Education Opinion

Half a Stack

By Emmet Rosenfeld — October 23, 2008 3 min read
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I thought teaching only two English classes a day would give me more time, but somehow I feel twice as busy as when I taught a full load. Here are a few things that keep stealing my attention away from the partially graded stack of mock application essays on my desk.

International Day Rehearsal
103 flags in a row, and a kid to go with each one (in most cases, one tall enough to hold the flag unfurled so it doesn’t brush the floor). Then a cadenced march across the gym floor to stand in orderly rows spilling off the stage. Next, run throughs for fashion and talent shows, complete with a slightly frantic teacher, a semi-functioning sound system, and a gaggle of cross-legged kids fidgeting on the hardwood until it’s their turn to morph into whirling Indian dancers or musical savants at piano.

Website redesign
Enter a darkened office where the rep from the company that’s going to give our online presence a facelift sits along with a changing cast of school characters, all of us staring at the projected screen of his laptop as he tours sample sites and clicks through an endless array of forms to define the specs. The high end talk is cool: what sort of experience does a student, a parent, or an alum want at our website? What do we wish we could do online that we can’t do right now? The nitty gritty boils down to details like, “3.34.3. Number of Search Columns… okay, you can have 1-5 columns here. I recommend 3. Is everyone okay with 3?”

Fire Alarm
Montage (thoughts and walkie-talk): Why didn’t anyone tell me there was a fire drill scheduled? I’ll sweep the first floor, you sweep the second. Wait, this isn’t a drill? All clear on the lower level. Why did this have to happen today? Is the fire department here yet? Is that worker running into the building? Hold on, I’m checking the boiler room. Man, it smells steamy in here. Confirmed, we had an issue in the boiler room. Glad this guy is okay! On my way to the alarm box now. Should I have reset this thing or will this fire captain do it? All clear, everybody back in.

New Uniforms
Skorts, Peter-Pan collars, front-button cardigans… a world of gradeschool chic has opened up to me as I select and codify a new school uniform for next year. Sharpening our brand on the school’s 70th anniversary has turned into a far more challenging task than I originally anticipated. Fashion forward planning is only half the battle: there’s the pitch to parents, coordinating the roll-out, rewriting the handbook. And all that’s before the first kid shows up with his new shirt untucked. One unexpected benefit is that our Director of Development and I have both mastered the document review function in Word 2007.

New Languages
Strategic planning committees are looking at what we do well and where we can improve, and one of the answers to both is foreign languages. My colleague, Suzanne, and I speakerphone with a board member to brainstorm. Can we offer foreign language instruction in grades before 1st ? What other languages, besides the French and Spanish and smattering of Latin we have already, should we consider offering? Is the IB Middle Years Program for us? How about Mandarin immersion for summer school? By the end of the conversation, I’ve got a page of scribbled notes that look vaguely like English, and the task of writing up a proposal for an upcoming board retreat.

Kid Stuff
In the midst of my busy week, kids keep doing silly and not so silly things like getting their feelings hurt, planning a school-wide mock election, skipping homework assignments to play in the big soccer game, making tombstones for a character from a book in English class, spraying Axe in the locker bank, and… well, you get the idea. The stuff kids do at school, day in and day out. Never a dull moment, that’s for sure. If there were, I’d get the rest of those essays graded.

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