The Saga of Mr. D

This week I have experienced a buttload of school-based drama. Ironically, none of it has anything to do with my theater classes.

So, you remember my favorite colleague Mr. D?

Okay, just know that most of this is second-hand and therefore is technically gossip, but my sources are reliable and frankly, I find this to be very interesting because of its having an effect on me and also justifying my own complaints that I have been making to myself--all right, and to others--for the past few weeks.

You should first know that, despite what I have stated before, Mr. D is NOT tenured, though he has taught at RHS for five years. In fact, he either JUST got his full certificate or is still working towards certification right now.

Last year, we all got an email that basically said, "Hey, anybody want to earn a masters degree and have it be totally paid for by the Board and then you get to be our school's Reading Specialist?" And I was ON THAT, because that is my area, plus I think it would be awesome to somehow get someone else to pay for my degree. And I told the assistant principal I was interested, yet guess who got the spot. Oh yeah. Mr. "I'm right all the time and I'm supersmart and you're all a bunch of doofuses and I'll teach whatever I want to teach no matter what you tell me" D.

I maybe have some issues about that.

Then, at the reading workshop I went to this summer, Mr. D was soooo annoying, and basically spent the whole time arguing with the workshop leaders and telling them how "the research says" whatever and I was just wishing with all my heart that a giant bird would come in the library and carry him off in its gross bird feet.

THEN, when I talked to him and Mrs. R about coordinating our classes to make sure everyone is doing the same thing, he was AGAIN argumentative and combative and pretty much insinuated that we could do whatever WE wanted to do, but he was going to keep doing things the same way he's always done it. He further went on to badmouth the administration because he got marked down on his summative evaluation last year--he got, like, THE LOWEST you can get and still teach--for curriculum and pedagogy, because he didn't just do what he was told to do, MANY MANY TIMES.

The worst thing is that reading is the ONLY class Mr. D teaches. Really. His schedule is this: reading, reading, reading, reading, plan, reading, reading, reading. He has the majority of the classes, and therefore, the largest number of kids, yet he has so above everybody and everything that he has no regard for what anyone tells him.

I mean, sometimes it takes me a while to get a clue, but ... come ON.

After that, I told Mrs. R that she and I would do the planning, as it was completely fruitless to have Mr. D at any of our meetings. And you know what? Mrs. R and I are totally on the same page right now. Her classes are a week behind mine, because the administration decided to reschedule a bunch of people to decrease class sizes, and she just got her classes finalized this week, but we are both moving in the same direction, and we are both working toward the same goals, and we are both USING THE FREAKING CURRICULUM WE WERE GIVEN.

According to our new schedules, we are all supposed to be spending one-half of our planning periods in a reading class, helping out with the part where the kids read to us or take their vocab tests, or whatever. I am supposed to spend one-half of mine with Mr. D (stupid schedule!), but when I go in there, he is always lecturing about something like pronoun antecedents, which the kids are totally learning in their English classes RIGHT NOW, so what's with the double-lecture? and I always ask, "Do you need me for anything?" and he says, "No," so I go back in my room and do some work for my own self.

And here's the thing: the work required of the teacher for our curriculum is SO EASY. The brunt of the responsibility is on the kids (as it should be). I don't have to prepare lectures or find resources or make slideshows; I basically just have to BE THERE. I listen to the kids read, ask them comprehension questions, give them a test, grade the test. If it's vocab, I read and mark their sentences, read their corrections, give a test, grade a test. That's why I love it so much. It's not like I flake out on my kids, and I am always answering questions and helping them, but the fact that there is minimal prep work is a godsend, really, and I cannot IMAGINE why anyone would go out of his way to increase his own workload.

NOTE: Mr. D is supposed to come to my first period class, but he never has, even to ask if he's needed.

NOTE 2: When I am in my room, I can hear Mr. D yelling at his kids DOWN THE HALL. His classroom management skills leave much to be desired, and that is saying something, coming from me.

NOTE 3: Cat and Kay have to spend half their planning periods with Mr. D (Kay has to go to his room both days, poor thing), and they HATE IT.
Cat: It's like, I'm sitting there with drool running down my cheek; what are the kids doing?
Kay: He never focuses on anything. He goes off on these tangents ALL THE TIME that have nothing to do with reading, or even with what he was talking about in the first place.
Cat: I could die in there. I could literally die. It's like he is sucking my life out of my body as I sit there.

NOTE 4: Cat spends her other planning period with ... me!
Cat: You've got everything running smoothly. You run a tight ship and the kids know who's in charge. I like that.
Me: [blush]

So that's where it stood as of Wednesday afternoon.

I just want to state for the record that, for all of my complaining, I did not go to the administration. This is my tenure year, and my mantra is, "Just deal with it," because I don't want to rock any boats or risk not having my contract renewed. I told Mr. D in no uncertain terms that he was supposed to follow the curriculum and that Mrs. R and I were both doing it and that he would get in trouble if he didn't. He didn't care, so I left it to his conscience and concentrated on my own business.

(This next part comes from Kay; Mr. D complained to her afterwards).

