Team of rivals

One source of frustration, in high-school as in college teaching, is the occasional disconnect between those whose days are organized around teaching or attending classes and those whose days are organized around some other principle.  IT people occasionally show up in the middle of class to fix some non-emergency technical issue, for example; I’ve learned to be very specific about the room’s availability when I call in.  It also still seems weird to me that I can’t just say, to someone who works in, say, the development office, “I’m free during third and fourth period.”  They simply do not know what that means–I always have to add, “10:30 to 12:15” or whatever “third and fourth period” means on that particular day.  Yes, our schedule is complex, but it’s as if you worked in the Yankees’ HR office and were unclear about when spring training happened, or answered phones at Atlantic Records but were unaware of the existence of the Billboard charts.  It’s part of the core mission, people.  A certain development officer who used to work at SA always managed to call me during class.  I usually hurry over and glance at the phone, because if it’s the main office or the nurse, I’ll pick it up, while if it’s an outside caller (or the librarian), I’ll assume it’s not an emergency.  I’d see her name and extension on the phone display, roll my eyes and let her leave a message.

So the most mind-blowingly frustrating part of today was returning to my classroom after the morning exam (one of the art teachers proctored it) after a productive morning of proofing tomorrow’s exams and finishing recommendation #25 to see the message light on my phone.  I figured it had to be an outside call, because everyone knows that exams are happening and no one on campus would have tried to have a phone conversation with me by calling my room between 9:30 to 11:30–right?

Well, no.  It was the college counselor of the student for whom I was writing the recommendation, checking in to find out when I would be sending her the recommendation.  Which, by the time I got her message, she had already received.  Just as I told her she would.  In fact, we’d exchanged three or four emails about it while the students were in my room taking their exam and being distracted by the ringing phone.

The college counselor!  Not an IT person, not a business office person, not a facilities person.  A college counselor, who is presumably perfectly aware that all the students are in the classrooms taking exams.

Really, I don’t know what people are thinking sometimes.

Dr. Tea and I were saying that we were both feeling particularly impatient with other people today.  It might be just the general disruption of exams.  I mean, the telephone thing was probably briefly disruptive, but then everyone carried on as usual.  (We’re not supposed to mute the ringers, by the way, because emergency announcements and instructions are given through the phones.)

So that was the mind-blowingly annoying part.  There was, fortunately, also a pretty fantastic part, which was sitting with Orsino and Dr. Tea to talk about the second semester of the junior American lit course.  It was just good luck that Dr. Tea was there too, but it was so helpful to get her take on the second semester and on the group of students I am inheriting from her.  And I am filled with a sense of delight about working with Orsino.  Like Dr. Tea, he’s the real deal: a real scholar, a real teacher.  I’d been mourning that we weren’t able to put Orsino into at least one AP Lang class, because I knew he’d enjoy working with those students, but he clearly gets and enjoys the “regular” students, too.  We talked about possible changes to summer reading and his instincts there seem really sound to me; the three of us are now all fired up about reading or rereading a few new possible texts.

And he has the ever-important sense of humor.  Some of the kids I’m inheriting, he said, are less than diligent about bringing their texts to class.  Or they walk in the door and say, “Dr. O, can I go to my locker and get my book?”  He quoted one of the Spanish teachers: “Where the hell do they think they’re going?”  That is, what is going on in their minds that they head purposefully to class and then realize that instead of the appropriate book, they’ve brought–a  lacrosse stick?  A small lump of clay?  A Vampire Weekend CD?  A turkey sandwich?  Hello?

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Bardiac on January 15, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    Oh, boy, does that sound familiar! Nor our librarians, who are fantastic and attuned to campus activities. Our IT folks, too. They’ll come solve problems during a class if you ask, but otherwise, they manage in the ten minutes between, somehow. But the administrative folks who don’t seem to realize that no, we can’t just reschedule a class, and yes, we actually have to be there. The administrative folks seem to think that meetings constitute the most important work possible, and that we should want to spend as much time as we can in meetings, and hearing reports in meetings (when most of us read MUCH faster, and could then use the time to ask questions or something).

    Reply

  2. Seriously! Our college counseling and IT folks do actually work around the teaching schedule, but the Buildings and Grounds folks will show up and start banging on the heater or whatever in the midst of class — super distracting! I talked with the head of B&G after this happened twice in one week last term, and he told me that we need to do exactly what you’ve started doing, which is to spell out exactly what time the room will be empty and available for work. It does seem bizarre to me, especially since all of us post our schedules on the door of the classroom!

    Glad to hear that Orsino is working out so well!

    Reply

  3. […]  I almost always go to meetings cheerfully, but the email about this one made me want to cry.  People who don’t teach probably don’t quite realize how burned out we are by the last day before break–not […]

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