Lost Marbles

Lucy has lost her marbles, there’s no other way to explain it.

Last week she joined a group at the state capitol to lobby for three bills that effect state/DOC employees and she bothered us all with a five minute summary of her trip at the end of our, typically, ten minute roll call. Back in the staff room we were all greeted with a poorly typed memo from our boss who fumed about the proper use of comp time. Guess who sparked the angry e-mail? Lucy.

Lucy called our administrative assistant at home on a Saturday afternoon to ask whether she was using her vacation hours or comp hours she hadn’t claimed from two fiscal years ago. The assistant called our boss with the outrage and continued to enjoy her vacation. Meanwhile, clueless Lucy plopped herself in the chair in the assistant’s office within minutes of the new day and began complaining about the not-new comp time policy. Then she spent fifteen minutes sobbing in various ways about how difficult it is to read our monthly time sheet.

In the top right hand corner the time sheet clearly states that employees can accrue so many vacation hours and so many sick hours every fiscal year. In neat little rows on the bottom of the page it shows how many hours we earned for the month plus what we have accrued. To be nice, it even shows the sum. If an employee wanted to know how many hours he/she would earn in one fiscal year all she has to do is take the number 8 or 9 or 10–depending how many years he/she has worked for the state–and multiply that number by 12; then divide by 8 for the number of days off. I’d like to think that any sixth grader could figure this word problem. Heck, our student-offenders could determine this number if they had to add everyone’s fingers and toes in their cell block. This is vacation time we’re talking about! She drug this commentary out for three days and all the way into the Associate Warden’s office. Because my room faces the administrative offices, I hear every bit of it. I understand what our assistant is saying when she tells me, “They don’t pay me enough. I am helping a grown woman who makes twice as much as me calculate a simple math problem. How is she a teacher?”

We were all in the middle of avoiding Lucy like the plague–going as far as sending all clear signals to each other down the hallway and going places we didn’t need to go–when the higher-ups decreed that all battery chargers needed to stay in the master control station, on the opposite side of campus from both school buildings. We needed better accountability, we were told, of our batteries before the auditors came. I understand. But! Now when my battery dies on the radio that I am mandated to wear at all times for my safety and the safety of others I am supposed to cross the entire facility to get a new radio. Try doing that when you are also supposed to be teaching a class. I’ve tried, but I can’t be in two places at once.

Two days into this new policy, Lucy’s radio died, and I was the first unfortunate soul who crossed her plaintive path. “My radio died. Where are the batteries?,” she exclaimed. I explained the new procedures and suggested she ask Moses who was a couple doors down to watch her class while she went to get a new battery. Instead of dealing with the situation she continued to complain while her student looked at us in amusement. Exasperated, I volunteered to watch her room if she would just get out of the building. That was my first mistake. Ten minutes later I heard her still arguing with Moses about the circumstances and her student laughed at me.

I had been reading Teaching Teens and Reaping Results in a Wi-Fi, Hip-Hop, Where-Has-All-The-Sanity-Gone-World and asking my students about their experiences with the books listed in Appendix G. Alan Sitomer boldly claims this is a list of no-fail books for teens. I wanted to know. It so happens that Lucy teaches a few books on his list, so I grilled Mr. N. about what he had read. No surprise, he hadn’t read them, but he mentioned FistStickKnifeGun: A Personal History of Violence written by one of my inspirations (even though we’d probably profoundly disagree on major social/political issues), Geoffrey Canada, founder of Harlem Children’s Zone and featured commentator in Waiting for Superman. Intrigued, I made a note to ask Lucy about the book after she had settled down.

Later in the afternoon between 5th and 6th hours I quietly asked how she liked the book, and you would have thought I had slapped her. She became incensed that a student suggested she had taught the book she had just acquired and hadn’t yet had a chance to read (this from the woman who suggested I teach Chocolate Wars, a novel she purchased for her class before reading). She demanded to know the culprit and nearly threatened me if I told our boss. Told him what? What was inflammatory about G. Canada? Mr. N., after witnessing the insanity, admitted he checked the book out from our library and looked sheepish on my behalf.

As I told my husband in a sigh on Saturday morning, everything this week came back to Lucy in some way, and that never makes for a good week. She is only one of a dozen crazy characters I work with.

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About hey miss

A teacher. A prison guard. I used to think that was like oil and water. Like lightening and metal. Some days it is. Some days it's magic.
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