Down here in south Louisiana, we’ve already finished our third week of school. I love the beginning of the school year (new kids! new ideas to try out! a fresh set of flair pens!), but I wasn’t expecting my email inbox to already be chockablock full of emails from students. (Mental note: teach students the art of a good subject line.)
And I might be “that” teacher, but 95 percent of the time I don’t email my students back. Why, you ask? Because these are the types of emails I get and the way I would respond, indicated in brackets and italics, if I actually had time to respond and could be completely honest in my responses.
You put my grade in wrong in PowerSchool. [I, in fact, did not put the grade in incorrectly in PowerSchool. You very much made a 72 percent on the test that I JUST entered into the gradebook 60 seconds ago. Stop checking your grades and emailing me while you’re in Algebra.]
Why did you give me an 80 on the writing assignment? [I didn’t GIVE you anything. I assessed you for mastery of the skills. I JUST entered grades into the gradebook 60 seconds ago. Don’t you think I’m going to explain scoring when I HAND THE ASSIGNMENTS BACK?]
I submitted my late assignment from a week ago. Can you grade it right now so my mom will give me my phone back? [Oh sure, I’ll stop grading these 106 narrative retellings that are test grade assignments so you don’t have a zero for a participation assignment when you already have an A in participation.]
This is the third email I’ve sent you telling you to grade my late assignment.[I’m sorry, but as per my syllabus that I read to you on the first day of school and made you sign, it says that I grade all late work after current work is graded. I’m knee deep in grading the Hero’s Journey test from yesterday, the rewrites from two days ago, and the complex character exit tickets that I forgot existed until 30 minutes ago. I’ve reiterated loudly at least three times this week that it can take me up to two weeks to get to any late work and that I won’t respond to emails like these. You’ll know it’s graded when it goes in PowerSchool. If you wanted your grade entered in a timely fashion, then maybe you should have turned it in on time? In fact, since you sent me this email, I’ll more than likely put off entering the grade for another three weeks because you keep spamming my inbox.]
Can I have an extra day to do the assignment? I wasn’t feeling well yesterday.[No. The other kids ratted you out. You were all over everybody’s SnapChat last night being messy and not sick at all.]
I’m going to be absent all of next week because we’re going to Disney World. Can you email me all of my assignments?[You and I both know that you will not complete any of this work while you’re on vacation. And I’m pretty sure you’re just emailing me this because your parents asked you to. But you probably weren’t supposed to tell me that you were going on vacation–because even though your parents asked you to email me for the work, they’re also going to try to get a doctor’s note to excuse your absences for your competitive cheer competition. And I can’t email you all of the assignments for next week because I haven’t made any of them yet, LOL. I’m not panicking at all about that. Not even a little bit. But you sending me this email did make me start panicking about it. And you and I both know that those assignments will be posted on Google Classroom on the day that we do them in class with full instructions on how to do the lesson on your own. Have a Dole Whip for me.]
So I don’t respond because
I like my job. And I’m pretty sure I’d get fired if I responded that way.
Some of the student emails are pretty accusatory. “You didn’t do this” and “you did this wrong.” But I know that stems from students not understanding the tone behind these statements in email.
I’ve answered these questions before in class or I’m going to explain those questions the next day.
But I actually do respond. Just not in an email. I stop them in the hall or pull them aside for a quick chat about what they sent me–because talking and interacting with them is important and way easier. I can quickly address how their tone in the email made me feel and that they might want to choose better words. I can explain their question in person. And I can do all of this while not having to revise my emails for tone. And I don’t have to spell check/Grammarly/proofread my conversation with them either.
And the emails that are important I do respond to, professionally.
(Now all I want in life is a Dole Whip. Why did I even bring it up? Sigh.)
To make you feel better about yourself, let me tell you about how I fucked up every single day during my first full week back to school.
I made 250 copies of our summer reading assignment to distribute to all 8th graders. While counting out the handouts to give to another teacher, I noticed I didn’t put the word “the” in a sentence. So into the trashcan all of those copies went. Giving up, I told my coworkers I wasn’t going to make fresh copies of the newly edited document, and I was just going to post the revised document to Google Classroom. (My reasoning here being that I forgot how much I hate making copies and the copy machine was already being an asshole—maybe because I only used him once last year and he was harboring feelings of neglect at me giving him the cold shoulder. He ran out of paper and jammed five different times when I was using him just to spite me.)
On the second day of virtual class (I already have three kids quarantined), I forgot to start my Google Meet during fourth block until 12 minutes into class. In my defense, I am used to having virtual class at third block, but considering I didn’t start a Google Meet during third block either, I really have no defense for this. (And y’all, I wasn’t prepared for the different Google Meet layout either, so I’m going to have to spend some time playing around with it, you know when I actually get time for that kind of thing. Who am I kidding? I’m never going to have time to do that.)
I walked out of my house yesterday morning in CLEAN jeans and a SPOTLESS t-shirt but somehow walked into the school building completely FILTHY. I had a ginormous brown stain on my left pant leg and what looked like deodorant on the bottom right corner of my Parish Champs basketball T. But I didn’t spill any coffee and it’s not like I rode to school with the bottom of my t-shirt tucked up and into my armpit for safekeeping or to air out my stomach because of the 99 percent humidity, so the cause of the stains remains hidden. So, I tried to make the stains go away by drenching a wad of paper towels with water and scrubbing the spots with enough gusto to make my arms hurt, and I ended up looking like I tossed my clothes into a puddle. I walked into the lounge to put my lunch in the fridge, and conversation stopped at the table, and one of my coworkers, I shit you not, pointed at me and said “HA HA! YOU LOOK LIKE YOU PEED YOUR PANTS.” And another coworker cackled about me for a solid three minutes. Another coworker thought I was just “mystery wet” (his words). THEN I HAD TO STAND OUTSIDE OF MY DOOR AND CHECK UNIFORMS LOOKING LIKE I’D HAD AN ACCIDENT AND FORGOT TO PUT ON MY DEPENDS ON THE FOURTH DAY OF SCHOOL.
