Sunday, November 2, 2014

I Stand Corrected

I'm thoughtful. I like to think I bring something to the table in all conversations. One of these things is a healthy sense of perspective.

You're so right! People say a lot. This is fine. I'd be lying if I didn't say it doesn't feel good to be validated.

But sometimes I'm wrong. When this happens I like to get to the acceptance phase as soon as possible. I like to come clean and admit that I'm wrong.

I'm going to be using this blog to write publicly about times where I stand corrected. When something comes up or I remember something from the past, I'll write about it and post it if it's not something that will get me in too much hot water.

This story begins at my kids' elementary school. I was there doing Class Parent stuff. I had one kindergarten kid and one first grader there.

I'd been asked by a teacher at the school to come in and help in her classroom. This teacher was not my kindergartner's teacher or my first grader's teacher. She needed some help filing homework papers.

Of course, I said yes to helping this teacher because the elementary school was a community. Also this teacher needed some help because her own class parent, co-class parent and class parent assistants had fallen down on the job.

The plan was for me to spend a period in there filing papers at her desk while she was out of the room. While she was on break, her class would have a period of art. When she came back, I would exit her room and then go to my Kindergartener's class to help serve the snack I prepared for the class. It was my turn to provide a healthy snack without added  sugar or hydrogenated oils.

I got myself settled into the teacher's chair. I lined up the papers, folders and labels. I started working on my task.

At the same time, an art teacher I'd never seen before entered the classroom. This was the first and last time I ever saw this art teacher. It may have been that she was a substitute art teacher. It may have been that she was a real art teacher but only lasted at this school for a few days. This happened sometimes. The third and final explanation is that the school could only afford a couple of days of art and this was one of them.

An older dad who was also a class parent made a beeline for me. I'd said hello to him a few minutes ago in the hallway.  He was assembling some shelves. The man was always busy.

I was on friendly terms with this older dad. We had a mutual respect for one another due to our respective work ethics. I'm not ashamed of hard work, he liked to say.

Sometimes he could be a bit of a pain in the neck. He could be rigid about how he thought things should be. Sometimes he made a big deal out of little things. I predicted that he was about to do this now.

He approached me with a sense of purpose and importance. Listen, he said. I wanted to catch you before the teacher got started. He took a quick glance at the art teacher.

That lady art teacher has a baby voice. He whispered urgently.

Now I've heard a lot of things from other parents at this school. Allegations of egregiously non-progressive teaching methods in a school that was supposed to be progressive. Someone who brought Frosted Flakes to snack. Someone else at the PA meeting who helped herself to an entire triangle of Brie thinking it was flan.

This was absolutely ridiculous and not worth talking about. I told the dad so much, using the nicest words I could.

He slammed his hand lightly on the desk. He really wanted my attention. He had this look like I'm saying this for your own good.

This room hasn't had a class parent in here for three weeks I say. I've got until next period to finish this filing. I look over at the clock.

Don't say I didn't warn you, he hissed. Then he exited the room to go back to the job he was working on before the petty concern came up. I went back to affixing labels on files, writing kids' names on them, and filing homework.

The art teacher cheerfully unpacked the art supplies from the big, artsy cloth bags she'd brought in. The class eyed her. Some of the kids seemed eager to begin an art project. But many of the kids prepared to test this teacher. That is what they always did whenever the regular teacher was out of the room.

The art teacher addressed the class. Can I have your attention please?

I could feel the blood draining from my head. To say that this teacher had a baby voice was a gross understatement. The teacher had an extreme baby voice.

Excuse my language. This shit was intense.

Once the art teacher got talking to the class, she was really on a roll. Just as I felt I had adjusted to the baby voice, it’d startle me again. I wondered if there was such a thing as a voice disability. Baby voice disorder or whatnot.

This teacher deserved compassion.

It was hard to know where to look. I didn't want to look at the teacher. I didn't want to look at the kids. I didn't want to look at the homework files. I settled on looking out the window. I needed to gather myself.

Then the older dad found another excuse to come in. He and I locked eyes. He saw the look on my face. He gave me a look that said I told you so.

I knew he was right. He knew he was right. I knew he knew he was right. He knew that I knew he was right.

At that point, in a gesture of quiet surrender, I put my head down on the desk. I had no more fight left. I left it there even after the older dad left.

Soon, the regular teacher came back. The class was in bedlam. She clapped three times and applied some expert management techniques. I learned from my kids' teachers that this was called bringing the class back.

Once the class had a semblance of control, she approached me. How were they while I was out? She asked. Pretty terrible, I said truthfully.

The teacher took a deep breath. Do you think it was because of the baby voice? She asked. I mulled that over for a moment. I don't think so. I said. The kids are always like this whenever their classroom teacher is out. It could be a substitute, it could be an enrichment teacher, it could be a lunch aide. Every class in the school is like this, I added so she wouldn't think it was just her class. Because between you and me, it wasn't just her class.

I then went to the other classroom to help serve snack. If I had longer, I could have elaborated. I could have told her that while the baby voice certainly didn't help the kids behave, it wasn't the baby voice's fault. I could have said a lot more about why this happened. But I didn't. I didn't have all day.

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