Interactions with Narcissists: An Observation of Educators at _______ High School

Lately, I have been a quiet observer at work. I have stopped talking and started paying attention. Listening intently, taking it all in, and not judging. Just marinating in the interactions of others, for I myself have refused to talk for the sake of talking. If I could pull off the whole Maya Angelou silent for years after a life altering experience thing (by no means am I making lite of her plight), I totally would; I would not allow a word to come from my mouth. And like Maya had Bailey, I would make just a single confidant privy to my thoughts via minimal verbiage.

So, you may be thinking, why go silent? Why not be cordial and speak when spoken to? The answer is simple my friends – because I am surrounded by an archetype of characters that I label as “crazies”. The crazies don’t listen, they hear only what they say or think, and ignore you. Completely self-absorbed, utterly uncaring, and fixated on their own problems, they ask “how are you!?”, with the intention of receiving little more than surface level answers.

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This is a person on the verge of a mental breakdown. Notice the hands on the temples, which indicate the brain will shortly self-destruct.

They lack empathy, and this contributes to theirdistorted world view and closed minded perspective. I have been honest, at times, to a fault. Being careful not to divulge too much for fear of judgement. Any answer other than “I’m fine” is too much for their brains to compute.

I understand formalities and propriety; they are the crux of the American brief encounter exchange. I just don’t see the point in asking a person “how are you doing today?”, only to get an answer that is not superficial and shallow. Talking for the sake of talking is filling a space that needs to be left unbothered by that frequency of soundwave. Nobody is okay all the time. There have to be uncomfortable moments; those times are the impetus for change and growth. I am not done growing, and I think we all need to change a little from time to time, so why in the hell would I always respond with the dry and completely false answer “I am fine. How bout you?”

Have you ever asked Siri something and she doesn’t really get what you mean? She goes to the web for an answer that has nothing to do with what you asked, or she says “I’m sorry. I didn’t get that”. All the while her voice is pleasant, there are minimal inflections and her cadence is robotic. I am not shaming Apple, I am just saying she is a robot, and she can give robotic responses. The algorithms and programing that went into her existence undoubtedly took time. She was made to fill a void in the lives of people that need some assistance. She can even carry on a conversation and give you responses that have connotations of sarcasm. The people I spend a minimum of 40 hours a week with are a little like her, they are not hearing what another is really saying, so they give an answer that has no meaning. The repetition of exchanging words is done thoughtlessly, and often, the exchange may be better off not existing at all.

My favorite sort of interactions are the ones in which I talk and get a nonsensical response. Sometimes that response comes in the form of unrequited advice, the likes of which prove to me that they do not really know who I am. I would love an “I’m sorry. I didn’t get that” answer from them when they are unsure of what to say. Instead, they come off as phonies that have no intention of really developing anything beyond a weird encounter that we both have to live with – or at least that I have to live with because of how deeply unaffected they are by anything I have to say.

Here’s a secret, if you are in a conversation and you find you have nothing to say because you weren’t listening, or you cannot relate, then express that. What is the harm in saying, “I can’t identify”. Drop the façade and be who you are. If people don’t like it, then they don’t have to talk to you. Stop forcing these strange and strained conversations. Stop giving advice if you were not asked for it. Trust me, you will not implode. In fact, it may make life a little easier. Imagine talking to someone and learning something! Imagine talking to someone and not trying to compete! Imagine talking to someone and them listening! What a wonderful world.

My earnest attempt at really seeing the people I interact with for who they are has led me to this conclusion: my fellow educators (meaning the ones in my building with whom I work) tend to be narcissist.

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Did she just make static? 

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Oh, no she didn’t! (Finger waving and neck rolling in progress – please hold)

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Gasp!

 

 

 

 

 

No shots have been fired teachers, calm down. If this is not you, then it’s not. But to the ones who are in the school in which I am gainfully employed at the present moment, you know who you are – actually, you shouldn’t because the internet is a big place and I’m keeping this all as low key as possible.

