Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Room Mom-Part Three

     I tossed and turned and counted the many ways I could be wrong. Ryan might not have written that note with my name on it; his mother may not have concocted all the changes going on;Mrs. Jones was not avoiding me. I dreamt Ryan’s note was a coded message,  and that I was partly blind, missing my glasses for some reason, and couldn’t make out much of anything,
    The next morning, I  expected to be called into the office first thing, but it didn’t happen. Again, Marylyn was busy with so many things that I couldn't get any answers out of her. Nothing in my mail box either.  At lunch, Mousy-actually, her name is Arlene Anderson, but I can't get Mousy or Mousey, or whatever out of my head- showed up while I was tutoring waving her test scores. 
“So, how did we do?”
“How different could they be from last year?” I retorted.
“Your class always does better than anybody’s, Jean. How did you do this year?”
I was about to say that I didn’t worry about all that nonsense when I saw the secretary outside my window on her way to the cafeteria. I rushed out to speak to her, leaving Mousy to find her way out.
“Marylyn, did Mrs. Jones see my note I left yesterday?”
“Drop in this afternoon, after bus duty.”  Her look was friendly toward me.
“Ok.” I said, buoyed.
After bus duty, I reported to the office and Mrs. Jones waved me in right away with,   “You’ll get five more students from fifth grade promoted because of their age, and a couple of new ones coming from Phelan Elementary.”
I wanted to tell her that twenty students was not a small number when they all came to me behind in their skills and I spent numerous lunch hours tutoring. She jumped into Ryan Spencer’s note.
“Did something happen between you and Ryan?  I spoke with Mrs. Spencer this morning, and she said you were nice to him. But I don't want you to speak to Mrs. Spencer or anybody else about this. We don’t want to complicate matters. Let’s keep this confidential, between us.”
“We'll continue to investigate and follow up. You'll be amazed at how many children say these things all the time, to their friends, on the phone, in notes like the one you found.”
“My name is right at the top of the list!” Without my realizing, my voice had become strident.
“Jean, are you all right?  This can't be bothering you!”
“Even if he meant nothing by it, he needs a consequence of some sort. Why if people had paid attention at Columbine, if those students’ parents had known what their darlings were up to, if someone at school had followed up…”
She interrupted, abruptly, “Jean! You are over-reacting. Are you feeling o.k.?”
“I’m fine; I just can't understand why you are sweeping this under the rug. Don’t we have a policy about zero tolerance for violence threatened or implied?  How about those five other people, those children who don’t even know that their names are on that list. Shouldn’t they be warned, or something?”
“We’ll continue to investigate. This is not something to  worry about.”
“What is he learning if he gets away with these threats?"
“Discipline is a fine art, Jean. We don’t punish blindly. Especially nowadays, with schools being sued left and right. Remember when Marylyn asked that new girl about her ethnicity, and the next thing,  the Office of Civil Rights is coming down to investigate? This is a  delicate issue. Ryan will have an IEP and the team will discuss consequences.”
“An IEP? I had no idea he was on an IEP. What’s his disability?”
“Oppositional disorder.  He’s being seen by a family psychiatrist.” She stood up, the signal the conference was over, and if by magic, the phone rang too. I wanted to explain more things, talk about how his mother might have poisoned him, but I left the office.
I walked straight to my car, aware of  a headache, a big one, right at the back of the neck.
            In the parking area, Mousy seemed to be waiting for me.
            “Jean, I’ve looked at all test scores. There is no way your sixth graders could go up twenty points from fifth grade. There is a secret, right?”
            “Twenty points? It must be my discipline methods!” I smiled, thinking of how people can be so paranoid about things. Mousy and her test scores. I wanted to tell her that this was not a good time to talk to me about anything.
            “Nobody is allowed to fail in my class or skip their homework. I pester them. If the homework is not done, it gets done during lunch.” I told her this with scorn. I knew that she hardly paid attention to the curriculum she was supposed to teach, until test results.
            I got in my car and left, deciding then and there to call in sick the next day.



  1. I am absolutely unaware of where this is going but I'm curious as hell. Where's the Room mom and what is she up to? It's shifty.

    (And why the heck wouldn't the teacher have been informed of oppositional disorder? I was told once that my daughter had it but was told it was more a personality trait than a proper disorder. I was to pick my battles with her wisely. At the time she was very young, very thin, and hand't eaten a bite for thirty days. Things have vastly improved since then.)


  2. I agree with Erin - no idea where this is going,a and I like that. I am loving the part about the emphasis on test scores and outcomes vs. the actual teaching. I find myself so on the side of Jean...still, where IS the room Mom?

    Great writing!

  3. i see you in this, rosaria. rooted in your teaching days and all the byzantine stuff that goes on between teachers? trying to actually teach kids (and getting through to them!) but coming up against the brick wall of insular pedantic academe..... test scores, bringing up points...

    this frustrates so -- you've captured it perfectly. a great read.

  4. Very nice read, you really help the reader lead.
    Who knows where it could go, maybe with the flow.
    Or somewhere new, maybe a cow will even moo.
    Ok that was a stretch, about as likely is getting this cat to fetch.
    But I will continue to look, as you post each part of your book.
    While it's close to that, so says this cat.

  5. Yes indeed, The Room Mom has been transferred with her son, and soon we'll reunite her with all the characters towards an incident that becomes the last straw for our protagonist.

    The fact that you wanted to read on is a good thing!

  6. p.s. I feel like Charles Dickens here, publishing one segment at a time.

    I wonder if he got frustrated and depressed with this process as it leaves you no way to go back and add or subtract things that might help the story along.

    We, on the other hand, can go to our editing button, work out anything we want, and republish the segment with the improvements.

    Nice world we live in.

    Thanks to Erin, Marion, Amanda,Patt, for your feedback. I'm very appreciative for this close reading.

  7. hmm, i wonder what mrs. spencer would say if she read this :)