Tuesday, September 15, 2015

At War with Mirrors: Doppelganger 2015

"We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are.  I'm no different."

Amidst the chaos of another year, the dust swirling as it meets the freshly hardened floor wax, the new batch of pupils stride in ready to make their mark on another crop of teachers.  They believe they are lords of the manor, so to speak.  Nevermind the fact that the high school is literally connected to the building.  A mere twenty or so paces. Even Stephen Hawking would sneer at the challenge, or lack thereof, in his electronic monotone.

I am left with a blank slate.  I know nothing of their kind, who they are, or where they come from.  All I know is that they are loud, and some of them smell.  Any good teacher cannot fathom a successful year without knowing their students:   how they view themselves, their strengths, their weaknesses, their likes and dislikes.  Like one hundred little research projects due ASAP.  I hate deadlines and the anxiety that compliments it.  But that is also where I thrive the most.  Ask me to write a poem and I'll throw feces at a wall.  Put a knife to my jugular, and I'll write Shakespeare.
I am the Wizard of the Spreadsheet; the Sultan of Google.  I am magic with the technology I bring, Order of Merlin:  First Class.  I prepare inquiries for my youngsters, who anticipate my every move.

"Who is this man, and why is he here?" they wonder both aloud and internally.  "He has the stature of a boy, the face of a adolescent, and the attitude of a teenage girl."  The signals sent are mixed, with both style and smoke.  Looking to their peers, they wonder what to make of this man, who has climbed the professional ladder to be given the responsibility of the education of a century of humans.  They question both his motives and their own choices, and perhaps looking above to a god who refuses to hear their pleas of having a different science teacher.  He sits alone at his stool, his throne.  He is all they have in the ways of science, like Moses leading the Jews from Egypt.  Illuminated with weak halogen lights and a bright Epson projector, he speaks softly yet sternly.

Each move and word calculated.  I must not waver.  Any weakness would be exploited like a crack in the winter pavement.  To be frozen and thawed excessively until it breaks.  I would do no such thing.  This is my savanna.  I am a lion.  I stare at my realm and see nothing but puny men.  There are no pacts between lions and men...

With shivering hearts, my prey neatly sitting at their desks, unaware of the feast I was going to partake in.  Each adolescent visage smothered with tiny shadows, cast from the light that only a Chromebook could provide. While light is often riddled with allegorical parallels, the brightness would indeed fail the students this time around, as they navigated their way through a maze of links, accessing the survey I had provided. Ironically, this light was their pathway to doom.
I must know my enemy. Sun Tzu once wrote "Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster."  Each question I prompted to them in this survey was a tiny battle.  Each response they elaborated on was my victory.

This feast would slake the hunger of hundreds of days, not of the body, but of the mind. A swarm of clicking and confusion circulated the stale air of the room, the vent faintly droning, just enough to drown out the sound of the fearful whispers and the crunching of a dozen brows.  Eyes darting to and fro, they wonder what kind of being would dare inquire such psychologically deep questions, such as "do you have any siblings?" Their bout with existentialism becomes horrifyingly real.
As a final plea to oneself, eyes fixate on the glistening lawn outside only yards away, reflecting the tiny beads of water manufactured from a cool summer night.  From afar, they appear to be tiny stars; and much like the burning celestial bodies, the proximity so unforgiving.

With shivering hearts, they wait as they look up to their apparent leader, a towering 5'7, as they read the final question.  He circles them like a cobra, slithering about its domain, prepared to swallow this substantial knowledge whole.  The tedious pecking at keyboards fills the room, as students begin to give up hope.  I unhinge my jaw in delight as they respond to the survey's grand finale.  They are unsure how to respond, their resolve is shattered.  There is no going back now.  Horrified, they read...

"I think Mr. W looks like..."

"...a baseball player."
"...a college student."
"We love each-other just as much as we love diversity!"
"...a game show host."
"...a high school student."
"I'd love to go to the Max, but I've got a study date later with Kelly..."
"...a male gymnast."
I'm actually okay with this.
"...a person in a band."