Speaking of uniforms, I’ve already messed it up forever with my first block. I’m pretty sure they hate me because I have to be the uniform police and issue citations, and there’s only like 5 of them out of 26 who are following the school’s uniform policy. I’ve already had kids arguing with me about it, and all I’ve done is tell them which part of the policy they’re not following–I HAVEN’T EVEN STARTED GIVING THEM CITATIONS YET JUST WARNINGS. I can’t tell you how much I hate having to enforce dress code (for various reasons including how it unfairly targets girls and is just a relationship ruiner between teachers and students–this doesn’t happen with every student, but it does happen.) (I know this bullet is a stretch for “messing up,” but I needed to vent.)
Because apparently I can’t read, I created chaos and confusion for two other coworkers and sucked a collective thirty minutes away from their already hectic day yesterday. I apologized to them both profusely.
I posted a student survey for kids to work on the second day of school and was talking about it for a full five minutes before one kid was like “It’s not on Google Classroom.” And come to find out I had scheduled it to go live at 7:30 p.m. instead of 7:30 a.m. Whoops!
Pretty sure I was an asshole during a staff meeting too (and this might have happened the week before last), and I didn’t mean to be, I didn’t choose my words well and my tone came off a bit more passionate than I needed to be when discussing why kids shouldn’t be allowed to have AirPods in school. I forgot how to people well over the summer, and I’m going to keep working on that.
I don’t handle small talk very well and overcompensate by trying to be funny and fail miserably at being funny most of the time and just look like a lunatic. Why say all of that? Because this was me all of prep day on Monday interacting with students and parents who I’ve never met before. (I’m not kidding here. For example—during my sophomore year of college I got pulled from talking to rushees during sorority rush because I barked like a dog, a really poor attempt at being funny, at a girl. To nobody’s surprise, she didn’t think it was funny. So during rush for the next two years, the only thing I had to do was stand, clap, and sing. I’m not even sure how I got into a sorority in the first place.)
How did you mess up your first week, teacher friends? Or was it just me?
Outraged person on Facebook: How dare you try to take money away from the police force!
Don’t say it.
Don’t say it.
Don’t say it.
Don’t say it.
Don’t say it.
Me: Where’s your outrage for taking money away from education?
Why are white people so angry at taking money away from the police? And why aren’t they equally outraged at taking money away from education? And why am I comparing these two seemingly unlike fields?
While this is a complicated matter (major understatement, I’m aware), I’m sure I’ll manage to leave out important points, and I might lose sight of my goal during this post, consider this: White Americans feel threatened by taking money away from a system pervaded with racism and violence that’s staffed with undereducated men while looking the other way when taking money away from a field that possesses all the tools to help combat racism and violence that’s staffed with educated women.
(Is there racism in education as well? Yes. Does it need to be addressed? Yes.)
Now before your outrage seeps into your fingers and makes you angrily pound out a vitriolic missive, hear me out.
Yes, policing is an important part of keeping our country safe, but it needs massive reform and:
Why do we as a country keep putting undereducated men in positions of power and paying them more money than women who have bachelor degrees?
Teaching, a female-dominated field, requires more education but pays less money than being a police officer does. Why? Why? Why? (Do not throw the because teachers get the summer off argument at me. Let’s say a teacher spends five extra hours working a week outside of school during the school year. That’s 180 hours they’re not paid for–that’s an entire month of working without pay. That’s half of summer break right there. Then there are the trainings, conferences, and planning that teachers are not compensated for over the summer as well.) Also could you imagine an in-lieu-of-a-four-year-degree clause in the teaching field like there is a waiver for post-secondary education in the police force? In the police force, military experience is substituted. What would the equivalent of that waiver be in education? Observation hours? Student teaching experience? Those are already requirements for the degree . . . Also, studies show that the more of an education that a police officer has the less likely the officer is to “resort to force” (http://www.msnbc.com/ronan-farrow-daily/us-police-education-levels-and-the-use-force.)
Does the outrage over taking money away from police departments stem from white, undereducated men feeling threatened that their good-paying jobs are going to be taken away? Does the outrage over taking money away threaten masculinity and the glorification of a violent, powerful male ideal? Is the simple answer to the outrage’s source that it’s a field dominated by men? Is the simple answer to the lack of outrage at education losing funding that it’s a field dominated by women? And all of this is further compounded by systemic racism, white privilege, police brutality, and individual racism. I guess the answer isn’t so simple is it?
Do teachers work overtime? Yes. Do the vast majority of them get paid for it? No. Do cops work overtime? Yes. Do they get paid for it? Yes. Why? Because men would never stand for unpaid work because society doesn’t expect it of them. Go back to my point in the first bullet.
What is the harm in reforming the police system and holding police officers to a higher standard in an effort to get rid of racism and brutality? Education goes through reform all of the time. Not only does more work need to be done to reform education, but more work needs to directly address the racism built into its institutions as well. Educational policies, practices, and standards are not static, and the police force’s shouldn’t be either.