September: Getting Schooled

It’s back-to-school season, and today’s post is for my all teacher friends — a special excerpt from  Getting Schooled: The Lesson, Plans and Life of a Teacher, written by a good friend, Joel Anderson.

Anderson details the quirky, hard-knock life of a student teacher to substitute teacher, then high school English teacher at private schools in California, Arkansas and Alabama. With hilarious tales of first days, student essays, classroom misfires, class clowns and class sponsors, Getting Schooled navigates the rites of passage of a teacher, along with inevitable tales of life, lesson plans and other things gone awry.

You guys, this book may be the funniest thing I’ve read all year. If you’ve ever taught school…or heck, even been to school, this book will send you down memory lane with laughter.

Taken from Chapter 5, Staff…Infections, Meetings, and Other Irritations:

Every faculty staff at every school is unique. I can honestly say that every faculty I have been a part of has been, by and large, very supportive and united. That being said, every faculty member is bound to have his/her own unique quirks…

If there is one thing teachers everywhere in the United States can agree on, however it is this: faculty meetings suck, pure and simple. In fact, most teachers probably feel about faculty meetings the same way many students feel about their class: they feel they have better, more important things to do, and hate the fact that they have to come to something that is such a complete waste of their valuable time. The only difference is that more times than not, the feelings of the teachers are entirely justified.

At California Christian, we had morning devotions every morning at 7:15 am to go over the announcements for the day, to pray, and to voice any concerns we had. The official faculty meetings would take place once a month. I always had a problem with the mandatory daily morning devotions. Every frickin’ day? Are you kidding me? First off, it made it really hard to get things together before the school day started. If you wanted to get anything copied or set up before school started, you’d have to get there at 7:00 am and wait for the “copy lady” at the church to open the door and make your copies for you. For some reason, we weren’t allowed to make our own copies. The superintendent was apparently afraid that if we teachers were allowed to make our own copies that we would turn into wild-eyed copy machine fanatics who would threaten the existence of the rainforests and run the school out of business.

If you were lucky, you’d have your copies by 7:15 or 7:20. So, with copies in hand, you’d rush to the faculty meeting, sit in the back, listen to 30-40 minutes of absolute nonsense. And then, because the meeting went over and it was 8:05 (school officially began at 8:00), you’d rush to your room with all your copies to the students who were waiting outside your door, who would greet you with the predictable, “Mr. Anderson, you’re late! Go get a tardy slip! Ha ha ha!”  And so, on most days, 8:07 was the first time you even stepped into you room for that day.

But let’s get back to the meetings themselves. If you are able to retain a sense of humor, faculty meetings can be immensely entertaining. Now the faculty in any high school tends to be made up of some very different kinds of people. First, there are the older teachers who have been there forever, who know the ropes and who just want to get to their rooms and teach. Second, there are always a handful of “jock-teachers” who somehow always get away with not following the teacher dress code. Most of the time they are the teachers who also coach a sport after school. No one knows why that makes it necessary for them to teach the entire school day in sweats and sneakers, but no one is ever bold enough to question it. These teachers always are concerned with, and pray for, the sports schedule, the maintenance of the athletic fields, or the health of their star players.

Third, and this is unique to Christian schools, there are the tender-hearted and caring “Uber Pray-ers.” These are mostly women who tend to wear lots of bright seasonal clothing—flowers in the spring, autumn leaves, Santas and snowflakes etc. They are some of the sweetest women you’ll ever meet, but you can’t help thinking, “Shouldn’t you be in the elementary school?” They are the ones who want to pray about everything…and I mean everything: the 7th grade math test that day, little Katie’s uncle’s dog who fell down a well, the congestion on Highway 5 that morning, all the while giving thanks for the Krispy Kreme Donuts the secretary lovingly brought in that morning. Not surprisingly, you can always count on one of these women heading up a “Prayer Warriors” club for any students who want to pray for the spiritual health of the student body…and any kittens who are stuck in the surrounding trees.

By far, the most popular topic of discussion and debate at faculty meetings in Christian schools is the dress code. Some schools tend toward the uniform. At my school in California, students had to wear either black or khaki slacks and either white button down shirts or black, green, or maroon polo shirts…Oh, and girls couldn’t wear flip-flops, and boys couldn’t have earrings, and there were probably about 5,000 other nit-picky things that no one could keep track of. At the school I taught in Arkansas a few years later, students were not allowed to wear jeans, they couldn’t have shirts with writing on them, the shirts had to have collars, boys couldn’t have earrings, and, like at California Christian, there were countless other things no one could keep track of.

This leads us to possibly one of the great cosmic mysteries in the universe: no matter how basic or complicated a school dress code is, no one seems to get it straight. I am convinced that the great riddle of the sphinx probably was, “What is the proper dress code?” Now, most teachers, myself included, willingly ignored the minor things and only enforced the dress code if it was so blatantly obvious that a blind man would notice. In my mind, it was, “Khaki or black pants, green, black, or maroon shirts…” ‘nuff said. Did a girl have open toed shoes? I don’t care! Was her third earring on her ear too high on her ear? I don’t care! Was she showing too much cleavage? Well, I’m certainly not going to go up to her and say, “Sally, your boobs are distracting…cover them up!” I’ll just keep my mouth shut on that one and let a female teacher tackle that problem. (Surprisingly, I’ve found that female teachers take notice of the cleavage of high school girls almost as much as the high school boys…but I’m sure it was for totally different reasons).

Evidently, though, there are teachers who lie awake at night, worrying about these travesties and breaking of even the tiniest dress code infractions. Thanks to their due diligence on such matters, every monthly faculty meeting, as well as countless morning devotions, found its way on to the topic of dress code. “What should we do if a boy’s button-down shirt doesn’t have buttons on the collar?” “How do we know if a girl’s pants are too tight?” “What if a boy’s khaki pants are cargo pants and have pockets on the sides?” “What if a girl’s khaki pants aren’t purchased from Sue Mills?” “Are Crocs allowable shoes?” “What if a girl’s shoes are more like sandals, should they be allowed?”

Sometimes I would pretend that the faculty members in the room were characters in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. Every time the dress code would come up for questioning, I would imagine each teacher making his/her way up to the bridge keeper to be asked his three questions in order to pass the bridge of death. Needless to say, there were many teachers who got tossed into the great chasm of death.

What would the correct answers be to the bridge-keeper’s questions? I think I know: “What is your name?” Joel Anderson. “What is your quest?” To teach high school English.” “What do you do if a student’s khaki pants are slightly frayed at the bottom?”

I wouldn’t do anything because I have more important things to worry about than whether or not a student has a few loose threads on his pants!

“Ok….you can go!”


For more on Getting Schooled, check it out on Amazon here: Getting Schooled: The Lessons, Plans and Life of a Teacher 2016