"...Adam Sandler."
Not cool.
"...Bill Nye in his early years."

"...he's too buff for his shirts."
God, I hope so...
"...Hiccup from How to Train Your Dragon."
This is...not too terribly far off, actually.

"...I guess Johnny Depp??"
"...Ian Somerlander." aka Ian Somerhalder
So I look like a college vampire.  Got it.
"...Ironman." or "...Robert Downey Jr."
Probably the sarcasm?
"...Jeremy Renner."
Nobody wants to be Hawkeye.  Not even Hawkeye.

"...Rob Lowe's younger brother."
This is acceptable.
This is probably what they were going for.

"...Zac Efron." or "Zach Effron" or "Zach Efron" or "Zack Efron."

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The 300 Days: Part 12 - A Return to The Beach

Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11

"I know who I am. And after all these years, there's a victory in that." 
- Detective Rust Cohle, True Detective
Like the shores of Normandy, Will’s phone exploded with noises and flashes indicating that SOMETHING had indeed occurred: two missed calls, a voicemail, and six text messages.  Will first noticed the text messages, not just the numbers, but the sources:  all references.  Will’s heart would only have the opportunity to rest for a few minutes from his bout with a treadmill, but it again kicked into overdrive.  “This is good,” he thought to himself.  As he read through the text messages, he saw that all of his references had been contacted, and all of them informed Will what they were asked and how they replied.  Finally, Will braced himself as he hit “play,” on the voicemail.

“Hello Will, this is Miss Director of Teaching and Learning from Rural Local Schools.  We wanted to get in touch with you in regards to the position you had interviewed for.  As we mentioned in the interview, we wanted to wrap up the process as quickly as possible, so if you could call me back at my cell-phone at your earliest convenience, that would be great…”
The remainder of the phone-call might as well been gibberish for Will.  He quickly scribbled the numbers down, entered them into his phone, and hit the green “call” icon.  Will could see his shirt visibly pulsing in front of his heart.
“Hey Will!” Miss Director greeted him, “thanks for getting back to me so quick!”
“Not a problem!” he politely replied, trying to hide his excitement.
“Well, as I said in your voicemail, we wanted to go ahead and move forward with the selection process.  We talked to your references, and were very happy with what we heard.  And with that, we would like to offer you our 8th grade science position.”
There was no hesitation in his voice:  “Absolutely.”

