The playground at my school is half fenced off due to I-don’t-know-what. Nothing seems to be happening there right now, nothing seems to have happened there over the summer, no one seems to know what either happened there or what is supposed to happen there. All I know is that half the playground – and one of our two areas with equipment for the kids to play on – cannot be accessed by those kids. Charming.
There is a portable classroom under construction. It sits there, empty, windows facing the fenced-off playground equipment. There are no stairs going up to either of its two doors. Apparently it has no electricity or water hook-up yet. We do not know when this will be done. In fact, we do not know IF this will be done. But it’s okay, because, really, how could anybody know that the kids would be back in session as of September 6 anyway? How could any construction crew have any idea that this portable classroom would actually need to be used by kids as of that date?
We have renovations going on in a previously unused wing of our school. Where there used to be two large rooms used for storage of old and decrepit school district stuff (we call this area the Haunted Hallway, which should give you a clue as to what this wing ressembles), we are told that eventually, there will be one large classroom and only one large room used for storage of old and decrepit school district stuff. And this is why we had to have the portable classroom, no doubt, so that the school district could continue to store old and decrepit stuff that no one has used for decades because no one even knows it’s there. Or would WANT to use even if they knew it existed. And again, this new classroom is nowhere near completion, likely because nobody told the renovation crew that it might be needed by September 6. Or maybe they did, but neglected to mention that it was for 2011.
This means that we have two classes of kids without classrooms at the moment. Lovely, don’t you think? One class has taken up residence part-time in the computer lab. The other is headquartered in the cafeteria (which, fortunately, is no longer used as a real cafeteria, but as a multi-purpose room available to all classes upon a first-come, first-served basis. And it’s also now become a before- and after-school daycare. Which means that fully half the room is taken up by the daycare’s couches and tables and carpets and bookcases and toyboxes. Which, in turn, means that even if that one class wasn’t in there most of the time, the room wouldn’t truly be accessible to anybody because half of it is filled with stuff that the daycare people are not supposed to just leave out but they do anyway). Oh, and the teachers of these two classes do a lot of shared teaching, so because they have no classrooms of their own right now, when they wish to do larger group activities, they have to co-opt the gym, which is the only available space big enough for two Grade 7 classes. Which means that no other classes can use the gym during those times.
Full-day kindergarten has started at my school this year. Don’t even get me started on what I think of that, but our principal has decreed that the kinderkids have to have separate recess and lunch times from the rest of the school. So where are they, fifteen minutes before the rest of the kids are released, twice a day, every day? On the only remaining playground space, right outside the windows of four classrooms, one of which is mine. Did I mention how noisy four- and five-year-olds are? How they adore screaming at the top of their little lungs? How loud they can cry when they fall? How bad their aim is when they try to toss a big red rubber ball to their friend? How much they yell when that ball accidentally hits a window?
Oh yes, and we teachers are also on what is called Phase 1 of our job action. Our contract ran out last June, and negotiations have pretty much stalled, so our union has come up with this plan to put pressure on the school board and from there, onto the government to get talking with us again and work out some compromises. Along with lots of other things, Phase 1 entails no meetings or official communications (either written or in electronic form) with our administrators. While the no meetings part is very nice, it’s rather frustrating to not be able to send off a quick email to the principal or vice-principal about supplies or assessment results or anything! But an upside of Phase 1 is that we teachers are also not doing any supervision of kids out on the playground, administrators must do it all. Teachers are just supposed to teach right now. That’s a good thing, being able to just do our job and not get bogged down in all the other time-sucking things that somehow, have become a part of the teaching profession.