Hester Prynne Becomes a Teacher

In truth, comrades, I have not written much. After the passing of my Grandmother in Switzerland, most of what I write pales in comparison. That piece was directly from the heart – the pained heart of a grandchild robbed from one last visit with his doting Oma – and that is a tough act to follow. Not that I am giving up on writing, for indeed, something has to keep me sane that isn’t nicotine or alcohol.

School started approximately six weeks ago. Tomorrow Today marks the beginning of the sixth week, a full two-thirds into this nine-week term. Difficult to believe, yet time has flown by at such a pace that I have had little recourse or time to catch my breath and pen anything worth publishing. Not that this, comrades, is worth publishing, but it certainly is something.

Now then; meat and potatoes, yes?

Last week, after working with my charges for the better of four weeks (going on our fifth (not alcohol)), the staff were finally given their yearly reviews from the lovely bureaucrats of the State of New Mexico. Locked in their subterranean caverns in the foothills of Santa Fe, the troglodytes of the Department of Education, goaded by their sorcerous overlords, spat out hundreds – thousands! – of mystical evaluations for every public education teacher in the state. Bade on by balrogs with no background in education, the Ministry of Truth Department of Education then issued said evaluations to teachers across the state early last week. Imagine, comrades, being called into your boss’ office after hours and being asked to sit down when you’re presented with a rather startling fact:

Minimally Effective.

Yes, comrades, I have been labeled a Minimally Effective teacher according to the New Mexico Department of Education. Oof, what a punch in the beer gut, eh?

As my elected Soviet blathered on about how the numbers and math and magic determined my overall score, I couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of it all: the day before receiving my evaluation, I had turned down a stellar job offer outside academia. Hindsight, perhaps, I should have taken it, since I clearly suck at this job.

Alas, tire shoppe…

Comrade Boss vaguely explained how the numbers were calculated and as to why my score was so low. As I am not a mathematician or magician, Lord knows what demonic pacts and rituals were invoked to produce these numbers across the state. No doubt Skynet was involved for the maths are simply too complicated for the average individual to complete without Divine Providence. That’s what I get for being a moonlighting Protestant-Catholic, I suppose; no divine protection when you’re a godless heretic.

I returned home slightly disillusioned with my chosen profession: minimally effective. Fuckin’ a, was it so? Did my little bastards not learn a single thing last year? Was I wasting their time as an English teacher when I should be slinging tires at the local shop? Had I done them a disservice for a year because I was minimally effective, and therefore, in the eyes of the state, a drain on resources and a blight on staffing? A moral quandary, certainly, and one I endeavored to define whilst moderately sober.

Yet, comrades, after some thought about the situation, again I turned to laughter.

Fuck those fucks in Santa Fe, I thought. Data mongers who haven’t even taught in a classroom are dictating standards for the troops in the trenches when the only thing they know about education they gleaned from a textbook or lecture.

Fuck them.

The next day in class, before my lecture on metaphors and song analysis began, I showed my charges my score. Placed it right on the projector for all of them to see, whilst I explained the situation. “This is my score according to the State,” I said, “and I am minimally effective. You deserve to know.” After all, I reasoned, I know all of their grades; they deserve to know mine. Tis only fair. Most classes were gravely silent as I explained the fantastical chart, but one boy – a decent troublemaker – voiced his opinions on the subject.

“Sir,” he said, “does this mean you aren’t a good teacher?”

“Basically,” I said.

He paused. “That’s bullshit.”

Normally I kick kids out for profanity, but it is tough to do when your classroom erupts into cheers and applause for the naysayer. I let him slide.

There, in the midst of my students – my learning students – I took comfort, for the label was exactly thus: a meaningless label. The state may think me minimally effective, and that is their prerogative, but my charges think otherwise. After all, I care far more about what they think than some Santa Fe bureaucrat. If my charges are learning something other than how to take a standardized test, I consider that a victory. Let them learn, even if I have to suffer the consequences.

So be it: I am minimally effective. And like Prynne’s scarlet “A,” I too shall bear this alleged mark of shame with honor and pride.

I am minimally effective. And fuckin’ a, I haven’t been prouder.

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Author: Bruno

A blog for mad people by a madman.

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