Death of a Career
by Wedgebuck

     The meeting was scheduled in the school auditorium, an isolated building, surrounded by trees, which poked their heads out of square cement prisons. It was due to start at eight o’clock, but at the appointed time, only half the teachers were seated. Some socialized in the back of the auditorium, where coffee was available, while others reluctantly strolled in from the opened double doors. Some of the staff was happy, and chattered about their students. They were not eager to face their classes, and considered it a vacation day free of stress and responsibilities. The smell of burnt coffee permeated the room, as someone had forgotten to unplug the empty dispenser. Light filtered in through one of the permanently shut widows and elucidated years of dust.
.       The principal, dressed in a cheap suit, with flakes of dandruff on his lapel, began by reviewing the procedures for the opening of the spring semester. The Science teacher, sitting alone, nervously tapped his foot against the front chair. He hadn’t slept well for days and had begun the morning highly agitated. He looked at the other teachers and saw few listening. The majority worked on their roll books, reviewed their new student rosters, talked quietly, sometimes suppressing a chuckle, or stared off in space. The younger teachers were pretending to pay attention. They hadn’t learned, he thought bitterly. 
     He had taught thirty-five years, and was sick of everything. His students had grown apathetic, arrogant, hostile, and compassionless. His class size had gone up, he often mused, with the salaries of the worthless downtown administrators. He wished, with hostility, that he had trained for another occupation. If only he had known the depths to which the profession would fall. He thought that there was no difference between what he did and handling raw sewage, except the sanitation workers never took their work home.
      The last semester had been a nightmare. He had averaged forty students in every class, with one having forty-three. That was his first class, when students banged on the door, and wandered in all period because of the late buses. There were constant distractions from P.A. announcements, students being summoned to their counselor, or because they were in trouble. He hadn’t taken attendance for years. It was too stressful. He knew the students would not read the chapter, and were incapable of listening, so he never lectured. Some slept all period. Anything intellectual was always boring. Most of his time was spent trying to control their prater about sex and drugs. He despised them for their youth. He thought about how he had come to the school late last night, and had taken chairs from the other classrooms, so his students would not have to sit on the floor. And people called this a profession.
      A year ago, he had called the fire department, because he feared for the safety of his students in an emergency. Inspectors had come out, but had decided his classrooms were not overcrowded. They forced seven other teachers to change locations. The teachers had become angry with him, and had spewed hurting, berating words, the day after their move. Even now, they had refused to speak to him, and looked away, when he passed, with pursed lips and puffy cheeks. 
     Recently he had to beg the parent association, to buy enough books, so he could teach the class. The previous texts had been twenty years old, and he did not have enough for half of his students. It was a humiliating experience.
      His blood pressure began to go up, and he began to breath deeply. He found his pulse, and knew his heart was racing His skin felt clammy. .He lost track of time.
      A guest speaker from downtown had been introduced to the faculty, and had begun to speak.  He hated the school bureaucracy. The top-heavy school administration, mismanagement, and fraud were cheating the public, and subsequently denying thousands of students a good education. He got dizzy, closed his eyes, and began to smell his room. Nameless, faceless, sweating teenage bodies.
    . The administrator droned on, with no inflection in her voice .He looked down at his rosters of students. He was shocked. Not only was he still averaging forty, but the students that had failed the fall semester had been programmed into the spring semester. A wave of nausea hit him like a tsunami, and he began to tremble with contempt, and rage. He looked around at the other teachers, but saw nothing but complacency. The speaker began to discuss reform, and how to meet the needs of all the students, including the gifted, and slow learners. “You need to make out at least three different lesson plans for each period”, she pontificated. Uncontrollably the teacher raised his hand and stood up. The speaker ignored him, but he began to speak loudly, his rage-spilling out. “How do expect all this reform, with forty students in the room?. I can’t do labs, because I have all these students and only one sink. I, not the district, paid for all the audio-visual equipment. Even the books were paid for by the parents.” He hesitated and began to shout. “What is the administration doing with all the money”? His speech was slurred with anger.  The speaker nervously tugged at the top of her two-piece suit. Her mouth gaped and the muscles on one side of her face contracted, as if in spasm. Her eyes glared opaquely at the teacher. From the side of the room, some of the other teachers began to clap, but said nothing. The speaker went on, but now her words were tremulous. The teacher raised his hand again, stood and said, “Before I speak to my students, or give a lecture to an audience, I discuss my expertise on the subject, and give my credentials. What is yours? How long have you been out of the classroom, and do you think you could teach all these different lessons, the same period, to forty teenagers”? The speaker did not answer, but continued talking. She looked at the exit sign. The teacher got up and left the auditorium. He was ghostly pale. The principal followed with the nurse in tow.
     The teacher laid down on the blacktop outside the auditorium. “Please call the paramedics”, he quietly said to the nurse. He smiled on the way to the emergency room.
 

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