Continue reading Interactions with Narcissists: An Observation of Educators at _______ High School

The Veil Has Been Lifted

The department I work in is loud. Most of the people that staff this department have been allotted a space to work in room 666 of the building. I don’t know how anyone manages to get work done in that room filled with teacher’s desks, students, and educators. I use a satellite office that is a few hallways removed from all of the chaos that is in room 341. There are only 5 of us that occupy that space and it’s a slice of heaven in the otherwise hellish building. I have been forced to utilize space in 666 for a few days because the school decided that the satellite office should be used for testing – a practice that I despise in its current state. I only needed one day back in that space to be reminded why I decided to remove myself from it at the beginning of this school year.

One cannot help but listen to the incessant ramblings of those gathered around the common area where food is exchanged along with stories and, often times, unsolicited advice. There was a discussion happening that caught my ear yesterday. It centered on a topic that I like to gain another’s perspective on. The insights from outsiders (and by outsiders, I mean people not in my head – mainly me) is something I really contemplate when I leave these conversations. What intrigues me most are the opinions of seasoned vets. These people have been teaching since I was in high school. Hell, some of them were my teachers. Anytime one of them says something that deals with the current state of their classrooms and the students that make up their rosters my ears perk up. They always go back to the year that the downfall in the caliber of student came. It’s talked about like a day of reckoning. Interestingly, they always say that 2005 was the first year they began to notice this change. This is the year after I graduated from high school.

The shift in the shared characteristics within the student pool has caused many of us to question what is happening with kids. What’s going on at home? What are they thinking? How will things turn out for them in the future? And then, there’s my ultimate question, how can I continue this job when I no longer enjoy the act of imparting knowledge?

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You often hear older people make comments about how things were better years ago, and I always ask myself if I have just fallen into the pattern of comparison and diminishing. Do I have that distorted “old-foggie” syndrome that I once thought was inherent to anyone who was old (like over 50 years-old old)? To check myself and my world view, I talk to students to gauge whether or not I have aged out. There is still a connection I can make with quite a few of them. I have asked if they notice that their peers are disconnected. I even talk about specific behaviors – like mindless web browsing to find answers. I have been assured many times over that it’s not just an observation I have made with no merit. They have noticed it too. Sometimes when I make an observation about a behavior or an attitude I am bewildered by, the other students give me a stare as if they are in a trance, and then there’s that spark in their eye. They think about it and can point to friend that does the same thing or they admit to carrying themselves in the same manner I have called attention to.

Continue reading The Veil Has Been Lifted

The perils of being stuck in high school

That dreaded blaring alarm rings, a hand reaches out to grab the cell phone that’s emitting the treacherous sound. Heavy sleepy eyes peak at the time as if the person who set it the night before cannot recall the hour it was meant to go off. Maybe there was snooze time allotted, and that button is pushed, or maybe the thought of rising and getting the shit over with permeates the mind. Legs swing over the side of the bed, feet hit the floor, and a tired body lurches towards the bathroom.

Teeth are bushed, bladder is released, perhaps a shower is needed as one was not taken the night before. Next comes coffee and getting dressed. Can’t forget to do something to that hair if you’ve got it. All of the things required for the day are picked up and out the front door the feet walk with necessities in tow. Transportation gets us to the doors of the place once hated with a deep passion – school.

Walking through the hallways, familiar faces are noted, and eye contact is made but no one speaks – not even a wave. Lifeless bodies are sprawled on the floor of the hallways as students try and catch a few more zzz’s before the first period of the day begins. Others runs to each other to talk about a scandalous outfit, or something they did the night before. Yucky pimple faced couples are pushing their bodies together and kissing with hand holding ensues. A few sit with notebooks out, they are copying the assignment from another kid because they were too busy to try and do the work themselves. They couldn’t tear their eyes off the TV and they had to binge watch a few more episodes of that show they are obsessed with at the moment. Hop scotch is the game that has to be played by the walking feet with necessities in tow. No one excuses themselves as the violently push past the adult walking through the halls.