On Thursday morning, Mr. D was called out of class to the principal's office. There, he was admonished by the principal AND both assistant principals because he was defiantly not using the curriculum and was just doing his own thing. They asked him why he was not doing what he was told to do (many many times), and he gave them that whole line of b.s. about how it was wrong and he was right and blahblahblah. And one of them said to him, "Do you even want to teach here? Are you even a little bit interested in keeping your job?" People, that is not a good question to hear.

Later, Mr. D told Kay, "Apparently teaching the kids about the eras of English history isn't 'reading.'"

Kay: [to me] Uh ... no. It isn't.
Me: I don't understand. You mean, English eras like medieval and Victorian?
Kay: Oh yeah. And it's not like he even plans it. He just picks out stuff he likes and then talks about it.
Me: Dude, I love mummies, but my kids can learn that stuff somewhere else.
Kay: Exactly. It's just stupid crap that he thinks up off the top of his head because he was into it at one point.
Me: "Today's lecture topic will be My Life, Ages 10-14."
Kay: That's exactly what he sounds like!
Me: Oh my GOSH. If I did that, I would be like, "So on this one episode of The Brady Bunch ..."
Kay: Right! Except that would be awesome!
[off on another topic]

Thursday afternoon, Mr. D had to leave suddenly. I was copying papers in the workroom when one of the assistant principals came in. "Could you go to Mr. D's room and give his kids something to do? Just ... worksheets or ... ANYTHING. We have no idea what he's been doing, and he didn't leave anything, and we just need to give them some work."

So I just took the stuff I'd been doing with my kids (to prep them for the reading program) down to Mr. D's room. When I got there, the sub was there, another assistant principal was there, plus the PRINCIPAL was there. I explained the work to the sub, and told her I was in the next room if she needed anything. The assistant principal whispered to me, "We talked to Mr. D this morning. I hope things will get better from now on."

Friday, Mr. D wasn't at school. Now, this was unrelated to the curriculum thing; his wife had been in an accident. (She's fine, just banged up).

Friday was the day Mr. D was supposed to come to my first period class. I knew the sub didn't know this, and also that the sub probably had no idea what he was supposed to do during class. So I just told him to come to my room for about 30 minutes during first period, see what I was doing, and then I would give him all the stuff I had and he could make copies or whatever he needed to do.

During homeroom, the assistant principal came in and asked if I could go tell Mr. D's sub what to do. "Oh, he's coming over here to get an idea of how things work. I'm giving him some things," I said.
"I'm so proud that you did that," she said. I beamed in reply. (Positive reinforcement is totally my motivator).

So the sub sat at my desk for about 30 minutes during first period. I took my kids through their lesson and started them on their individual work. I handed the sub a pile of papers, gave him some extra hints in case his kids finished before the end of the period, and said, "If you need anything, just let me know."

He said to me, "Miss Mei, I just want to tell you that your class is wonderful. You really have things under control and you really know what you're doing. I think you are doing such a great job."

I was speechless. I struggled for words; "Well, I have good kids," I said. "But thanks so much for saying that." But really, that felt GOOD, to be validated like that.

I just need to take a minute here to brag on my kids. I only have two reading classes this year, and they are HUGE, and I had a few problems early on but they are now--for the most part--solved, but my classes are SOLID. The whole program is self-paced, and it takes some getting used to, and there is a lot of stuff to be explained. But for whatever reason, my kids are picking it up right away, and they are doing the work I ask of them, and they are thisclose to being able to pick it up and run with it. I fully expected to have to lead them by the hand through every single little thing for about four weeks, but they have really surprised me. They are outstanding, and I am so proud of them. Let's hope they keep it up. *fingers crossed*

Later on, another teacher, Ms. F, told me that the sub had told her really good things about my teaching and my reading class. She said, "That is a big deal, when a SUB has good things to say like that."

Mr. D's sub from Thursday afternoon stopped me during lunch. "Thank you for helping me out yesterday," she said. "I really appreciated your help." (I have to tell you: I would not be a substitute teacher for all the money in the world. That is one tough job.)

Friday morning I was--again--making copies, and I saw Mrs. R. "Hey, Mrs. R!" I said. "I think we're going to have all our reading classes aligned after all!" That's all I said, I promise.

And you should know this up front: Mrs. R was one of my teachers in high school. She is a fantastic teacher and a wonderful person. She has been teaching for at least thirty years, but she still loves her job. She was kind of pushed into teaching this reading class, but she has taken to it like a duck to water. She works hard and her kids love her. She also has sat quietly by during Mr. D's many many MANY diatribes concerning our curriculum, and she has to go to his class for one-half of one of her planning periods. I love her.

Mrs. R looked to her left; she looked to her right. Then she leaned over and said, in a hushed voice, "I told on him."


Dreamy said...

That is so awesome! April, I continue to read your blog because it gives me hope and inspiration that wanting to be a high school English teacher is the right thing to do. Of course, you also crack me up constantly, so that helps alot. :)

Mei said...

Thanks, Angela.
After my first year, I wasn't sure that being a high school English teacher was MY dream, but I couldn't stay away and went back to teaching after a three year "sabbatical." And I love it. Not every day, mind you, but most days.


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