With that, Will deviated his day.  Rather than head home, he immediately drove to see his fiance at her summer job.  He walked into the store, his shirt saturated with sweat.  Her face lit up.  “Hey!” she greeted him, “what are you doing? How did it go?”
“I figured I would stop by on my way home...I think it went well.” Will said.
“Good!  When will you know?”
“Pretty soon,” Will said, withholding the emotion for just a moment more.
His fiance continued to talk to him about her day, asking what he was going to do, and asked what they would do for dinner.  It was then that Will struck.
“I think we should go out to eat,” Will said.
“Ok.” Fiance said cheerfully.  She smiled.  Maybe she already knew.  Will smiled back.
“Hey…” Will began quietly, as he didn’t want to cause a scene at her store, “I got the job.”
Her mouth gaped open with her Cookie Monster smile, and her eyes welled up.
Pretty much, yeah.
The old saying goes “when it rains, it pours” and at that moment, it was a damn monsoon.  For months, Will had endured the rantings of an apparent lunatic, as well as the manipulation of a so-called “leader.”  But there seemed to be something supernatural at work.  The flood waters had piled up and were flowing in singularity.  As a matter of physics, it did not seem possible for the rain to not only stop, but to actually reverse course.  Will had endured many peculiar things in his life, but this may have been one of the most strange of any series of events...
Mrs. Handler texted Will a few hours after accepting his new position to congratulate him, and informed him that the state exam scores came in. Science apparently tested at a 7-year high.  Will felt somewhat justified now, as Mr. Evans had let go of ⅓ of the people responsible for this.  “I bet he feels like a jackass,” Will thought to himself.  As fate would have it, Mr. Evans probably did, amongst other emotions.
Will then got another message, this time from another one of his references (the one who’s wife worked with Mr. Evans).  He, too, congratulated Will on his new position, and concluded his message with a little nugget of joy: “rumor has it that your old boss is getting forced out.  If so, KARMA!”
Will texted Mrs. Handler in a fit of joy: “I don’t mean to be the rumor mongering type, but is there any truth to this?”
Her response was simple: “Yes.”
Apparently, Mr. Evans had burned his last bridge and was more or less demoted into some sort of administrative job within the district.  He would no longer serve as principal.  The witch was dead.  His lifeless little legs outstretched from under a gigantic house.
Call it karma.  Call it fate.  Call it divine intervention.  Will hadn’t seen this type of reversal of fortune since 3rd grade when he read a Curious George book.  He had been to hell and back.  All the drama, the stress, the work, and to not only have things not only work out, they appeared to work out better for everyone.  Will was employed.  His former colleagues now rid of Mr. Evan’s reign of terror. Perhaps Will had been a martyr in all of this. He didn't care to know.
For 300 days, Will had endured more than anyone ever should have endured.  He weathered the perfect storm of personalities that seemed to have led to his dismissal.  And while his psyche and his physical state were made leaner than before, he did not falter….


The hot sun, the warm Gulf breeze, the drink in his hand; life wasn’t too bad, even if the rum was a little warm.  Mexico will do that to you.  Somewhere bordering the two oceans, one of beachgoers and one of the saltwater variety, Will sat and contemplated the ongoing saga that was once his professional life.  To say that Will had been persistent was an understatement.  For 300 days, Will experienced stress he had never undergone before. A mere two weeks after the school year, a glimmer of hope appeared in the form of a small, rural district some 35 minutes away.  While Will’s confidence had been shot for a moment, his desire to rid himself of the ice cold grip of the tyrant outweighed it.  He had escaped, and landed into a better spot than he probably deserved.  It was this stern desire that guided him all along.
He leaned his head back on his beach chair, fixated next to his wife’s, and sighed a sigh of relief. Beads of sweat streamed down Will’s sunscreen slathered body and plopped into the hot sand, evaporating instantly, like all of Will’s 300 days of apprehension, scorched away in only an instant in the hot summer sun...
The End.

For those that endured...thank you dearly for reading.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The 300 Days: Part 11 - Pure Michigan and The Voicemail

Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10
"And I feel them drown my name
So easy to know and forget with this kiss
I'm not afraid to go, but it goes so slow..."
- Jeff Buckley, Grace
As the warm sunlight penetrated through the blinds of Will’s former classroom, he counted the hours until he could take his boxes containing his possessions, throw them in his car, and start life anew.  Before departing for the summer, however, he needed to collect the necessary signatures on the required "check out" form to ensure that Will had fulfilled his final duties.  Once last time, a conversation with Mr. Evans was needed, who seemed almost timid when he was asked for his initials.  “Thank you,” Will said politely as he departed from the office, the door clicking shut behind him becoming a symbol of absolute closure.  Mr. Evans never said “goodbye” or even a “good luck.”
Will never would wish any ill will on anyone, but the largest issue that rattled his soul the most in this whole debacle was that Mr. Evans would never learn or understand of the lives he destroyed over the years, cold and calculated like so many before.  Will was not the only one saying goodbye.  There were about 3-4 other teachers, some of them finishing just their first year, who would now begin their summers like the summer before:  looking for employment in an already saturated teaching market.  These teachers were let go after just one year of employment, and without the knowledge or input of their first-year-teacher mentor who, needless to say, was not happy at that fact.
The only way that Mr. Evans could ever be relieved of his duties would be if he were to commit some sort of illegal act, or if the building assessment scores would drop so low, he would likely be let go.  However, in order for the latter to occur, many former colleagues would suffer through it, and heads would surely roll.  Even worse, then, would that the kids would suffer as well.  Ultimately, there was nothing Will could do.
Summer 2k14 began, and Will awoke daily knowing that in less than three months, he would no longer get a steady paycheck.  Still, he felt lighter, as the stress from his entire ordeal was no longer bearing down.  Indeed, the stress had taken a physical toll on Will.  While shorter in stature, Will always had a compact, muscular/athletic frame.  His weight typically operated between 165-175 pounds, depending on the season.  Will stepped on the scale one June morning, and it read “154.”  The last time Will saw that number on the scale was prior to 8th grade.  In the span of less than a year, he had gone from teaching 8th graders, to acquiring the mass of one.  Indeed, Will had left, but not entirely.  The memories, both good and bad, would stay with him for weeks, then months, eventually leading to forever.

