I've had people ask if I'm making up some of the experiences I, uh, experienced in public schools. I'm not, but as you read this one, pretend I made it up if it helps you get through the post without an aneurysm.
It’s probably a bad sign if, during a staff meeting, your principal tries to crack a joke, but no one laughs or smiles, even politely.
During our last two PD sessions, you could hear the Special Ed department coughing loudly throughout the principal’s “motivational” speeches. The department members are exhausted and probably sick as a result of the administration’s constant interference. And we all know that the best response to a bad joke is a loud, phlegmy cough.
Since the school is leaking teachers like a sieve, the principal felt it was important to let us know that she is VERY disappointed in our efforts. She expects a lot more from us, she said.
First, Mrs. Gibbons said she understood that the staff is concerned about what's happening at the school, particularly in light of the latest state investigation. *cough cough* Then she tells us that we should ignore it and forge ahead because “it takes a village.” *loud cough*
I’m not sure how that was supposed to motivate us, as the village is shrinking and the villagers are grabbing torches and pitchforks. Next, she made a joke about how we all need to “be on her bus,” because a bus is a place where all teachers want to be – right?
I sat in the semi-silence, staring at the clock, listening to the coughs and wondering how she got this job. She doesn't seem to understand what teachers do, how they do it or what her role is in all of this. The students don’t even like her because they find her disingenuous (my word, not theirs. Theirs rhymed with “witchy.”)
The lights suddenly went out, and the overhead projector came on. The entire staff was forced to watch a videotaped skit, in which the principal and some other members of the administration acted out the importance of “getting on Ms. Gibbons’ bus.” Everyone was wearing clown wigs and heavy greasepaint makeup for some reason, as they all climbed onto the bus, only to be greeted by our simpering, winking principal, who was sitting at the steering wheel, yanking it this way and that to punctuate her lines. All the actors were speaking in high-pitched, squealing voices, so I couldn’t make out a single word of dialogue.
A senior English teacher who was sitting next to me cleared her throat and muttered, “I really don’t think she knows how to drive that thing. Is she trying to pull the steering wheel off the column?”
Spanish teacher stared in horror and said, “What’s with the winking? I feel like someone’s about to get molested.”
Chemistry squinted and grimaced. “Why is it HER bus? Her personal bus? And it's one of those short buses too.”
After several more unintelligible spoken words, everyone on the bus yelled “Yay!” The camera switched to a wide shot of the bus rocking from side to side, and then a frame decorated with balloons and the words “The End” flashed on the screen.
The lights came up, and the principal smiled broadly. “Wasn’t that fun?” she asked, and then encouraged us to give a “big hand” to the members of the administration who helped with the video.
Someone started coughing again, loudly, and then there was an uneven smattering of applause. Most of the staff members looked down at the floor.
For a second, I thought about raising my hand and asking if the video would be available on YouTube, or emailed out to the staff for review. Then I felt it – a burst of inspiration. It hit me so hard it felt like a concussion, but that’s the price you pay for brilliance.
Later in the day, after sending out a couple of emails, I had what I needed, which was the file of the bus video. The assistant principal who sent it to me wrote, “I hope this helps.”
Boy did it. As the media teacher, this was a godsend. I finally had a good, short video to show my class that contained multiple examples of what NOT to do when videotaping a scene. Everything I needed was in it - lighting mistakes, poor framing, bad editing cuts, poor sound quality and a lack of a coherent storyline. Nothing could illustrate my points better than Ms. Gibbons and her message about “getting on [her] bus”. I could even break it down and go over it frame by frame to show each error.
You’re right, Ms. Gibbons, it DOES take a village. I appreciate the village even more for helping to educate my class.