Thursday, November 8, 2007

Fierceness at the Workplace: Special Education Edition

I'm finishing out a week at an elementary school, and the work is pretty easy (if not unremarkable). I kind of mill around the school and assist various classrooms; nothing awfully challenging, except the rough half hour in the SDC room trying to teach six learning-disabled 5th grade boys how to do massive multiplication by rounding.

My favorite part of the day has to be working with Austin. He's a bizarre little second-grader with - get this! - not only a mohawk, but also a rat tail. Not even the bravest (or trashiest) of men would dare attempt a coiffure like this, but Austin is no man. He is a god. Today when I came in to pick him up and take him to the counseling room, where I do random subtraction with him, he reached up and touched my head and said "I like your hair!" Oh, Austin. I'm sure I like yours far more.

The school I'm working at is kind of bizarre. It's in a low income area, and a lot of the teachers are the type who are knowledgeable in those different walks of life, so they're usually pretty cool. Teaching can be a really conservative, ivory-tower profession, which is an approach that I don't think works that well anymore. But I digress. The one exception to the generally tolerable staff is a woman named Tina. She is cheery and agreeable, but has absolutely no understanding of how her habits bear down on other people.

Example: I first met Tina in the copying room. As we went about our respective clerical tasks, she sang a song to the tune of "Clementine" about possessives. Made-up educational singalong songs are an excruciating necessity, but MOST people have the common sense to keep them outside the classroom. Not Tina. She sat there and sang "use possessives, use possessives, use poSSESSive apostrophes" over and over and over again, each time with a different grammatical rule tacked on the end. She must have sang this song nine times before I finished my copying job and ran out of the room as fast as I could, bleeding from the ears.

Today Tina told me a two-minute story about her personalized pencil. Telling people "I don't care" is in my opinion one of the rudest things ever, but women like her make it so, so tempting.

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