Saturday, April 21, 2007

Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Mrs. Crazy Teacher and Me

OK, all you people in the blogging world, give me some advice, 'cause Lord knows I need it right now. Yesterday, along with seventh grade girl drama, we had some weirdness I cannot quite get out of my head, or figure out what to do with.

This week, at morning prayer at school, we have been praying for those affected by the Virginia Tech shootings. It gives some weight to end of the Our Father---'and deliver us from evil'.

Yesterday, there was apparently some national drive to have a 9 AM moment of silence both in honor of those who died in Virginia, and to mark the anniversary of the Columbine shootings. Our principal asked that we mark this in our classrooms. Since the seventh grade could no more maintain a moment of silence than they could sprout wings, I had the kids offer some thoughts and comments, and then we said an Our Father and a Hail Mary.

They've been following the VT situation in the news, kind of. They've come away with a fixed idea that the shooter was dating a girl who he killed because she was dating a black guy...attempts to tell them that this does not actually seem to be what happened got me nowhere. They told me kindly that I needed to start watching TV, because the newspapers don't tell you what's going on. But, well, you do what you can with tweens.

Columbine was sort of a different deal. My students were four and five in 1999. They have no real memory of the coverage of the story. And I'm not sure that to them it's significant, or should be, particularly. At any rate, I gave them a few details, and they went on to their other classes.

Specifically, math class. For math they have Mrs. Crazy Teacher. Mrs. Crazy Teacher is not my favorite person for a number of reasons, and one of the reasons that I am happy I'm leaving the school at the end of the year is that Mrs. Crazy Teacher has been tapped to be the new principal of the school. (This year she has served as VP.) Mrs. Crazy Teacher is organized, efficient, self-confident, well-spoken, has BRILLIANT classroom management skills, and absolutely no rachmones or humility that I can detect. She also has, I think, sort of a screw loose, but she is very well thought of by those who have authority over our school. (And I'm not, so my ability to take her on is zip.) This is the woman who when I ran into her one afternoon recently and told her she looked wrecked, snapped "Well, do you want my job?"

Mrs. Crazy Teacher has said a lot of things to students in the past that I have not approved of. No one asked me. She rules by fear. She bitches about the other teachers on the floor messing up the schedule, but feels free to keep my classes waiting for five or ten minutes every day while she 'wraps up' class with no apology. If one of us does it, we get complained about. She talks trash about the parents. She gets under my skin.

Anyway, apparently she decided that math class was a great time to have a 'discussion' about VTech and Columbine. She has these discussions a lot. She told the kids about Columbine in graphic detail, and told them that she would screen the video footage from the massacre if their parents signed permission slips. And she told them a story about her own college days where, apparently, a frat boy told his friends that he was going to rape a girl at one of their parties. They thought he was just being stupid, it turned out he was not. His victim was very badly hurt, and Mrs. Crazy Teacher decided to get a little graphic with the kids about that. Then she turned 'em back to me.

The girls were scared and grossed out. The boys were grossed out and disturbed. I am also grossed out and disturbed.

Does this seem like a step too far? This woman has also told the eighth graders when she's mad at them that all the girls will get pregnant before they get into high school, and that the boys will 'impregnate' a bunch of girls and then leave the state. Now she wants to show twelve-year-olds footage from Columbine and talk to them about internal damage from sexual assault? I'm not one for protecting kids overmuch from the realities of the world they live in, but what use is this to them? What's the message? Live in fear of your classmates?

Should I try to talk to the principal about this? The principal is a nice person, but she's a good and old friend of Mrs. Crazy Teacher's, and I assume supported her promotion to principal. What would you do?


The back of the hill said...

I doubt that there is anything you can do. It sounds to me like the only ones in a position to do something are the parents, if their children make mention of the matter. And then again, only if the parents compare notes with other parents.

On the other hand, fourteen years old is not really too young to get a dose of reality. Not the optimum age either, but they're heading into young adulthood, and it'll smack 'em in the face sooner or later. Especially if any of them cruise the internet or read the newspapers. So they may be more uncomfortable because of the negative group-hug aspect of getting this thrown at them in class and dysfunctionality of an authority figure doing the throwing than because of the actual statements.

Amishav said...

Uh...I think that you won't have to do much. The parents will probably be in such an uproar that she'll either get fired, or learn to keep her mouth shut. She's clearly skating on thin ice, as the arrogant are wont to do- sit back and see if she falls in. She certainly doesn't sound like the kind of person who would listen to a warning.