Ask anyone what their greatest fears are, and you will surely get a plethora of responses, ranging from spiders, to snakes, to heights, to death.  But one underlying fear likely can captivate us all, and that is the fear of the unknown.  A child that fears the dark doesn’t fear the lack of light, he or she hates what it represents.  Unable to identify the scene before them, they are left with nothing but conjectures, their own worst fears, inside their mind.  Will’s entire future was an unknown, a sea of pitch black.  His mind was his greatest enemy.
As he and his fiance drove up to Northern Michigan, Will felt at least some comfort knowing he would find serenity, even in the smallest of doses.  For over two decades, Will had gone to the upper portions of Michigan for family vacation.  It always seemed to grant him the smallest amounts of tranquility.  
As Will’s aunts and uncles sat down for dinner and caught up on eachother’s lives, Will’s was a main topic of conversation.  When asked how his job was, he did not mince words:  “terrible,” he would say as he gave the Cliff Note version.  Needless to say, many were concerned.  They saw how will was psychologically beaten down.  Some even asked if he was healthy, as they noted his less-than-typically-plump state.  It wasn’t panic mode time, at least not yet.  Will buried his anxiety deep. Hoping that it would not need to surface.  He didn’t want to imagine laying on a beach in Mexico, his wife at his side, afraid for his future.

After a quick visit with his adorable niece and nephew, Will returned to his cabin to grab some lunch.  Typically, Will left his phone in his cabin all day, as he truly wanted to detach from the world.  He checked it for a moment, and saw that there was a missed call not two minutes earlier.  Before he could cross check the number, his phone buzzed as the “Voicemail” icon flickered.  He pressed the “play” button with his thumb and put the receiver up to his ear…
An 8th grade position became available a week or so prior, and the principal was contacting Will to see if he would like to interview.  The district was quite small, on the rural periphery of Columbus.  
Will felt he could judge people and their character rather quickly.  As he dialed the number listed in the message, he considered what this could all amount to.  The principal answered.
“Hey,” the principal said, “we were wondering whether you’d like to come in to interview for our science position.”
“I would love to!” Will replied excitedly.  “I’m actually on vacation right now up in Michigan, so if we could set up sometime early next week that would be great.  But if you’re looking to get these interviews setup as soon as possible, I would happily cut it short up here and head back a little early.”
“Oh no no no!”  the principal chuckled as he responded, “we won’t ask you to do that.  You’re with family; life happens.  We’ll get it done.  Let me check with our Director of Teaching and Learning and see her schedule next week and I’ll get back to you.”
A few days later, Will was driving home Friday afternoon, and his phone rang once more from the principal.  They agreed on a mutual time Tuesday morning, just days after Will was to attend an out-of-town wedding, and hours after moving both he and his fiance to a new apartment.  His preparation time was minimal;  Will skimmed through his “interview notes,” printed off a few portfolios, and picked out his handsome blue shirt to wear.

