As school closes for Christmas, a teacher doing her best in a failing and chaotic high school is knocked down by an abusive student and locked into a Biology storage closet. As the room has a sink and some food stored for lunches and prep periods, she is only in danger of spending two horrible weeks dieting in a cold room with no toilet or bed or much else beyond obsolete books and broken equipment. Waiting and hoping for rescue, she creates order and routines, finds ways to make the best of her time and solitude, and ponders her life and career ...
The author is a retired Chicago teacher.
Bashed is available on Amazon.com in paperback
Jean Kosciuszko stood waiting outside her door, monitoring the hall as all teachers were expected to do during the four minutes of passing time between classes. It was the last period of the day on the last day before a two week Christmas break, and the hall was empty and quiet. No other teachers stood on duty, but that was not unusual.
The silence suggested that the whole school might already be empty of students. Even on normal days, eighth period seemed to exist to be cut, but the halls would still be full of kids at their lockers or on the roam, looking for trouble. Today the absence of a single sound was almost eerie. Jean wondered if the other teachers were even around, or if they'd found some way to leave early. Since the school had stopped using signatures for attendance, she’d often noticed some teachers running more than one ID card through the machine that took attendance. Since she didn’t join the cliques that went drinking after school or partied on weekends, she was, like other loners on the faculty, out of the loop when it came to knowing how practice differed from policy.
Leaving early was dishonest, but in her mind it implied nothing about how hard a teacher was working; everybody put in many hours at home, giving evenings, weekends, vacation time, always looking for something that would work better. Nobody could survive in the classroom
without preparing lessons and grading papers, and not turning in the reams of required paperwork, of no use whatsoever in actual teaching, would lead to a low rating for the year and probable job loss, with seniority no protection.
Monitoring rule or not, on quiet days like this one the halls required less attention. On normal, chaotic days, the four minutes of time for passing from class to class could fly by without a teacher even making it out into the hall. The problem was that students lingering in the classroom and entering for the next class also required attention, not only to prevent mischief but because they had questions and comments. In the hall, students you didn’t know wouldn’t show their ID’s, which might not be their own anyway, so that when they broke rules or cursed at you, your supervising couldn’t accomplish much in the way of consequences. At least inside the classroom, a teacher knew the names and would eventually decide who would pass and with what grade, although some days it seemed no one cared much about that.
The bell rang for classes to start, and, sighing with relief that no one had shown up, and she would not have to see her difficult eighth period class again until January, she went back in her room, not bothering to close the self-locking door as she normally would.
Fifty minutes till freedom, she thought. She was more than ready to go. She had already taken down the few holiday decorations that had not been vandalized, and her brief case was packed with papers to grade and materials to plan January's lessons.
One of the fattest folders was for paperwork supposedly showing teacher accountability by way of forms on which every moment of every day was to be coded to match goals and skills, with every detail described. There were two sets of goals, one for the city and the other for the state, and unfortunately they overlapped but did not match each other or the available textbooks and materials. Worse, they could not match what went on in class, since the poor attendance provided a different set of students each day, none with homework and all needing individual help to catch up. In her Biology class, for instance, state plans for a genetics unit might include a very interesting lab related to Mendel’s work, and that is what her lesson plans would have to show. But the school didn’t have the materials for the lab, and it was very likely that fewer than half a class would show up for a lab anyway. Of those, maybe two or three would have read the text or attended previous classes on genetics or Mendel. So teachers had formal plans and contingency plans, trying to offer whichever students showed up some kind of profitable lesson that would give them some understanding of the subject. That was if they would listen. All too often students who could not read or write well enough to handle the class would disturb and distract, gaining a different kind of esteem by making the class laugh at what were essentially gangster tactics.