Monday, December 11, 2006

A-I, A-I-O

Must ... be ... good.

The A.I.O. is visiting. She will most likely stop by my classroom. Must make sure there's evidence ... of ... learning.

An A.I.O. is an area instructional officer. The job description, as far as I can tell, is to make teachers miserable. Or at least fearful. I'm not sure how it works, but the city seems to be subdivided into regions and areas. And each subdivision is ruled by someone in charge. You know, another high-paid bureaucrat that reports back to the big boss, whoever that might be. The A.I.O. is somewhere up there, making a visit somehow dreadful. Oh, our A.I.O. smiles a lot. Says that we are her favorite school. But when I talk to teachers at other schools in the area, I learn that she tells them the same thing.

Anyway ... I won't mention names. But I do have a funny little story about our A.I.O.

She used to be a principal. I interviewed at her school. She didn't hire me. Didn't call to tell me why, didn't answer my calls. But about six months later, after I had found another job and had forgotten all about her school, she finally wrote me a rejection letter. I WISH I had saved it. Had I known she would one day be my A.I.O., I would have. In the brief letter, I counted no fewer than 10 errors in grammar and punctuation. At the time I was so angry that I was ready to pull out my red pen, circle the mistakes, and send it back to her with a little message: Maybe you should've hired me as your personal English teacher!

But whatever. I'm not really all that concerned with the visit. Or what she says if she does poke her head in my classroom. I just would like a chance to edit any report she writes about me.

The kids, on the other hand, might freak out when they see a "team" of observers storm into the room. They get really funny when someone walks in. There could be utter chaos one second, and the next, total silence. The teacher, sobbing at his desk, might look up and notice that the principal has walked in for an observation. The students think they're the ones being observed, so all of a sudden, they're reaching for ID's, taking off out-of-dress-code sweatshirts, opening textbooks. They respectfully raise hands and ask questions, use foreign words like "sir" and "excuse me."

After the observation, I ask the kids what happened, why they were so good. "Because it's the PRINCIPAL!" they say, not realizing that they're setting themselves up for a lifetime of fear. Fear of authority. When I tell them I was the one being watched, not them, they smile. "See?" someone says. "We made you look good!" "Yeah!" someone else agrees. "Now give us extra credit!" And then the whole class is loud again, everyone demanding extra credit.

Ah, back to normal.

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