Monday, September 28, 2009

Summon(S)ed by a Higher Power?

This year, I have to say that my classes are excellent. Of course, some of my colleagues might say it's not because of what I do, but because the test scores walk in. Nonetheless, even in the classes where the kids aren’t as overtly clever or prepared, they all seem to want to learn. 

I know I will need to remind myself of this post at some point later in the term because I know I will soon be battling the underachieving highly gifted types. I will have to all but ignore their “potential” and instead focus on their "product," which means they will start to resist the work and beg to continue their laurel resting. I might have to get rough, and it will all be tiring. But for now it’s all good. The kids in my classes seem to want to be there and that is always a good thing.  

We are starting the fourth week of school and students are STILL changing their classes and adjusting their schedules because there are five weeks built into the start of every term for them and their counselors to get it right (Um, what does that say about what’s being taught in the first quarter of the term and how far behind will the system allow these children to fall? Not my bailiwick, so I’m not saying anything). 

This continual shifting means I have not YET had a correct roll sheet or grade entry sheet. It means kids can run from me when they see the work load or hear the course expectations. It means I will hear snide comments from administrators who don’t like “tiny” classes of 26-30-- though I have a few with at least 35--when the directives demand 40-45 per room. 

I say if there were no "color in pictures of Hamlet and get an A" classes for the kids to run to, the inequities would stop. Instead an administrator intimated that I must be a terrible teacher if I cannot hold onto kids.This is the same bureaucrat who calls teachers "good teachers" without having observed even a second of these "good teachers" at work. She judges them based on whether they help her meet her 40-45 in a room directives. She certainly has never set foot into my classroom during any class of mine. Institutional logic at work again. 

In addition to the moving and switching from class to class, there have been many classroom interruptions, where student "teacher assistants" bring around these little papers called SUMMONSES where kids are sent to various offices around the campus. The kids are not SUMMONED to these offices; nope, they are SUMMONSED, a non-word that seems to connote something more important than just being called to the office for reasons far more important than learning in a classroom.

Perhaps that is why my Shakespeare class erupted into laughter when a seventh knock at the door was a TA bearing a  SUMMONS for one of my charges that demanded he go to the office in order to receive his locker number. We were reviewing the first scene of HAMLET, discussing the meaning and function of the first words “Who’s there?”; and exploring the various uses and meanings of ghosts; and learning about Renaissance Humanists--but wait, John had to get his locker number, far more pressing business! 

Out he went, far across the campus to the office, and then back he came. The fifteen minutes or more out of class were the least of it. When he returned, I asked whether he had solved his locker problem and he had this to tell us: “Uh, no. . .this was a summons for them to tell me that they were going to summons me later for my locker number because they did not have one available now.”

Fortunately it's early enough in the semester for me to summon up my sense of humor.


  1. With all due respect, I think that perhaps you misunderstand the import (not to say the outright beauty) of the SUMMONS system. Naturally, the powers that be had to SUMMONS this student in order to tell him that he would soon be SUMMONSED. Otherwise, how would have known to expect a SUMMONS?

    It's not as though there is some designated period--some sort of "home-room," if you will--more appropriate to that sort of housekeeping. And it's not as though the student's SUMMONS EXPECTATION SUMMONS interrupted anything particularly important. Shakespeare isn't going to get him a locker.

    Not that the powers that be are all that likely to get him a locker, either, of course. But they'll go through a stack of SUMMONSES trying. Will won't.