The tone of the interview seemed to have been set back from the phone-call Will had the week prior.  The principal seemed professional, yet kind.  The phrase “we will get it done” seemed to stick to Will.  It served as a means to, more or less, take a deep breath and relax.  This district seemed to be willing to wait to see what they had in Will.  Whereas most districts would simply say “here are the times, take it or leave it,” they were willing to extend their process for the sake of one man.
As Will dialogued back and forth with the principal and Director of Teaching and Learning, he felt comfortable.  He noticed that the format was fluid; the conversation seemed to roll as it needed to, and nothing was forced.  Will was positive, but not overly enthusiastic, as perhaps this would be a sign of a lack of legitimacy.  He felt like he was a professional again.  Will shook the hands of both, thanked them for their time, and their willingness to “wait” for him, and saw himself out.
Once again, as custom, Will pulled into his gym parking lot, turned off his phone, turned on his music, and detached from the world for 60 minutes.  When he was finished, Will’s sweaty hand reached into his bag and turned on his phone.  The Apple icon illuminated the screen as he walked toward his car.  A final moment of serenity before returning to the world…

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The 300 Days: Part 10 - Spring Break 2k14 and The Hope

Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9

Pictured:  Will, somewhere in the back, drowning
Spring Break 2K14 started with a bang, as will made the quick drive from school to central office.  There, waiting for him in a back room, was the district superintendent, the director of human resources, and the union president, there in support of Will.  Considering the seriousness of the meeting, Will was still slightly disappointed that nobody wore a black cloak or mask.  
The meeting was short and professional.  Will knew better than to sugarcoat this.  When the superintendent finished his spiel about “the right fit,” Will calmly slid his letter of resignation across the table, shook both men’s hands, and found his way out of the room.  While it was incredibly difficult, there was still a huge weight off his shoulders.  There were no more mysteries of the future:  Will knew he was no longer welcome there, and he was not returning.
While most will do some light traveling, perhaps to a warm beach, for their spring break, Will stayed put.  Hunched over his laptop, he meticulously updated resumes, applications, and everything in-between.  The following Friday, exactly one week after he resigned, he saw his position officially posted.  It stung a bit.
A haze surrounded Will the first day from break.  He could not focus;  his anxiety gripping him.  But soon enough, there was a spark, that would softly illuminate his surroundings…

Will turned on his phone after school that Monday to find that he had a voicemail.  He put his ear up to the receiver and heard the sweetest voice (next to his fiance’s of course) he had ever heard: “Hello Will, this is Miss Secretary from [Prominent District Schools] and are calling you in regards to the science position…”
Call it fate, call it Divine Intervention, but Will felt like this was it.  
This was why he suffered this entire year.  He quickly called back and excitably set up a time for an initial interview.  One week later, he sat down with the principal and articulated his responses to the usual teaching inquiries.  Before departing, he was informed that he was one of 15 that were selected “out of over 300 paper-applications” for this 1st phase.  Phase two would then be the four finalists.  Will knew he didn’t have to be THE best, just top four, so he liked his chances.  At the end of the week, he had his answer:
“Hello Will, this is Miss Secretary again calling for [Prominent District Schools] and wanted to set up our final round of interviews…”  Will grinned and pumped his fist into the air, knowing that he was one step closer to getting that dream job.  Will was nervous, but almost cautiously optimistic.  It just made sense:  resign on Friday before spring break, get called Monday back from spring break.
The next few days took forever.  Whenever Will had a free moment, he read hundreds and hundreds of sample teacher interview questions.  He practiced his responses in the car, articulating to the cars up and down the highway, and making sure to avoid any taxi cabs.  Will felt his morale slowly get better.  He wanted this job badly, and his cohorts began to rally around him too.  He got words of support from all kinds of teachers from all parts of the building: “Good luck, Will!  You deserve this.  You really do.  You got screwed…”  Some even gave him some reading material to “study up” on Common Core methods.  It felt nice to be cared for.

