Why not...

My last of twenty-seven years in the secondary classroom, my baby just now in college, a government and economy looking like something out of Duck Soup, a pituitary tumor, chronic migraines... Hell, why not write a blog?

(My students are now gone. I'm now a civilian and really no longer a "lame duck." I hope the readers of Mama Duck will come to my new blog for some new writing and new directions. My new blog is at: Writing Isle to Isle.)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy Talk

I’ve never liked being on script, unless, of course, I’m in a play. So today when our principal required staff members to go around the room and recite what they found “positive” about “Smart Tuesday,” I looked for a cue from the wings. I drifted momentarily into a faux South Pacific set where my principal morphed into Bloody Mary. She hustled potions, grass skirts and attempted to pimp us—the women in the room (suddenly nubile Tonkinese beauties)--willingly to handsome lieutenants. Was Bloody Mary leading us in “Happy Talk?” My fingers damn near started to mimic two talking birds of paradise, clicking much like something you’d see in the Tiki Room. Would we break into an over-produced choral number where we as a staff sang 
“You gotta have a dream,

if you don't have a dream,
How you gonna have a dream come true?”

I snapped out of it. But Bloody Mary was still there glaring at me, awaiting a regurgitated statement similar to those previously offered from some of my colleagues: “It was nice to work one-on-one with some of the students.” “I had large numbers show up to make up work.” Shit. I hate this type of coercion.

I took a breath. “Well,” I started, “I had about six students come who were all from the same class, the result of how our scheduling and tracking seems to work.” Bloody Mary frowned. “None of them had done the same assignment, so I had them all work on one which was essential for skills needed to go on. I tried to work with them individually.” My voice was programmatic and edgy as hell. “I also had students come in to study who said they just needed a quiet place to study. I didn’t get to help them.” She moved on, grunting as she kept herself cool with a palm frond. Not amused.

Bloody Mary squeezed as much sweet nectar from the “Happy Talk” portion of the meeting as she could. But then clouds gathered around Bali Ha’i. No more “Happy Talk.”

“CUT! CUT!” A director bellows! “This is entirely off script!” But it’s too late. She had to listen to what didn’t work. At one point Bloody Mary actually “shhh’d” my husband when he countered a point about student sign-in sheets, to which she caught herself, and immediately apologized. She actually “shhh’d” a thirty-year veteran teacher with an outstanding reputation as an educator. He hadn’t been disrespectful. He’d just disagreed. And he had too obviously been right. She a few sentences later admitted as much.

Nobody expected the new program to work perfectly. And this isn’t a case of schadenfreude. But the entire scene would have been much better (or even prevented) had teachers been genuinely included from the beginning. And, are we going to fix the problems brought up in our discussion by the next “Smart Tuesday?”

No…just “Happy talk, keep talking happy talk,
Talk about things you'd like to do
You gotta have a dream,
if you don't have a dream,
How you gonna have a dream come true?”


  1. I'm guessing it's a tad too cynical to think supes coerce principals, principals coerce teachers, and teachers coerce students. How long would the pregnant pause last if supes, principals, and teachers all resolved not to coerce anyone to say anything?

  2. A choral number? Not knowing anything, I wouldn't have been able to restrain myself...

    "Bloooody Mary is the - girl I love!" bum bum dum dum.
    "Bloooody Mary is the - girl I love!" bum bum dun dun.
    "Bloooody Mary is the - girl I love - now ain't that too damn bad!"

    She might have adjourned the meeting to go wash her hair.