Saturday, June 14, 2008

Oh, and about that prank...

So, I go into school the next Monday, and the prank is done. All of the portable elements of my classroom had been moved and reset (with remarkable precision, given the difference in layouts) into my colleague's room across the hall. They earned points for accomplishing this task tastefully, and without either losing or destroying anything. They did this with a total of eight classrooms, and it weirded everyone. No one knew where to go or what to do for the first 3 periods of the day. It cracked me up to see just how institutionalized my anti-establishment minded school is.

I taught from my new digs for the day and had no real problems (I did have to go searching in my real room for stuff from my filing cabinet, and there was some confusion about just where the bilingual dictionaries had gone, but it could have been much worse). I talked to several of the seniors, Karla among them (you'll meet her in my next post), and they assured me that the rooms would be returned to their original configuration during the evening, while they were rehearsing for the graduation show. This is important because my room is used to administer the MCAS, and stuff needs to be just so. More points for the seniors for a responsible approach to this prank.

Then I got an IM from Karla that evening. "The rooms didn't get switched back," she said. "I'm sorry, but it was so late and nobody stayed, and we were exhausted from rehearsal. I'm sorry!"

So much for all the extra responsibility points. I'll just take all those back now, thank you.

We talked for a while about the importance of following through on commitments and approaching projects with the understanding that, if it relies on someone else, you need to know just how they're going to contribute. Those of you who know me know I never miss a chance to have a learning moment!

Our discussion ended thusly: Karla and I would meet at school at 7:30 (the moment the doors opened). I would bring coffee and donuts, since the IM conversation was taking place well past midnight. Together, she and I and whomever else of her classmates she could roust out of bed would go crazyjesus and move everything back the way it was.

I got up early, helped to get my own children ready for school and left, stopping for a half dozen sugar bombs and some mental clarity on the way. I got there right at 7:30, and Karla was right there, ready to go. She had managed to coerce exactly one other person to help. We went upstairs and, fueled in that special way only Dunkin' Donuts® can do it, we were a flurry of activity. We got 4 of the 8 rooms done in an hour. As the students were filing in for the MCAS, Karla and I exchanged an important look. She understood, in a way she may not have before, just how much I love her.

And the rest of her class? I spent the entire week prior to graduation berating them for their lack of responsibility and respect for others. I also had a nice, long conversation with the staff and administration about this tradition. I said it flatly and without emotion, but I mean it very seriously: If the people at the top want to continue to tolerate this, so be it, but it will not--in ANY way--involve me from now on. I would much rather see a surprises that enriches people's lives, and I'm happy to work with students and administration to see the tradition change in this way, but if it's just to be about puerile annoyances, leave me the hell out of it.

This got me thinking about just what such a happy surprise might look like, and how I might subtly introduce the idea to this next graduating class. I didn't have any ideas when I was talking with the highers-up (sic), but I'd love to flesh this idea out more. Any ideas?