Thursday, June 12, 2003

Speaking of manners, as Daniel sort-of is over at The Marble Bar, I never know how to disavow someone, gently, of the impression that I am twenty years old. I know how I’m dressed is important, so to substitute for an Instructional Assistant over at Middle School B. yesterday, I wore a black businessy-skirt, knee length; a neat coral knit top, nicer than a t-shirt; stockings and black flats. Full-time teachers wore denim skirts, jumpers, t-shirt dresses and slides or sandals. (Oh, the men tended to khakis and polo shirts.)

When I entered Ms. B.’s room and introduced myself, she replied “and where are you in school?” “I, uh,” I began, then a student interrupted. She turned back and said, “or perhaps you’re getting a graduate degree?” “Well, I am applying for. . .” I began, and her phone rang. I don’t even remember how we got back there again, but I ended up laughingly saying, “Oh, I just got back from my 15th college reunion, so I’ve been out a while.” “Fifteen? Oh, my, well.” And still she called me “dear” all day. So did the other teachers I worked with, in the next building over (campus style school, you know).

Ms. B totally rocks as a special ed. teacher. I admired most her cheerful, calm, matter-of-fact tone of voice. Her demeanor told the kids they couldn’t get to her, and that she liked them. She asked the students to take out paper to draw a chart. Friday’s the last day of school, so lots of people felt they need not have carried cumbersome things like paper. “If you’ve got your paper and pencil ready, stand up. Great. You may draw only three columns – you won’t need to fill in as many facts. Everyone else, here’s a piece of paper, please make four columns.” Groans. Using a text book and a photocopied packet, they made a chart of the last 10 U.S. presidents, the dates each served, and a couple of important facts about his presidency. On the packet, poor Gerald Ford’s picture appeared adjacent to the last paragraph on Nixon: blah, blah, crook; blah, blah, Watergate; blah, blah, resigned and V.P. Ford became President. Turn page, find a thin paragraph on Ford. Naturally, at least three kids wrote “broke laws” and “Watergate” next to Ford. “I don’t think you’ve got this fact in the right place.” - “Yeh I do, see here’s his picture, and here is says ‘Watergate.’” Sigh.

Ms. C. had a good lesson to finish, too. The sixth graders had read a 19th century probate inventory and were constructing a list of the woman’s possessions. Then, they had some questions that made them conjecture things like what she might have done for a living, if she was poor or rich, etc. (sorry, that’s “&c.”). I think the inventory was marked VHS on one side – clearly part of a nice classroom packet from some local institution. A smidge less gentle than Ms. B., she still seemed a good, creative teacher, on top of history and ways that we find out about all kinds of people who lived in the past. She blew it, though, when we got to the number of beds the woman owed: “well, people kept a bed in practically every room. It had to do with taxes.” Where the hell did she get that? Because I liked her, I sat quietly. Over at R.M.S., I contradicted a teacher on something from her 1950s lesson. She hated her job, her students, the school, and it showed. She had her facts wrong. I didn’t like her. Still, I need to learn to keep my mouth shut. Maybe that’s what makes me seem twenty – not knowing when to sit still?

Capital City Weather: muggy and 70 degrees at 8 a.m.; chance of thunderstorms.

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