Saturday, April 04, 2009

When Fate Closes A Door, A Window Is Opened

I've never been one for believing in things happening for a reason.  I prefer to think that the world is a place where random events occur and that we are given the choice to view them as "crises" or as "opportunities."  Many is the time I've seen people walk away from the exact same set of circumstances with very different outcomes.  One is emotionally and physically shattered.  The other is stronger and richer for having found her way clear.

This past week has gone a long way towards challenging this particular world view.  I can't recall a five day stretch that included as much utter stupidity.  I welcomed Friday with open arms, but was not so foolhardy as to utter anything remotely like the phrase, "Well, at least it can't get any worse..."

Thursday afternoon, before my staff left me behind to wait out the endless Parent/Teacher Conferences, we discussed what we were going to do about our scheduled bowling trip the following day.  The outing occurs every other week and is designed as a reward for kids who have somehow managed to impress us with their behavior and dedication to work completion.

No one had really met this lofty goal.  

Normally, I stay behind with the nogoodniks while my assistants head out for a morning's romp at the lanes.  With no students going on the field trip, this meant we'd all be remaining in the classroom for the day.  With the children.  Who would not be happy.  And who had spent the week demonstrating just how capable they were of making their displeasure known.

In the end, we opted to take all the kids.  We had our reasons.  There were many, many staff scheduled to be out on Friday and there would be lots of subs coming in.  That was going to make for a busy day down in the main office since kids have a tendency to act out more when the teacher is gone.  We also hoped that our being able to do something fun as a group might restore a little bit of goodwill and that we'd all benefit from the chance to smile once or twice.  Then there was the pesky matter of me being stuck at school until 7:00 on Thursday night and how appealing having to only teach one class on Friday sounded.

We boarded the bus, hopeful for a pleasant morning with the students.  I won't say it was a complete disaster because it really wasn't.  But I also won't say that it was a delight.  Because it wasn't.  Any day you get on a bus with 25 kids, you are pretty much telling the Fates that you don't care what is going on with your overall mental health.

Let's just say that there were some interesting moments and that I now know a new way to tell a bus driver to kiss my behind using invented sign language...

I could only hope that they would be tired after all that physical activity and that they would have little energy left to torture us back at school.  Not so.  They were just getting warmed up.  By the time we'd managed to get through the only class of the day (Social Studies) one kid was in the office and the rest were on notice.  I'm not sure they cared, though.  It was pretty obvious that the adults were incapable of following through on any threats.  We could barely move from our seats.  They'd broken us.

It was with relief that we sent them off to lunch.  We had but a short twenty minute session with them (free choice activities) before they went off to their various Globals (gym, art and library) and left us in peace.  I suppose we should have known that there would be one more blow struck in the name of Almighty Stupidity, but we really never saw it coming.

Somehow, the classroom door was damaged over the course of the week.  I don't believe anyone could have known what would happen next and I don't think any of the kids did this on purpose.  But when the last one left and shut the door behind her, it locked.  

Well...not so much locked as jammed.  Three adults, all college educated and with solid reasoning skills, were trapped in the classroom while the kids roamed free.  Not only were we broken in spirit and driven to exhaustion, we were now also caged.  There are reality shows out on the air right now that spend less time torturing the participants...

We ran through our list of options.  We could call for help, but that would involve witnesses.  We could just sit there and enjoy the peace, but no one wanted to be stuck there all weekend.  We could tunnel our way out, but that never goes well when you try to do it from the third floor.  If nothing else, you can say that we were highly creative about the whole thing.

Finally, we decided to exit through a window.  Our class has a room in the back with a sliding window that opens out into the hallway, presumably used back when this was office space and a reception area was located there.  I volunteered to crawl through since I am the teacher and get paid more.  If anyone had to be the one known as The Crazy Window Lady, it might as well be me.  I was half-way through before someone remembered that we would need keys to get the outer door open so I dangled there, straddling the ledge until a set could be procured.  I then managed to swing my middle-aged legs high enough to clear the sliding glass and slither almost gracefully to the tiles of the third floor hallway.

How I avoided any witnesses is just beyond me.

We weren't home free yet, though.  I still needed to unjam the door.  The key, which was the one normally carried by my teaching assistant, stuck in the lock and refused to budge.  Through the window, I could see the hopeful faces of my staff as they awaited their heroic rescue.  I smiled reassuringly and tried to look like I had matters well in hand.  The truth of the matter was that I had no earthly idea how to get that door open, nor did I have a pleasant way of telling my teaching assistant that her keys would be living at the school now.  Even if I did get her out of there, she was probably going to need the keys to her vehicle and home at some point.

