Monday, December 10, 2012

Absence and the heart

I work in a school. I hope that doesn't shake anyone up too much. First off, I have never made this a secret. It isn't like I have walked around with a T-shirt which reads "Ask me about my 11th grade class" but I haven't invented a profession because I am trying to cover anything up (choreo-animators, I'm looking at you). Secondly, I don't think that anything in my character is incongruous with my working in a school. For example, I use words like incongruous. Now solve for X.

In my school we have a policy regarding teachers -- if a teacher is absent, especially short term and on short notice, we don't give the students a sub. Subs are hard to manage and the students do need some down time as our school day is approximately 23 hours long, give or take a day. So how do students know who is absent? We have a board/TV screen which shows the list each day. Students make it a habit to check the board daily and see if the gamble not to do last night's homework paid off or not. What I don't think they understand, though, is how to temper their emotions.

I was walking past a knot of students staring at the board this morning and when they reached the name of a teacher out for the day, they started jumping for joy. Absolute joy. They ran through the halls shouting the news to the farthest reaches of the building. It was like a banner waving scene from Les Mis (before you insult me, I saw it on a TV commercial years ago while watching something uncultured and unwholesome). Does one person's absence mean so much? Does his mere presence in the school so destroy a student's day that that student has to cheer like he has been given a reprieve from the death sentence when the teacher's name is posted? When I am absent, are there parties, and guest speakers, and champagne flowing? I never really thought of myself as such a drag on student emotions. Maybe I should call in sick occasionally even when I'm healthy so that the students have a break from my oppressive regime once in a while.

On one hand, it is nice to know that my presence or absence would be so closely followed. This makes me feel important. I never realized the impact I have on the tenor of the entire school community. But on the other hand, I have to say, it hurts. The thought that I bring such sadness to young lives that the possibility that I am not around is cause for celebration is disheartening. What if, god forbid, a teacher on the board is absent because he was struck by lightning? How should a student react? "He's not here!! Woo-hoo! Yeah! Huh? What? Lightning you say? Oh. That is really sad. Is he dead? Oh. Will he be in tomorrow? WOOOO HOOOO!!!"

When students see me, do their hearts sink? Do they wake up hoping that my car breaks down, or that overnight I got bitten by a rabid squirrel? Do I really want to live a life where, when I walk in the room, there is a sigh of disappointment? Why don't they throw a party when I show up? Where's my parade? I am NEVER LEAVING. That'll show 'em.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to comment and understand that no matter what you type, I still think you are a robot.