Walking quickly, the destination for phase one of the day is reached – the classroom. There are always at least three kids that made it there before you; fucking show off’s. They don’t part their lips, and they never offer to hold anything even though there is a struggle going on with the traitorous keys, capped coffee cup, and arm full of bags containing papers. The door is finally opened, and everyone goes to their seat. They don’t bother readying themselves for learning because it’s 7:30 AM and they have to check in to see what’s happening on the internet. Who is posting to their story, what’s trending, how long until the class is over (yes, before it even starts).

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Another One Bites the Dust?

For the first time in a long time, I am teaching with another adult in the room. My co-teacher is a newbie…sort of. Let me explain. She is from India and taught at a school there for about five years before moving to the states four years ago. When she and her husband moved here, she continued on the education career pathway, landing a job as an elementary school teacher at a private school in the area. I imagine the kids were a bit too slimy and needy (she never actually said this, but I can assure you, as the mom of an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old, elementary aged humans can be walking-talking, pathogen-passing, self-centered booger flingers).

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Exhibit 1: Here we see a tiny human in its natural habitat. Tiny humans are also known as elementary aged humans or little kids. BEWARE: may be a walking-talking, pathogen-passing, self-centered booger flinger.

After two years with the tiny germy space violators, she had enough. She hopped ship and became a paraeducator at a high school not too far from where we both currently hold teaching positions. During that time, she decided to look for a classroom teaching job that was salaried. She’s really smart – she scouted the job vacancy postings and got her teaching certification in the area that was in high demand. This is her first year with full teaching credentials, in the states, in a public school, and she is certified in (drum roll please) Special Education.

Herein lies the conundrum – in India, there’s no such thing as special education (her exact words – no lie) and she has no formal training (by the way, I have no idea what this entails, I had maybe two classes dedicated to special education and 504’s in my Grad program). What does this look like in the classroom you ask? A shit show.

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A poop emoji would have done well here, but I think this crazy is an accurate representation of how this all is going.

She is literally the most petite lady I have met. Usually your stature matters little, so long as you can hold your own in front of the students, but she is too soft spoken, a bit hard to understand at times, and interacts awkwardly with every kid she has to help. I feel bad for her, but I have to confess that the arrangement we have is akin to an exposed nerve in a cavity ravaged tooth; there is nothing pleasant about the experience. The students can feel the electricity in the room, at any moment the static discharge could send sparks flying – not the loving kind of flying sparks, but the kind of sparks that fly when a person in an open field is struck by lightning.

My workload is doubled when – in theory – it should be halved. Two adult brains + small class size = a coasting teaching year.

This statement is false.

Why? She has no idea how to teach in an American classroom. In India, they can use corporal punishment. At one point she said that she could control kids if only she could tap them with something when they were off task or wrong. In order to make this co-teaching relationship productive, I have told her what I need. Somehow, she manages to make herself busy with menial tasks fit for a student-teaching intern, never actually doing what needs to be done.

I finally coaxed her into starting class since she insisted on having students read the daily objective (an exercise that should direct student attention and help them make connections, but NEVER does). But, beyond getting her to do the one thing that she insists on, she is useless. I so badly want to help her out and make things work that I do extra work to accommodate her. I know, I know what you’re thinking: just tell her. But she is too nice and sweet – like cheerful, saccharine, cherub in the Sistine Chapel sweet.

I have been giving myself pep talks like I’m a fighter about to enter the ring. I stand in the mirror and pat my cheeks – six rapid pops. One smack on each side of my face in rapid succession that’s followed by a hollow echo from the empty space in my teaching soul. I say, today you are going in there and you are going to tell her that she has to work with the kids; tell her she has to help with attendance and grading; tell her she has to help modify these assignments for her students so that they can do the work and pass the class. I nod my head like yeah, you’ve got this. But when I open the door to the classroom, she’s standing there with that bright smile. I am forced to remove my ear buds and listen to her drone on about what she needs me to do! And I, begrudgingly, say yep, I got it.

