Thursday, April 3, 2008

They Schools

In an other life, one in which I provided the world with some modicum of benefit, the life I lead before I took up my current occupation (writing orders that turn out to be unnecessary, doing research for cases that settle before anyone looks at my incompetent work product) was a life marked by various hardships: 5:45 AM alarm bells, followed by a commute made up of multiple modes of transportation (bus, subway, foot) to a job that took years off my life and allowed me to use the bathroom only at designated times of the day.

I can't say that I miss the time I spent miseducating the Bronx youth--after all, there is no joy like the joy that comes with sitting in a temperature-controlled office, putting on your headphones and blasting Prince while reviewing some CEO's emails (emails which may or may not contain damning admissions of liability, but which most certainly contain pictures of bare breasts fashioned with Christmas ornaments--attorney client privilege prevents me from providing a link here). Well, there might be an equivalent joy, now that I think of it: the joy of being able to evacuate one's bladder at the moment the urge arises. Thank you, corporate America. Thank you for that.

Anyway, back to my previous life: one day, at some point in the middle of my first year, I was told that for the rest of the term a Mr. Yeats was to provide me with a Tuesday respite from my den of unruly little monsters. He was the Social Studies teacher, I was informed, but I had not yet met him; I had not heard mention of his name even in the course of my first three or four months. It turned out that Mr. Yeats had spent the better part of the school year, imprisoned in teacher's purgatory, a mythical place that I would later fantasize being dispatched to, and which I imagined as a cinder-block-lined room with dozing teachers and strewn-about copies of the New York Post.

Apparently, Mr. Yeats had been involved in some incident the previous year--a student had accused him of some crime or indiscretion, and until the matter was resolved, he had to live out his week-days, 8-3, in teacher's purgatory down near the UFT office in Brooklyn. What Mr. Yeats did was never made clear to me, but upon his return, he seemed hell-bent on not repeating himself: The man was the most oblivious, disengaged teacher I've ever seen in inaction. Literally, he stood at the chalkboard, with his back to the students, droning on about the Boston Tea Party. So many fights broke out during Mr. Yeats' "classes" I gave up yet another bathroom opportunity to sit at my desk, trying to impose some order.

Anyway, two things reminded me of Mr. Yeats today: this insane article about a teacher being cast off to the middling confines of what I imagine is Phoenix's teacher purgatory because she dared use masking tape to designate boundaries for some of her more active students, and this wonderful This American Life piece on "The Rubber Room"--the proper nomenclature for New York's teacher purgatory.

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