Friday, August 19, 2011

An Homage to Educators

I am at the end of the first week of the worst two weeks of my year.  The week before and the first week of SCHOOL.

If you want to believe the politicians it is when we sorry assed, lazy boned, parasites drag ourselves out of bed and say, "Ah, now for another year of sponging off the public and delivering nothing of value!"

Here is what really happens (part of it heavily fictionalized - you decide which parts are God's Honest Truth):

You are an elementary teacher, back to your freshly painted classroom.  That classroom was supposed to be painted during your summer break, but due to the vagarities of the purchasing system, the contract wasn't signed until July 15th and your room is in the last wing of the school to be painted.  How every single classroom is in the "last wing to be painted" is completely beyond me, but there it is.  The custodians cannot wax and polish the floors until the painters are finished and they will be doing this, working overtime, over the weekend.  Your locking, rolling, cabinet with all of your school supplies is still in storage and will be moved to your classroom late Sunday night.  Your pupils will be arriving, fresh faced and ready to learn at 8:30 AM on Monday.  Congratulations, you have 1.5 hours to put your classroom together!

You are the high school principal who finds that, due to a software "upgrade" over the summer, the computer did not catch the fact that AP Biology and the (required) Senior Civics course are BOTH scheduled for 6th period.  The entire English department has been scheduled for TWO planning periods, and the Sophomore Class has not been assigned any English at all (hence the TWO planning periods).  And the classrooms in the 600 wing are leaking.

You are the community college instructor, receiving frantic emails from students:  The school bookstore does not yet have their text books;  they are still on order from the publisher (who to be perfectly fair, did not receive the book orders until the end of June and has only printed 5000 Biology texts when 7000 are actually needed - STOP THE PRESSES and RE-PRIORITIZE!).  There are also the students who will be absent on the first day of class:  Their grandmother's funeral is on the other side of the country;  their return from deployment has been delayed; they are in the hospital and awaiting test results; Please, Please, Please DO NOT RELEASE THEIR SEAT IN THE CLASS!  If they are not in class on day one they will be dropped and you will then fill their seat from the waitlist. Day one dawns, registered students are dropped, ecstatic waitlisters are added and only then do you find that your email has now been changed from first letter first name/last name to first letter first name/last name/last two digits of the first year of hire by the college so none of the student requests got through.

You are a long suffering Division Dean at the local community college; while dealing with budget cuts, and parking shortages (CONSTRUCTION! - see elementary school example above) discovers, courtesy of the harried Department Chairs that several part time faculty members are not available to teach on the first day of classes.  Their fingerprints and/or transcripts have not yet arrived at Human Resources, plus several other part time faculty members have JUST recieved contract offers from other schools and will not be available.  Cancelling classes is not an option.

You are the academic administrative assistant who has been calling prospective instructors to see if they are still available - because of the aforementioned holes in the classroom instructor ranks. Most of them have moved out of state, or are already contracted elsewhere. Cancelling classes is not an option.

You are Instructional Support Personnel, who are supposed to have "everything ready to go", but the instructor informs you that as textbooks are not available, you will have to get publisher's permission and photocopy the first 5 chapters of the text for 300 of the 600 enrolled students, or substitute the week 6 lab exercise for the week 1 exercise. The fact that the week 6 supplies have not been ordered (they have a FRESH DATE!), and cannot be received in time, is but a small inconvenience - you can walk on water! You will be ready to go on day one! And you are.

You are a student, also in a tizzy.  You need THAT ONE CLASS to transfer and it was waitlisted on the second day of registration.  You have already been accepted by the University contingent of the completion of THAT ONE CLASS.  You are lining up at the door of the instructor's office, from where you will be sent to the dean's office, from where you will stride purposefully to the VP Instruction's office - seeking both an explanation of HOW THIS HAPPENED as well as an override admission to the already full class.  If you do not get the class, not only is your University admission in jeopardy, but you will be dropped from your parent's medical insurance because you will not be a full time student!

And in the final analysis, it is you, the student (and your parents) that we do this for.  We exist to give you the knowledge and skills that you will need to step out of our semi-isolated and semi-insulated world into the "real world" where you, if we have done our jobs correctly, will continue to learn and grow and ultimately be successful - and send your own children back into the system in their turn.

Happy Fall Semester to all of you!

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