Back in the day when I was still a lowly middle school teacher, I had a room with an amazing view. My classroom was located in the back corner of the school and I had this great panoramic view that included some athletic fields, a stand of forest, and a pond. No matter where I was standing in the classroom I could pretend to be engaged in teaching or grading papers while actually staring out at the grounds wishing I was somewhere else.
Since upgrading myself to the high school and realizing my lifelong dream of reminding teenagers that acting like 4 year olds is not actually attractive, I have been assigned classrooms that might actually benefit from having the windows bricked over. The classrooms along the science hall of this school have windows that give us an unimpeded view of a walkway between this building and the next one over… a distance of maybe 20 feet. This walkway is open to the outside, but from our windows, we’re lucky to see the tops of a distant pine tree and maybe a cloud.
Construction and maintenance crews use the walkway to park their trucks in so if I’m very lucky I might glance out of my windows during class and catch a glimpse of a butt crack suspended ever so artfully beneath a ragged and dirty T shirt that might once have been white.
On my regular unlucky days all I get to see outside of my windows are students loitering in the walkway, drawing on the walls (or each other), smoking, or perhaps even slapping each other around a little. This might sound depressing to the uninitiated, but I can assure you that such occurrences were the highlight of my day. When I would observe these goings-on I would yank open my window and shout and throw things until the terrified students scampered back to class. In this manner I was reassured that I was having a positive impact on their emotional development.
While it’s true that my current view doesn’t afford me the same sense of timeless serenity that I used to get from gazing into the depths of the turtle pond at the middle school, one has to find happiness and satisfaction where one can.
This year our school has upgraded our windows to brand new, state of the art, double paned marvels of engineering. These windows can not only filter UV light and increase the insulation value of the school, but each and every one of them comes complete with its own venetian blind. The only problem with these new windows is that they don’t, in fact, open. I’m told that the reason they don’t open is to increase the efficiency of our equally new and improved HVAC system (this one works 50% of the time!), and I suppose that there is some merit to this argument, but it has sucked the last bit of joy from my work day.
Just this afternoon a couple of young men were “wrestling” in the walkway and I was reduced to politely tapping on the class and shooing them along with my hands. Needless to say this did nothing at all to deter the students and had it not been for a timely buttcracking from a helpful (if clueless) construction worker they might still be “wrestling” right outside my window!
Exactly how am I supposed to make a difference in students’ lives now?! I got into teaching to help our young men and women make good choices and if I can’t chuck stuff at them when they screw up I really don’t see how I’m going to make that happen. I know that I’m not alone in my increasing frustration as it is plainly written on the faces of my colleagues. My heart breaks every time I see one of the staff reflexively grab a stapler and then turn in confusion because they have nowhere to throw it. I wouldn’t be surprised if the building frustration of these new and improved windows causes droves of teachers to quit and begin their next careers as saucy television talk show hosts.