September 20, 2007

everything (missed opportunities)

It's 3:45. Ms. Z wants to talk to me. It's about paper for the copy machines. I'm using too much (300 pages a day, she says, though I'd estimate 180, max), and half of my classes aren't even ESOL. The paper comes out of the ESOL budget; I need to go get my paper allotment from whichever unknown administrator controls the department that has it. Is it the assistant principal? Is it the military administrator? The central message is that I need to track down this paper, some way, somehow. It's my job.

This is one of those moments where resource scarcity in the urban schools comes front and center. Not just material scarcity (of paper, of all things!), but time scarcity, knowledge scarcity. Ms. Z is volunteering her time to administer the ESOL program, since the normal administrator was badly injured in a motorcycle accident. She's fine - she's TFA as well, interested in running her own school someday, trying very hard to do good work - but she's never done it before, and she's very conscious of the fact that she's not being paid for it. She doesn't want to be the one tracking down the paper, but she also is absolutely emphatic that it must happen.

In a school that didn't ration paper, this wouldn't be an issue at all. In a school with more time available, I imagine that administrators, several of whom probably have the same issue, could get together and work out some kind of system. If she'd been here for years, we'd know how to deal with this without fuss.

One of the results of a broken public school system is that teachers become responsible for everything. Supplies, funding, real-time curriculum development, meetings, sports: if you don't organize it yourself, there is precious little chance that someone else will. Hence, being awake from 5:30 AM to midnight on Tuesday, with maybe a total of 2.5 hours when I wasn't working. You know what takes 2.5 hours? Eating breakfast, eating lunch, eating dinner, and taking a shower, that's what.


Alyson said...

Hi, I am sorry to hear about the paper. I have taught for a long time (in Ca) and this is always ridiculous. I hope you have toilet paper. Sometimes we didn't. I have always begged one sided paper from everyone I know. Keep up the amazing work.

North said...

We do have toilet paper, fortunately, and I think we're likely to have it all year. Copy paper not so much.

However, I forgive the ESOL department 80% of their obsession with exactly which students I'm making copies for, because they have a book of student contact info - one page per kid, country of origin, native language, phone number, and space for a phone log, and best of all, someone verified every kid's number at the beginning of the year.

Where/what do you teach? (Am says you're someone she mentioned me to?)