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Me prepping before going to work.

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How I think the talk will go.

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How it actually goes – that’s me in the red.

She can sense the tension. I came close to spilling all my true feelings today. I was given an out when she asked, “Do you think I am doing my job effectively?”

I said, “Well…there are things that we could all do to improve and uh, be more efficient.” I was softening the blow, but I felt really bad telling her that she wasn’t doing the very thing that she was hired to do…teach. Throwing myself under the bus was for good measure. Honestly, I could give two shits about whether or not my teaching is effective. It’s actually working out quite well for me. I am planned and prepped, I am on time, and I can say no to kids who are late turning things in without a single ounce of remorse. But, she is a newbie…sort of. Between me, the other teacher she co-teaches with when she is not with me, and her department head, she is losing it.

At the end of our talk, I gave her a laundry list of things that I thought she should consider doing to make her “teaching” more “effective”. This was really just a list of things that she is expected to do (it’s in her job description, but whatever).

At the end of this conversation, she said that she feels like she doesn’t want to teach anymore. My response: Welcome to the phucking club!

 

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The Death of Summer

So… it’s that time [the final days are upon us – actually, they are upon me]. This weekend ends another summer and begins the new school year. Saturday…Sunday…and then, I am expected to return to the place that I have been dreading: school, work, hell on earth, teenager-adult purgatory, or whatever you’d like to call it. I want to bolt, fly, run away. How can it be that these weeks have fallen to the wayside? If only I had no financial responsibilities! I would leave and refuse to look back. Escaping is a daydream. The reality: my schedule is fixed, students have been assigned to my rosters, and I am expected to be a teacher.

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Me thinking about summer…
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When I realize that my summer is over and freedom is but a daydream.

The last two years, I have been a traveling teacher (I had no classroom – just a meager cart to push through the halls from one space to another). But this year, I have the extra added burden of claiming one room the entire year: my own classroom. It’s another thing I have to be think about; figuring out what to do with this “space” – how to make it bearable, perhaps pleasant.

I have forgone the usual teacher-poster-ugliness that spans the walls (and ceilings) in most classrooms, and have given this space a calming vibe – just for me. The way I see it, if the kids enjoy it, it’s an added perk [for them]. I’ve gone in and put up art work and signs…littered the space with flowers and lamps. I just left the room, and before I turned out the lights I felt the claustrophobia creeping in. Even the pretty things look ugly in that space. I have to change my mindset [mission impossible…for real].

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This was the best image of classroom Pixel could crank out. Deal with it.

I have hatched a plan that is supposed to help the year move smoother and faster: get in, do my job (nothing more, nothing less), and get the hell out. Don’t get worked up over the stuff that is supposed to be important [you know, the usual – kids learning, me teaching effectively, blah, blah, blah…]. In all honesty, this is easier said than done. But I am going to try my damnedest.

I have looked in the mirror and talked to the face that appears when my body is facing the reflective glass. I have told the face (and the brain) not to get wrapped up in the bullshit. I just have to hang in there. This job can’t kill me physically [at least that’s what I tell myself], but emotionally and psychologically, it leaves scars.

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This is my artistic representation of me looking at myself in the mirror during a pep talk. It’s okay to laugh, cause I sure as hell did! Yes, I really leaned in that close and fogged up the glass as I told myslef, “You will survive this thing!”

I’m picking up the metaphorical bike, strapping on my helmet, and getting back on for one more journey. The initial pedaling will result in a ride that’s a bit wobbly – that’s expected. At the very least, I should be able to enjoy the scenery after I stabilize. Then, I’ll find the groove and coast. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to close my eyes and enjoy the forward motion. At the end of this ride there is the arrival of another summer. I promise to cherish it just as much as I have cherished the one that has passed by.

