With the next State Quality Review a week away and Patriot High School’s very existence on the chopping block, everyone seems to be feeling the pressure – except the kids.
Last year we were told that if we just brought our graduation rate up to 60% that we would be out of the woods and our jobs would be safe. So we did. They want 60%, then 60% is what they’ll get. But they weren’t buying it. Who knows, maybe deep down they actually knew that holding teachers accountable for the efforts and work of students doesn’t actually make sense and therefor shouldn’t have actually worked, and so therefor something must be rotten in Patriot. But instead of reevaluating their logic, they opted instead to press even harder. So now they’re back at our throats, and word on the street is that they are determined to close us down no matter what “results” we manage conjure up. And that really, all this Quality Review stuff they’re doing is just a formality along the path toward the inevitable shut down of Patriot – the last large school left in the New York
But like any dying cornered animal, the Principal is fighting back viciously. She’s got the Small Learning Communities that she was forced to create last year going into overdrive, meeting every day to discuss what the people from the State will be looking for when they rape and pillage their way through the building. It’s a daily avalanche of color-coded binders, individualized instruction plans, long and short term goals, plan b’s and c’s for success, background literacy achievement checks, differentiated planning for divergent learning styles, astrological signs, and social security numbers for every one of the 150 students that the average teacher sees in a day. It’s enough to make you want to stand up in the middle of it all, crack open a cold one, pull the emergency slide out the side of the aircraft, hold up a stiff middle finger and jump. And this week alone, two new teachers did just that and announced their resignations effective at semester’s end.
But despite all this hand-wringing, mental anguish, and legitimate fear for our very livelihoods, it’s been business as usual for the very people who should be working the most – the students. You know, the ones that are supposed to take the notes, do the homework, learn the material and do the graduating. But even with the executioner’s sword held high overhead, they still respond to my homework collection with nothing more than a shrug and a grunt. They still swarm the halls in foul-mouthed bands, and are still more interested in gang-signs than cosines. But no, clearly not enough pressure has been put on us – the teachers. We are the problem.
So I was walking the halls and contemplating all the ways that I alone was responsible for the anti-social and violent behaviors of my students the other day when, as if on cue, a series of frantic and incoherent calls started interrupting each other on the radio. Something bad was going down on the front steps. That much I could tell. When the frequencies finally settled, I learned that a gray car with tinted windows had pulled up in front of the school and several young men carrying baseball bats had jumped out and proceeded to beat another young man to a pulp who had been hanging out in front of the building, instead of hanging out in front of his teacher. The perps were eventually apprehended, cuffed, stuffed into squad cars, and tossed in the clink. Two of them turned out to be the “Stop Snitchin'” twins from the other day! Small world.
The Dean of Special Ed was in the office at the end of the day joking about it. “‘Ey, you know that bat situation was our buddy Gujarat Deodat and his clown sidekick Ramnarine Hemodine, right? ‘You can coowall me Batman!'” He yelled with a grin at the various other deans doing various other things in the office. “‘You can coowall me Batman!'” He yelled again. “Right? Batman? Ey, and ya know I had the ORIGINAL Batman a few years ago, right? Remembah? I hadda kid come in with one uh those Columbine black trench coats on. A white kid. An’ he slid a Louisville Sluggah all the way down his pants leg and walked right through security like dis.” He demonstrated by walking across the office with a stiff and straightened left leg. “I sarr him in tha hall, and he pulled tha whole bat out like this.” He had his right arm extended straight up above his head. “And then he just whacked this guy right in tha middl’a tha back. He hadda good clean shot toe! This was befoah scanning. Years befoah. Wooden bat anyway though. I hadda kid bring in a flap jack one time too. You know, one uh those lead boowalls wrapped in leatha. An’ he hit a fella right in the back uh tha neck wit it.”
“Damn. A black jack?” I asked. I hadn’t heard of one of those since I was little kid watching old black and white gangster movies with my dad. And I’d definitely never seen one in real life.
“No. A flap jack.”
“Oh, I know it by a different name,” I said. “Where I’m from, flap jacks are pancakes. But whatever.”
“Flap Jack, Smack Jack!” barked Vicki. “All’s I know is yous don’t wanna get hit wit one.”
“A rose by any other name, I guess,” I mumbled.
“But I’ve gotcha beat fellas,” said Vicki. “I’m sawrry, but Louisville Sluggahs and breakfast pancakes? Puhlease! Hows about a hatchet? Remembah tha girl? Tha little Indian girl who hid a freakin’ hatchet out on tha exercise field and then snuck it in during gym? She turns around in tha middle uh class and throws this hatchet at some ex-boyfriend of huhs. It takes a chunk outta that wall behind his face. They arrested huh for attempted murdah I think. Little Indian girl. All dressed up in robes and saris and the whole nine. A lotta crazy stuff happened in this buildin’ ovah tha yeahs, but that one I’ll nevah forget.”