Monday, November 27, 2006

Rainy Day Routine

In this district - at least at my school - the rainy day plan is simple:

Cross Your Fingers and Hope It Doesn't Rain

That's the official plan. Every time it does rain, all the administrators (and there have been many of them during my tenure) get these shocked looks on their faces and scramble to make a plan. The general attitude is that of, "It's raining? It's raining?!? What the hell is it doing that for? How dare it RAIN? Oh my goodness, what are we going to do???" You'd think that at some point these people - some of whom are very intelligent - would figure out that it actually rains in Northern California. Quite a bit. And that we will still have students, even when it rains. But no, they tend to stare up at the sky as if betrayed by the heavens.

The methods of coping vary. Some administrators try not to call a rainy day recess until the kids come sopping wet into the office to complain. Others do the opposite, and declare a rainy day recess when there is only the tiniest bit of a threat of rain. I think the logic behind that is so you don't have to go try to round up all the kids once it starts raining, but the reality is that each teacher is stuck with a roomful of kids who start complaining. "It's not raining, why can't we go outside? I really really wanted to play outside!"

The reason why the rain throws such a wrench into administrators' plans is the teachers' 30-minute duty-free lunch. The duty-free lunch is a point of contention between teachers and administrators. In our contract, (and I think in the contract for every other school district in California that I've heard of) teachers are guaranteed a 30 minute lunch period with ZERO responsibilities. No matter what. Right. If you believe that happens, I have more than a few bridges I'd like to sell you.

But we fight for our duty-free lunch. Although 30 minutes isn't enough to do much of anything, and 95% of us spend it making copies, correcting papers, calling about field trips, calling parents... you get the idea. It's the principle of the thing. Also the knowledge that if we give up even one minute, the district will swoop in and our lunchtime will be GONE.

They are sneaky though, those district administrators, and they do their best to pick away at our lunchtime. The latest ploy has been to give the kids 30 minutes for lunch. Well, anyone can figure out that if the kids have 30 minutes, and we have to walk them to lunch and wait while they go through the line and sit down... ain't no 30 minutes left for us.

There are also sneaky "optional" lunch meetings. Or, to be more specific, "voluntary but highly recommended." Also known as "you'll look bad if you don't go; we can't legally force you to, but we'll never forget if you don't." Luckily, that trick hasn't been pulled lately. But we have had the "right before lunch and might spill over into your lunch time but we'll pretend not to notice" meetings. During the last one of those, the administrator said, "I can't make you stay through your duty-free lunch, but does anyone have any objection to staying?' That was a tough moment for me. I knew that if I said that yes, I had an objection - that I already worked my butt off for too little pay and not enough prep time or respect, and I wasn't going to give up my measly 30 minute lunchtime for a silly meeting that wasn't worth my time - I would never hear the end of it. I'd be classified as the one who wasn't a team player and made things difficult. The one who didn't want to work hard but just took the easy way out. I'm not exaggerating here, and that was more trouble than I wanted to deal with.

So I lied.

I said that I had copies to make and children's parents to call and field trips to check on. All true, but not necessarily needing to get done during lunchtime. I didn't say that I just needed downtime because I was tired. I didn't say I needed time to be away from kids or to eat. I didn't say that I needed to go to the bathroom. I didn't say that I might have wanted a few minutes to call my boyfriend or catch up on paying my bills or email some friends. I didn't stand up and scream that they were making me crazy and NO WONDER teachers burned out in California and specifically in Oakland, because they couldn't even have THIRTY LOUSY MINUTES to themselves! That wouldn't have been seen as a convincing excuse. So, I lied.

And remember, I like a lot of these people. But this is not OK. And it's getting to me.

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