Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Tales From the School Yard

It's only Wednesday, and Monday was a holiday. But yesterday was just weird, and today was pretty good.


When I got to work yesterday, fresh off a three-day weekend, but also slightly worn-out from a developing fall cold, I unlocked the library and walked over to my desk, as I do every morning. There are four of us who have desks in the library, and of the four of us, I'm the early bird, morning-person-type. So it was me who first noticed something amiss.

Like the fact that all three drawers on my desk were open slightly.

Look, if you bother reading this blog, you know a few things about me--namely that I'm one of those neat-freak types who can't sleep if the closet door is even slightly open. I don't leave my desk drawers open when I leave for the weekend.

Still, it took a moment for the warning bells to go off in my head. I blame the cold meds.

But they did go off, and I did pull open that shallow desk drawer, where I had locked my school-issue laptop (the brand-new HP with touch screen, yes) over the weekend.

It was gone.


It turns out someone broke into the library through a faulty window, and took my laptop, and two others from another desk. The other teacher and I, as well as Mrs. Principal, all feel somewhat violated, that someone broke into our school, and took our stuff. I didn't have anything sensitive on that computer, but I did have a lot of lesson plans on it (yes, I backed them up, but STILL). And I use that computer in all lessons, so yesterday, I had to completely reconfigure my lesson plans at the very last minute. That really pissed me off.

Sacramento County Sheriff sent a CSI dude out to dust the two desks, but no usable prints were found. Of course, the room was full of middle school students when he came, so rumors started flying, and later I faced a barrage of questions. "DID YOUR COMPUTER GET STOLEN?" "Yes." "IS IT TRUE THEY TOOK ALL THE CHROMEBOOKS FROM ONE OF THE CARTS?!" "No. Don't spread that one." "ARE YOU IN TROUBLE?" "Sigh. Of course not."

High drama, indeed.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

As if that start to my day wasn't odd enough, the kindergarten class I meet with on Tuesdays had a sub. He was a perfectly nice man, but a little odd, and a little bit prone to interrupting. Without my computer, and with my voice already tired from the cold, I opted to throw in a CD that goes with a book I bought last week and introduce my wee charges to Saint-Saens' wonderful "Carnival of the Animals."

Mr. Sub thought this was wonderful--I know, because he told me so, in the middle of the CD's reading of one of the poems.

Mr. Sub likes the song about the swan best--I know, because he made a point of telling me...and then complaining when I didn't play it because we were running out of time (and by now, I wanted to get out of there right at 9:15, not a second later).

Mr. Sub has a son that used to be in a famous locally-based rock band. I know, because he made a point of telling me while I was packing up my things to bolt.

Mr. Sub has another son, who needs a wife--I know, because Mr. Sub gave me a pointed look and said, "I'm trying to find him a wife."

"Oh!" I said in reply. "Well, thank you, kindergarten! You were GREAT listeners today! Bye-bye!!"


This morning, as I walked out to cross the street for another kindergarten class, I passed a school bus, where a gaggle of kids were unloading backpacks and lunch boxes from underneath the bus. The driver, a tall, white-haired man, was supervising, but as I walked by, he looked right at me and said, "Ms. Cooper, right?"

"Yes!" I looked harder. "Oh, my gosh! Elverta!!"

Turns out it was John, the former bus driver/custodian from my very first teaching job in Elverta. He recognized me! He drives my charges to school!

What makes this even more amazing is that one of the board of directors for my school district is the husband of my boss from that Elverta job. In my first year of teaching, I went to Italy with a bunch of colleagues, including Dianne (my boss) and Bruce (the board member).

Both the Elverta job and this one are K-8 jobs, too. Though damn, am I much better at it these days. Experience and such.


Yesterday, one of my students in the 7th/8th grade daily VAPA class turned in a drawing with a Nazi flag on it.


As I told a friend later, I'm not entirely sure he understood how and why this is offensive. I vented to my duck ladies that I wasn't sure just what to say to this kid--and Maayan, dear Maayan, who is Jewish, replied, "I could say a few things."

I was initially at a loss as to what to do--go to an administrator? The homeroom teacher? Write up a violation slip? All of these seemed extreme; but I also couldn't let this pass. So today, I sat my VAPA class down and said, "I need to take care of some housekeeping..."

When I mentioned that someone--"I'm not naming names or pointing fingers"--had drawn the Nazi flag yesterday, a few giggles arose from the guilty party and his two buddies.

"I don't think this is funny."

The laughter stopped.

"Here's why it's not funny..."

I went into a brief but emphatic explanation of just why the Nazi flag, and the swastika symbol in general, are offensive to many people. I told them, "From here on out, any artwork turned in to me with these symbols will receive a zero." Inevitably, a hand went up...this is middle school, after all.

"But...wasn't the swastika originally a Buddhist symbol?"

"Yes, and possibly Native American as well. But what happened is that one group of people ruined that symbol by making it represent something really terrible, and millions of people were killed under it. That's an example of one group of people ruining something for the rest of us."

No arguments. The student just nodded his head.

I told them that last night, I spoke to my friend, who is Jewish, who can feel physically ill when she sees swastikas and Nazi symbols, because she knows people who were affected by the Holocaust. I told them, "She said she'd know exactly what to say to anyone who thinks drawing these symbols as a joke is funny, or okay."

You could hear a pin drop.

"Do you all see where I'm coming from?"

Everyone nodded and said, "Yes."

"Do you all agree that swastikas and Nazi flags have no place on our work in here?"

Same response.

Sometimes, I get it right.

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