Saturday, January 17, 2015

I am not very nice

When I was about five and my family had just returned from living in the U.A.E. for a couple years, I had a British accent. This was not pretentious at all, but a direct result of attending a British-run school with a menagerie of other international English-speaking children. I also knew a couple words in Arabic which I promptly forgot in my first year back in Trinidad. I remember my uncles and cousins teasing me about the way I would say things (they also teased me a lot because I cried very easily) and I would argue that I wasn't the one with an accent. My mother had to 'translate' quite a lot of the trini slang because I didn't understand what most people said around me.
Anyway, after a while I couldn't stand the teasing so I started to retaliate. If one called me 'chinee girrrl', I would call them 'indian maaan'. If one said catfish (they used to go fishing) like 'cyatfish', I would say, "You're saying it wrong. There is no 'y' in that word. Check your spelling." This was only the beginning.

I have mentioned this story before:
A couple years ago, I was in the Principal's office (as a teacher, never as a student - I would have died from the stress) and he was trying to back me in a corner to temporarily teach a subject (Physics) that I haven't done higher than O'Levels. He told me that I had to do it or they would have to justify my number of hours to the Ministry of Education. This was mid-September and he already made up his mind despite my saying, "So right now you have to justify my hours? And what about when the replacement arrives? Will you have to write the Ministry then? You aren't making sense."
When he 'asked' me at the end if I would do it, I said, "Well it doesn't sound that I have much of a choice, do I?" As I said, he already made up his mind. So when he asked again, I said, "I can't promise that I will try my best." I was not the only one in that meeting - my Head of Department and Dean were there and their silence made me respect them a little less.
I taught the class for about a month and a half before a replacement arrived and they didn't report my hours.
The next year, I didn't even get the courtesy of being asked. I was assigned Physics. In Parents' Day, I sat by the Chemistry table so when students from that class brought their parents by me, I would get asked if I was a Physics teacher to which I replied that I am a Chemistry teacher who is teaching their sons Physics. They expressed their concerns to the Principal, who told me that I should not say such things to the students or parents. "I'm not a liar," was my response.
Last year, I was not assigned the subject.

My mouth has gotten me in trouble recently with a co-worker. Let's call him Matthew. Matthew is quite possibly, one of the laziest teachers I have met. He doesn't teach without a projector. He doesn't write his own notes. He doesn't plan his own labs (he takes them from books or from the internet and doesn't test them). He doesn't always come to work. He agreed to teach Chemistry at the Form 3 (8th Grade) level, when we really only introduce these topics for the entire year: The States of Matter; Atomic Structure; Elements, Mixtures and Compounds; Separation Techniques; and Chemical Bonding.
I should mention that he was asked to do this outside of the confines of the Principal's office, he could have said no, and he did Chemistry courses at the University level.
On Wednesday, the only free periods I had were the first two in the morning. I typed notes that I wanted all the 8th graders to have. I checked it with two other teachers to ensure that it was written in a student-at-that-level-friendly way. I put them on his desk. I had to sort out a lab I had that day before class. After 4th period, students had questions so I spent recess responding. During 5th and 6th period, 9th graders had a lab, and some of them were total morons (telling me the reaction wasn't working when one of the reagents was still in their hands) so they finished well into lunch. I had to buy lunch from the cafeteria. I walked across the compound ten minutes before the end of lunch to get food so I could not feel to bite anyone's head off in the afternoon classes. I just walked into the staff room, lunch in hand. Matthew asked me for some clarification on the notes.
My reply? "What do you need clarification with?"
His? "The notes."
Me: "What do you need clarification with? I wrote it for the students at that level to understand."
Now I know how it came out and I meant that the boys should not have trouble as long as you stick to what was written. No more information, no less. I am still not sorry.
One teacher heard and Matthew complained to another.  The two teachers reported me. I got in trouble with my HOD who told me that:
1) I should not have to write anything for him. Let him look it up.
2) I should be nicer since we are supposed to be professionals. (Their frequently racist comments could have fooled me).
I actually feel unburdened because:
1) He won't ask me stupid questions again. If you see something and you need an explanation, consult a text first. The person he ended up asking was appalled at how basic she had to explain it to someone who did Chemistry at the University level. Especially since Matthew teaches Biochemistry and he would have to know all this crap anyway. Especially especially because he is supposed to be an educated adult.
2) I don't have to expend the effort of writing class notes for his sake when I have my own work to do.

Will I be nicer? No. I never once uttered the statement, "I am a nice person." I would say that I am honest, impatient and reliable. I am hardworking. I am consistent in getting students to excel in exams. I am being paid to teach students, not teachers. Let the HOD deal with him when he wants help in the next topic. I never wanted to study anything that would take me to a corporate environment because I don't like politics. Plus, if another co-worker can say, in front of the HOD, that since I have no children and I have only been teaching for a few years that I cannot relate to the students properly, or say that she was surprised I was socialising with the staff (I always show up and never see her), and not be told anything because they are friends, then I will be mute instead.

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