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She looks how I feel about getting back on this thing.

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But, I gotta do it like this little guy.

Here’s to another summer gone – don’t hold your glass up in a toast. Instead, pour out a little liquor for the death of another seasonal release laid to rest. RIP summer of 2018. Gone but not forgotten, and forever in my heart.

 

There is no pill (the magic bullet does not exist)…

There’s an epidemic that is plaguing a specific population in the United States. I cannot talk about the epidemiology of other countries, because I don’t live there and therefore cannot speak about the infection rate in other territories. So, nobody needs to alert the CDC or the WHO, or any other acronym.

It’s an illness that I would consider transmissible via direct or indirect contact. It may also be airborne or passed through water. The symptoms include loss of motor function (excluding the hands and fingers), lowered cognition, impaired judgement, loss of hearing, and loss of impulse control. Those that are afflicted tend to blurt out the most asinine responses to questions. They ask you things you just explained to three others on three separate occasions in your calmest voice while they were in ear shot of the entire conversation.

They are unable to self-monitor their symptoms. Please be cautious if you approach an individual with any of the symptoms indicated. They are not contagious to ALL, but those lacking immunity have now been fore warned. The name of the illness you asked? It’s called pubescent-ignoritis. Do not let the age designation in the disease name fool you – adults, you are susceptible too.

This is the alert that the emergency broadcast system let slip through the cracks. Aren’t you so glad you ended up here to read this while all the others are out there oblivious to what’s happening!! Stay alert, be mindful, and keep safe as you traverse the streets of American cities and rural areas alike. In the event that you notice someone in your home or anyone you are close to showing symptoms, make sure you seek medical help. No, wait…stay away from the doctors – they may prescribe Xanax to treat the anxiety suffers feel after they have just had a flare up with the chronic illness. Never mind, do whatever the fuck you want because the ones suffering already are.

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Continue reading There is no pill (the magic bullet does not exist)…

What is that quality called…the one that makes kids respect you?

I was having a conversation last week with a colleague – a fellow educator. We teach the same subject and have even exchanged students this year. On this day, I had a hell of a morning. You know how life goes; somedays things are mostly good and other days it’s all a crap shoot. This was a day I had the urge to flee. I wanted to run from life and it was really the day that I decided that this was not the profession for me. No amount of time, continuing education bullshit, or anything else could make me stay. Anyway, back to the convo (come on brain, stay on track). We were talking about a group of students that had cheated on an assignment. This thing I had assigned them was worth a test grade. It was something that needed to be done independently. I wrote a letter to the students about the assignment and made it the first page they saw every time they opened this packet. They had to complete it over spring break and it was something I had discussed for a solid week with my students before I handed it to them.

These kids come and confront me about me grading the assignment and dividing it by the number of them that had worked on it. They got the credit they deserved. These students freaked out. They were not used to a teacher calling them on their bullshit. We had a talk about it and they were not happy. I sent them to the department head to handle it. This coworker happened to be present when they went to the department head and he heard it all.

My coworker says to me that the kids were voicing their confusion about needing to complete the assignment individually. This was their argument for wanting full credit. I literally wanted to flip a table and scream at the top of my lungs. I had worked for days getting this thing together. Taken my precious off work time to make sure that things lined up. I recorded content and published lectures online. All I needed them to do was to consume the information and answer some questions that would prepare them for an AP exam that’s coming (whether they want it to or not). This is not even what made me a psychopath for a split second. It was the fact that I had shared this very document and plan with the coworker who was vouching for these kids. Okay, I am slightly exaggerating; he wasn’t vouching for them, he just wasn’t as pissed as I was about their half ass excuse. So, I threw a chair, ripped up some papers that were on a nearby counter, and stormed out of the room. THE END.

STOP HERE IF YOU LOVE THE WAY THIS ENDED…

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Continue reading What is that quality called…the one that makes kids respect you?