Finally, Fate decided to cut me a break.  The door opened and the key slipped from the lock.  My staff was released from their Middle School prison and they gratefully scampered off into the wilds to revel in their new found freedom.  Now, all that was left was for me to inform the office of The Door Situation.

I dutifully shared the data with the Assistant Principal.  He is sick of my face at this point after having to deal with lots and lots of behavior this week, so I was very careful to not look him directly in the eye when I did this.  I stared resolutely ahead and told the story in a calming monotone.  I then let the secretaries know that there were some issues with the lock since there is a dance this weekend and all doors are supposed to be secured.  It was then that the inevitable question was asked:

Um...why didn't you just call down for some help?

Maintaining my very, very professional demeanor, I said, "We considered that course of action.  But I was present yesterday when that kid got stuck in the nurse's bathroom and required ten people with sophisticated tools to get him out.  I also saw the crowd this kind of thing can draw'd have just know...

That was as far as I got with that one.  We were done for, lost in gales of laughter the likes of which haven't been seen in the office since Christmas.  I'm pretty sure that is the last time any of us felt happy.  It was a kind of hysterical laughter, but it felt rather good all the same.  The fact that no one knew how to fix the lock on my door and that this could very well happen again was something we would deal with on another day.

There have been any number of things happening this week that are outside the bounds of blogability due to their confidential nature.  In addition to those, I have broken up two fights, taken an entire class of middle school students bowling, spent an evening at school for Parent/Teacher conferences during which I had but one meeting and stretched the limits of my relationship with the Assistant Principal to the breaking point as we dealt with all the behavior problems.  I have survived a staff meeting which appeared to have no agenda and I twice forgot my lunch.  I have witnessed the rescue of a student trapped in a school bathroom and then found my own self trapped in a similar fashion a mere 24 hours later.  I have crawled through a window and rescued my fellow staff members. 

 All this...and now I must figure out where I became the better person.  What one little nugget of "good" came out of all this?  What can I hold up as proof that the world is still a decent place and that there is no need to stick my head in the oven?  

I remembered to bring my knitting with me yesterday.

Sometimes, that is enough.  And my oven is electric anyway...



Anonymous said...

...or, when one door closes, another one opens.

But sometimes, it's hell in the hallways.

Anonymous said...

Once, on a business trip, the bathroom door jammed when I went in to take a shower. Happily, this was the nutso kind of hotel with a phone in the bathroom. And I had taken my robe into the bathroom with me. What are the chances of that? I was the only one in the room!

A custodial worker came and let me out, but no one fixed the door. The next day I left it open during my shower.

Beth said...

Hey, the bike riding and weight lifting paid off! I don't know that I could crawl through a window. :) Your trapped co-workers should be very thankful that you saved them!

trek said...

I wouldn't close the door on Monday, were I in your shoes.

You seriously deserve chocolate.

Lots of chocolate.


And tomorrow, too.

=Tamar said...

Not only don't close the door - bring a doorstop so it can't close.
A triangular chunk of wood will do.

It might be a good idea to have a short stepladder in the closet to make it easier to get out the window again. Just in case.

sophanne said...

Sending you anti-full moon thoughts. When is the next one? Are you prepared?

Kath said...

A bowling trip every other week??? Darn, I just knew the bad kids were having more fun. But if they couldn't even make it through Social Studies? I mean Math I could understand, even English, but Social Studies? Wowzer.

You so deserve a long weekend!

Knitting Linguist said...

Oh, dear god. I don't even know where to start. Twenty-five student on a bus? To go bowling? Stuck in a classroom? Climbing through a window? You need a vacation, STAT.

catsmum said...

so lemme get this straight - you decided to reward a week of appalling behaviour with a field trip ... and they still acted up ? would I be correct in assuming that there will be no more bowling trips EVER EVER EVER again ?

As to the mental image of you climbing out the window - well - I just totally freaked out the cats and Bear by laughing hysterically at the computer.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what an "interesting" week you've had!

Mia said...

well ya made me laugh.. so there's one little good thing :)

Really though.. sounds like a rough week. Have you considered alcohol?


LOVE that quote from anonymous... hell in the hallways... isn't that just the truth!

Donna Lee said...

I remember those bowling trips. I wonder why we all assume bowling is a good idea for kids with behavior problems? Does it make sense that we are taking them to a place with heavy objects and encouraging them to throw them?

Betsy said...

There is NO way they pay you enough...
There is NO amount of money in the world to get me back in the classroom...

Thank you for doing what you do and with such...ahem...class...

twinsetellen said...

Easter is coming. Or more important, the day after Easter, with its half price chocolate bunnies, is coming. Hang in there, and thanks for doing this important work as insane as it must feel at times.