The room was warm, likely due to the poor circulation and the number of bodies that were currently occupying it.  The sun beamed in through the blinds, causing Will to gently squint. He was cautious to ensure his brow was not furrowed or wrinkled, as Jaden Smith is a terrible human.
What is this?
What are you?
Please stop.

He could feel the sweat streaming down his back as he answered question after question that were flying at him at machine-gun pace.  He was on the hot seat, sitting next to three science teachers, the principal, and an 8th grade team representative.  He felt he could barely breathe.  His mouth was dry, as he felt he had been talking for 45 minutes straight.  Still, he felt pretty good about his responses.  As he was escorted out of the room, the principal informed him that they would be in contact “within the week” to decide the finalist who would then meet the superintendent as a means of formality.  Will was reassured by the principal that he "had never had a candidate turned down after the committee made their selection." The issue was, the district had just elected a new superintendent not two days prior, so it would "take a little time.”

One week; no word.  Making sure he was pro-active, Will emailed the principal at the end of week to inquire as to whether a decision had been made.  A quick reply was made, informing him "a decision has not been made” and that they were still in a “holding process.”  He was assured that they would be in contact by the next Thursday.
Next Thursday; still no word.  Again, Will emailed and received the same response: “sorry, we are still in a holding process.  We hope to know by next week.”
“Hope to know?”  Will was a bit confused, amongst other things.  Even if the district was waiting on the new superintendent, why wouldn’t they inform the candidates of their choice and simply say “congratulations!  Be patient, and the new superintendent will be contacting you in the next few weeks to hopefully finalize your candidacy.”  As each day passed, Will’s confidence again shrunk.  References were not called.  There remained only a tiny bubble of hope…
The bubble then burst on a Friday afternoon commute.  His phone vibrated in his pocket. Pulling it out, he recognized the number from his two voicemails and flexed his abdominal to prepare for the gut-punch: “you were a great candidate, very strong...but you are not our finalist.  Thank you for your time.”  Will saw the writing on the wall, but it did not stop it from hurting.  He pondered how close he was to securing that elusive job.  As it would turn out, he was not even close.  Not even the same zip code.
Will would learn (from a rather beautiful, well-connected inside source) that the reason for the stretched time-frame was because of hiring of a new superintendent.  However, it was because of the actions of this new superintendent for the delay:  upon his arrival, he had insisted that he bring in his own candidates for consideration.  Ironically, the candidate who was chosen came from the same district from where the superintendent originated.  What a small world!

After enduring these interviews, after all of the preparation, after all the stress, everything amounted to the same quantity that Will began this ordeal with:  absolutely nothing.  With all these trials and tribulations, Will found a few bright spots back at his lame-duck school district.  He would find that many of his cohorts were rooting for him, almost living vicariously through him.  “At least you can get the hell out of here,” one math teacher muttered to him.  There seemed to be a common theme involving the sentiment toward Mr. Evans, as well.  But it was not just contained to the district:
  • one of Will’s closest “advisers” confided in him that her son, who also used to be a teacher, had also gone through a situation similar to this, where he was “let go” without any sort of indication as to why.  As a matter of fact, her son went through the exact same situation....in the exact same building...with the exact...same...principal.
  • one of Will’s references, who was an administrator at the time, wanted to confirm that his principal was indeed Mr. Evans, because he thought that his wife may have worked with him at one point.  He was correct.  According to his wife, Mr. Evans was “a terrible administrator,” “a weasel,” and “a prick.”  Yup, that’s him.  Oh, Captain my Captain.
Will had the perspectives of an army of professionals, from former teachers to current teachers, and one wonders:  what was the common denominator here?

