Teachers’ Lounge Conversation
By D.F. Wharton
Two teachers ran into each other in the teachers’ lounge. They both only had a moment before they had to get to class. They spoke briefly.
I’ve had it with stressing, said Matthew. No more stressing. These idiots can do or say whatever they want.
Right on, said Elizabeth. You can’t pay them any mind. You have to use the suicide approach to be able to have some peace around here.
The suicide approach?
Yeah, the suicide approach.
Matthew looked at Elizabeth with a quizzical expression and said nothing.
Think metaphorically, said Elizabeth. Think of it as submitting to a daily character assassination.
Go on, said Matthew, interested in what Elizabeth had to say.
Look, Matthew, every day we come to teach. We come to this crazy school to do something with the kids. We try to engage them with something, anything, in whatever possible way we can. Storytelling, movies, games, coloring, fieldtrips—anything to keep them involved. I mean, just to keep them engaged in something to where they don’t start trouble is a monumental task, Right?
Right on, said Matthew.
But as soon as we find a way to make the class work, and we’re feeling good and having fun, what happens?
An administrator comes by and give us a poor evaluation for not being on the pacing calendar or not having enough rigor in the lesson or not using questions that require the right depth of knowledge. It’s crazy.
I know, said Elizabeth. I mean, we work a crowd control miracle and they want to talk about standardized test prep? What planet are these people living on?
Planet idealism, said Matthew. Apparently you move there when you become an educational administrator. ASCD has a temple of worship there and Robert Marzano is a high priest. Lowly administrators offer him the sacrifice of bad teachers.
Elizabeth was laughing. Well, she said, you have to let them have their worship. It’s their job, so you just have to accept that. That is why you need to have the suicide approach. It’s like they’re pointing a gun to your head, metaphorically speaking. The gun is the evaluation. But instead of you being scared, and begging for your life (a good evaluation from them) you just keep doing what you’re doing—put your head to the barrel of their evaluation and say: go ahead… pull the trigger. Let them assassinate your character by writing a poor evaluation. Who cares? Their going to do it anyway.
Matthew nodded his head in agreement. You know, he said, you’re absolutely right. The DOE didn’t give birth to us. It didn’t bring us into the world. Shame on us for letting these buffoons from planet idealism cause us health problems and make us stress just so they can offer a sacrifice to Robert Marzano? or Charlotte Danielson? or some other hot shot reformer that cracks the business of education?
There it is. Montaigne wrote an amazing essay called That to philosophize is to learn to die. You should read it. When you don’t fear death, you are outside of their reach. The apostle Paul wrote, I die daily. That’s what you have to do if you want to be able to relax and be yourself and teach your students. You just have to go for it and let the chips fall where they may. You can’t think about all the garbage coming from administrators. They are trying to make the business side happy. All you have to do is look at who published the material they hand out for professional development and you can see where they worship. I say that if an administrator from planet idealism wants to fire you then so be it. Life goes on.
The two teachers exchanged a few pleasantries and went their separate ways. They had classes to teach. They had found some motivation and confirmation to stay the course.