ms. Cornelius did get to have the pleasure of writing my second referral of the year today, when a colleague who does not have exactly the classroom management skills one would wish for asked me to help remove a student from her presence. Now, *the greatest honor history can bestow is that of peacemaker,* so in I stepped into the abyss. Small wonder that this nattering nabob of negativism refused to come with Ms. Cornelius despite repeated, mild requests in front of a roomful of other students. *We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another - until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices.* I usually am all about this plan of action: *Let us move from the era of confrontation to the era of negotiation.* He refused to leave until he knew what he had done from his teacher, and she told him, but he still refused to move nor did he listen to me when I told him to come with me, calmly, seven times, because, you know, *I am not a quitter.* Finally, for the first time in my long career, I was forced to call for our police officers to lend me their assistance to remove his presence from the room, as the expression on the miscreant's face became insanity tinged. *But I can take it. The tougher it gets, the cooler I get.* When the nabob saw that I actually did request the presence of the coppers, he suddenly jumped up and brushed past me to the door. So the three cops and I got to walk him to the principal's office. *I believe in the battle-whether it's the battle of a campaign or the battle of this office, which is a continuing battle.* After I left him in the care of a principal, I returned to the class, and the students did wonder at my calmness in the face of blatant insubordination heightened with a little frisson of danger. "How did you keep your cool, Ms. Cornelius? He was BAAADDD!" they wondered. "*Don't get the impression that you arouse my anger. You see, one can only be angry with those he respects.*" I replied, and they did marvel. But that's why we're here, to provide examples of how to overcome adversity in a way that doesn't get you fired or suspended. So there was a little lesson. It's what we do.

When I wrote up that referral, I made sure to use the THREE MAGIC WORDS. These three words are: INSUBORDINATION, DISRESPECT, and (threatened) INTIMIDATION. Now, we have been strongly admonished to never use the three magic words in referrals. We have been told it is not the privilege of teachers to determine when we ourselves have been the unwilling recipients of these behaviors-- that the administrator in question will decide if you have been disrespected and threatened in such a manner, even though that administrator was not there at the time. Even if that administrator spent all of two years in the classroom. But my motto when writing referrals as in writing this blog in this: *Let us begin by committing ourselves to the truth to see it like it is, and tell it like it is, to find the truth, to speak the truth, and to live the truth.* And the truth is this little miscreant has screamed in the face of more than one staff member and student in his time. Now I believe that actions speak loudly. *My concern today is not with the length of a person's hair --nor with the depth of the sag that he busts-- but with his conduct.* And his conduct is something that I can diagnose just fine, thank you. So in went the three magic words, which do tie an administrator's hands in terms of response. And that is exactly what I intended, since this principal is known for distributing mercy where it does not flourish but rather only encourages more problems. So I went ahead and used those three words, (and being me, I even circled them for effect) come what may in terms of annoyance on his part. *If an individual wants to be a leader and isn't controversial, that means he never stood for anything.*

And so, my fellow Americans, continue to fight the good fight until the end of the school year. It's your duty.

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