Will’s support didn’t seem to be whispered either.   During a Building Leadership Team meeting, one of the head intervention specialist loudly claimed to the committee (Mr. Evans included), “we all know the only reason why Will isn’t coming back is because of Miss Marley.”  Rumor has it Mr. Evans said not a word.
Another incident, this time during a department meeting, occurred at the hands of Mrs. Handler.  As the team was discussing the next year’s plans for science, she asked/pronounced “I just don’t see why we can’t keep Will…”  Mr. Evans scoffed.  The topic and it's surrounding tension would eventually come to a head, as the two remaining science teachers were discussing who Miss Marley would “assist” for Supported Science the following year.  Knowing that they could not throw Will’s successor to the wolves so quickly, Miss Marley was to support the two veterans.  When presented with this fact, neither were happy, as neither of them wanted Miss Marley in their room.  
“I don’t want her in my room, because I’m concerned she’s going to tattle on me like she did with Will,”  Mrs. Handler proclaimed. Again, Mr. Evans scoffed and said it was “more than that.”  Eventually, conversation got so heated, that both teachers were asked to leave his office. "This meeting is over," Mr. Evans said, sweeping another issue under the rug, yet again.

After Will had met with Mr. Evans to conclude his third observation, they barely spoke or interacted.  But this was the kind of “man” he was.  He tended to stay away when the heat turned up.  His methods for dealing with uncomfortable issues largely seemed to be that of a young deer after hearing a loud noise in the wilderness, be it student discipline or a staff issue.  However, this did not prevent Mr. Evans from discussing issues.  
After Will had tendered his resignation, he had commented to Mrs. Handler that Will “seemed almost relieved and happy” and that was “weird” to him.  In this occasion, Mr. Evans was 100% correct:  Will was relieved.  He was relieved that the charades were over, and he was going to get the hell out of there.  “I may have to have a talk with him,” he sternly said.  About what, no one could know.  Apparently Will was not allowed to show the slightest bit of happiness at even the smallest nugget of joy.  Needless to say, Mr. Evans never approached Will, as that is not something a coward would do.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The 300 Days: Part 9 - The Guillotine and The Holding Cell

Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8
- Daniel Plainview, There Will Be Blood
For a few moments, Mr. Evans explained the scenario to Will, and the process of hiring teachers, both evaluating and maintaining them.  But rather than offer concrete answers to Will, or even words of assurance, Mr. Evans gave rather opaque responses.
"Sometimes it isn’t a good fit.  For example, we had a teacher who came from high school that was used to older students.  If I recall, you came from elementary…”  The clincher was how Mr. Evans explained how evaluations were conducted, as he continued: “these things aren’t even really my call.  I turn in the paperwork to central office, and the assistant superintendent basically decides who stays and who goes.”
For months, Will had been duped.  He had been deceived by a sheep in wolf’s clothing wearing sheep's clothing.  Mr. Evans had maintained a front of being supportive and kind; behind the scenes he was manipulative, spiteful, and cold-hearted, likely from the fact that he had his own professional insecurities.  If only there was a single term to summarize the character of Mr. Evans…
Will went ahead and scheduled his third observation, knowing very well it was a fruitless endeavor.  He had no intention of going quietly, and knew that no matter what happened, he was going to lay everything out on the table.  Like the old sports addage goes, Will played “for pride”;  pride for himself, but also for his fellow teachers, who knew of his plight, and his students.  His fate was already sealed, but the court of public opinion could weigh in, and heavily at that.
Everything Will had fought for, the relationships that he had built, the clashes with Miss Marley, everything was burning up before his eyes.  He had been trying to solve a puzzle with half of the pieces.  Once his services were no longer required, he saw things for what they were:  Mr. Evans’ feedback was nothing more than a wild goose chase.  As Will retraced his steps and interactions with Mr. Evans, he realized that no matter what he did, no matter how much he improved and what he improved, it was never going to be enough.  Mr. Evans had made his decision on Will’s fate back in October, with Miss Marley credited with the assist.

