Sunday, August 16, 2015

The 300 Days: Part 7 - The Second Meeting and the Steel Blues

Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

"Then I got a taste of the benefits, five foot and change
There's no better way to hash it out
So let's set up your time to fail
Well, cause now the cracks, should we intervene?
I hold this albatross..."
- Chevelle - "Face to the Floor"

It was like a scene straight out of Groundhog Day, except it wasn't funny.  

On two more occasions, Mrs. Chapman informed Will that Miss Marley had again walked into her classroom and gone on some sort of adolescent tirade about the most trivial things.  For the most part, Mrs. Chapman ignored her, or would continue working at her desk as Miss Marley unleashed a plethora of obscenities.  When Miss Marley would finally come up for air, Mrs. Chapman would calmly ask “have you told him any of this yet?”  Once more, Miss Marley would rant about Will “not listening to any advice” and “only doing what he wants to do.”  
While Will wanted nothing to do with this woman due to her exceptional ability to question his professionalism and dedication, he realized that as much as he did not care for her tactics, he still had to maintain a working relationship with her.  He emailed her, requesting that they could meet in order to "get on the same page." It would be the last time they would meet one on one. It was agreed that they would meet in Miss Marley's room the next day, before school began. Once again, as history is the greatest of indicators, no progress was made...

Miss Marley walked into her own classroom late. Will was sitting atop a student desk, pondering over what he would say and how he would say it.
"What's up?" Miss Marley said somewhat cheerfully, clearly oblivious to actions.
"Well, I wanted to get on the same page with you in regards to our expectations. I was talking to Mrs. Chapman, and apparently you were complaining to her about me..."
When Will brought up her exceptional ability of slandering his name to other teachers, she would got extremely defensive.  And why wouldn’t she?  She had been caught being undeniably unprofessional, speaking negatively and even cursing about a fellow teacher with a fellow staff member.  Rather than talk about what they were going to do, instead, Miss Marley wanted to make excuses.
“...just, in the future, if there is an issue, come to me first”  Will calmly requested.
“I try!  But every time I come by your room, you are gone!”
“Ok.  If that is the case, you can email me.”
“This isn’t something to talk about through email, Will.”
“Ok.  So then email me to set up a meeting like I just did.  I just don’t see the reason to involve Mrs. Chapman in all of this.  She has enough on her plate as it is, and it really isn’t her job…”
“Yes, yes, it is her job, Will,” Miss Marley interjected.
Miss Marley continued her complaints and excuses, but Will could not make eye contact with her.  He refused to acknowledge her existence as a human-being. All respect had been lost.  For the remainder of Miss Marley’s sermon, Will peered out into the hallway, counting the seconds until she was finished, offering only a simple “yep” or “okay” between her statements.

As usual, Will and Miss Marley tolerated each-other for only a few weeks until the pot was once again stirred.  This time, Mr. Evans would intervene, orchestrating a meeting as referee between the two.  Again, Will was relieved as he could address the issues surrounding their professional partnership like adults.
The meeting began, and immediately Will could feel his brow furrow as he listened to her complaints once more.  This time, however, he stared right at her.  He didn’t just make eye contact.  He stared into Miss Marley’s soul.  He hoped that he would perhaps incinerate her, breaking the spell of her reign of terror.  However, as Will unblinkingly squared up to this unprofessional cohort, it was quite clear that she did not have the necessary equipment, her body vacant of conscience.  The room maintained its cool 75 degrees.  
Mrs. Handler had once told him how Mr. Evan’s had raved about his piercing blue eyes after he had left his interview.  Now, months later, Will’s steel blues had failed him, unable to set another human aflame.
Miss Marley concluded her diatribe, pertaining to issues relating, but not limited, to:
  • the lack of quality in his lessons
  • how she did not feel welcome in his classroom (despite being 5-10 minutes late every day)
  • the lack of time given to modify her lessons.
That word again:  “modify.” Will had expected someone of her experience and expertise to know the difference between “accommodate” and “modify.”  These two terms are very prominent in the world of Special Education, and often they are mistakenly used synonymously, like in this case.  However, there is a clear distinction between the two:  to accommodate merely means a teacher will change how they teach, whereas to modify means to change what they teach.  Will had read through his students’ IEPs (Individualized Education Plan) many times, and there was no mention of any sort of modifications.  Typically, modifications were reserved only for the most extreme cases, such as a non-verbal student or a student with an exceptionally low reading level.  These were also students who were not subject to the typical standardized testing as other 8th graders.  Seeing as all of Will’s students were to take all of the Ohio Assessments, his logic was pretty solid:  help students master their learning targets, while preparing them for the state assessments (as they would be a means of evaluating his effectiveness as a teacher).

When it was Will’s turn, he was quite blunt in his analysis of the situation:
“To be perfectly honest, I do not feel respected one bit.  I have no trust.  I have heard complaints and tirades on three separate occasions from other staff members, and each time I organized a meeting with you.  Quite frankly, I’m sorry that you feel unwelcome and “unequal” in my class, but perhaps if you greeted the students at the door as I do every day, they would view you as an “equal.”  I don’t think it’s my job to go out of my way to make sure that the students see you as they see me.  You have to be there.
Secondly, I have never heard you give me any positive feedback.  This past week, you had two substitutes in for you.  Before they left my class, both of them thanked me for letting them come in and work with the kids, and said how much they loved the lesson and how I worked with the kids.”
Being in front of the principal, Miss Marley surely knew she could not be her usual brash self, and apologized for her lack of positivity. She once again mentioned “not having enough time,” to which Will interjected, “Ok.  How much time do you need?  I've sent you my plans the weekend prior.  Tell me when I should send them.”
A rough translation.

Miss Marley paused, and simply said “well if you do a lab or something on Monday, get it to me by Thursday night or Friday morning.”
“Thursday night or Friday morning…” Will said aloud as he scribbled in his notebook, not only for his well being, but to repeat for all to hear, to ensure there was no confusion this time what the expectations were.  The meeting was adjourned, as the three exchanged professional pleasantries as they departed.  Will felt like a newly planted tree, thrashing amidst a powerful storm, holding on for dear life, praying that the next gust wouldn’t cause him to become uprooted

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