Death of a Career
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.
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
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
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.
Thank you Wedgebuck!
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