Will’s third “lame duck” observation came and went, hours upon hours sacrificed once again.  The post-conference was scheduled two days after the formal observation, and Will’s plan was to straight up ask Mr. Evans “what is my status in this district?  I want to be here and continue my career, but if that is not the case, I need to know as soon as possible so that I can update my resume and applications.”  However, the meeting was delayed until the following Wednesday, after school…

The final bell rang on Wednesday, and Will was monitoring his leftover “bussers” in his 8th period class when Mr. Evans walked into his doorway and asked if he could speak with him.  Will assumed this was student related, as there were many issues that year. However, once Will entered the hallway, Mr. Evans began:
“Hey, I know we are supposed to meet here in a little bit, but I wanted to let you know that the assistant superintendent is going to sit in our conference.”
That feeling again.  Like being dropped.  Still, Will gave an excitable “sure, no problem.”
As the last student left, Will gathered his artifacts for the conference, and sauntered down the hallway, like a felon on death-row.  When he walked into the conference room, the assistant superintendent introduced himself, shook Will’s hand, and gave him a letter asking him to attend a “meeting” that Friday that would discuss his future with the district. "What future?" Will thought to himself.  With that, he promptly left.
“I didn’t know he was stopping in,” Mr. Evan’s said, breaking the brief silence.
“It’s whatever,” Will replied indifferently.
“Did you still want to go through the post-observation?” Mr. Evans asked.
“Sure,” said Will.  Mr. Evans had pretty much wasted his time for all of this, so the least Will could do was waste some more of his.
After going through the motions of the observation, Will asked whether the letter was an indication that he was going to be non-renewed.
“Typically, yeah,” Mr. Evans replied.  He then reminded Will once again that he wasn’t responsibly for any cuts in staff, “the superintendent and HR director do that," as if to reassure Will "yes, I am a coward. I was the only person to observe you this year, and I filled out all the paperwork that allowed for a decision to be made. I don't pull the trigger on these types of things. I simply buy the gun and ammunition, load it, and aim it between your eyes."

On his lowly drive home, Will called three people.  First, he called his district’s union president, who informed Will that this is a sign that he is going to be non-renewed by the district, and that he could either accept it, or he could tender his resignation.
The second person he called was a representative from the Central Ohio Teacher’s Association, who informed him “you could be an amazing teacher and the greatest thing since sliced bread.  But since you are in your first year there, all they need to do is fill out the correct paperwork.  They don’t need any rationale to let you go.”
Finally, Will called his fiance and broke the news.  They had both suspected it, but it was a tough pill to swallow.  She cried over the phone as they both pondered what they were going to do.  It’s hard to plan for a future together when 50% of the relationship’s members have zero clue what they're is going to be doing the following year. It was quite possible she would be exchanging vows with the unemployed.
Will’s mind was a broken record, replaying all of the steps and interactions he had had that year.  What he could have done better, how we could have made things right.  As he did this, he pondered to himself:  “is this a sign that I shouldn’t be in teaching?”
Lord knows he spent hours and hours searching, applying, and interviewing to land this one job, that one district he thought he could remain for the duration of his entire career.  But after this entire ordeal, after all the drama coming from all corners, after enduring the back-stabbing from Miss Marley, after being turned in by a weasel, maybe this was the world’s way of telling Will to change his shoes, and walk a different path.

The shadowed figure, confined to his cell, slowly pushed the earth away from his body with his palms.  Sweat ran down his naked back, that not weeks earlier, was ailing from a bulging disk.  He looked up to an old television, broadcasting the mayhem swarming Gotham City.  The corpses of three bodies dangled by their necks from a bridge.  Horrified and furious, the man launches a rock toward the broadcasting device, shattering the screen, interrupting the image that would personify the terrorism that was surrounding Gotham.
The need to act pulsated through his veins, as he hammered out stomach crunches inside his cell.  His body must be built up.  He was not going to die here.
“Fear is why you fell,” his elderly cellmate declares.
For a moment, the motion stops.

“I’m not afraid,” Bruce Wayne replies sternly, “I’m angry...”