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THE REPRIMAND by Lucy Penumbra

Those Santa socks Cherry gave me itch a little bit. Just a little. Well, it’s not important, the important thing is to wear them. I like Christmas as much as the next guy. The kids are gonna see that. The kids respect that.

Now, I’m down to my last three legal pads, this one’s almost full, but Cherry will get me more when she’s at Sam’s, and I’ll stack them right in their place on Shelf C, across from the conference table, the side I sit on for easy access. They’ll last me to March, maybe April if she gets another gross. I’m on board with the technology, we’re a 21st century-ready school, but we don’t reject the traditions, either, we Individualize, no, we Differentiate.

Now, the letterhead, Tina takes care of that; is there enough in the storeroom? Plenty when I printed out this Reprimand, fourth one this year, we’ve got our problem spots. I had my feelings about this one, had my eye out, I run a tight ship. It’s all about the kids. We’re here for the kids.

She made that poor girl cry. I’ve never made a student cry—they respect me. They know where they stand. They’ve always known just what I expect from them, and they give it to me. These teachers who say, he wouldn’t this, she wouldn’t that, those aren’t effective teachers. When I was a teacher I could get a kid to do anything I wanted him to.

And her parents, yeah, they’re a pain in the ass; they’re bullies. But geez, if I found my daughter crying like that—plagiarism? No, the mom’s got it right, it’s a citation issue. The girl didn’t mean any wrong—didn’t she say Ms. Pinkle told her it was okay? Okay, so she took out the quote marks instead of taking out the quotes—it’s an understandable mistake. It’s a teachable moment. They’re just learning, and how are you gonna penalize a student for learning? That’s their job. That policy we have in the handbook, the one Ms. Pinkle keeps talking about, well, we’ll have to look at that. We’ll have to take care of that before next year. That’s a problem. But problems are meant to be solved, and I know how to solve that one. For now, this Reprimand is all written up for Ms. Pinkle, for talking to the girl before she talked to the parents. Doesn’t it say right here in the handbook, call the parents? She keeps saying the policy says, “may,” not “must,” and something about “regardless of intent,” and “will receive a zero,” but the girl obviously didn’t intend to plagiarize, hasn’t she made that clear? So it just wouldn’t be right to give her a zero. Her parents’ threats, going to the school board, the Superintendent, bringing their lawyer, all that, none of that has anything to do with it—it’s the right thing to do, we all deserve a second chance. Ms. Pinkle will have to change the grade, regardless—doesn’t the handbook say, “Regardless?”–of whatever I told her before, and the girl’s father was right, she needs a Reprimand in her file for not following school policy.

Hokay, then, there’s the bell, lunch duty—Frank? Frank? I’ll be down in a sec. Over.—I’ll call Ms. Pinkle down at the end of the day.


Good. Right. I understand. Okay, Sir, always a pleasure—old hard a—ah, but no one will ever say of Tommy Tarkington that he’s insubordinate, never have and never will, and if he wants a Supervisory Letter instead of a Reprimand for Ms. Pinkle, that’s exactly what she’ll get. I’ll call her in again this afternoon, she’ll have to sign it, it will still go in her file. It’s all about the parents, after all—yes, she needs to do a better job of developing rapport with parents, definite Room for Improvement. That girl’s mother saying Ms. Pinkle asked her to stop being hostile—and Ms. Pinkle admitted she did, right there in the meeting, and hostility around parents—well, that’s unprofessional, that’s what that is: not supposed to show any emotions. And what was that, who was that, Joey Flinn and Casper Thomas? The ones she sent out for, what did she say, being disruptive and refusing to work? They said she’s a terrible teacher, unfair, she must have known Joey was on his third strike and headed for suspension, doesn’t she know how to work with these kids? Here’s a kid we’re trying to help, and she sends him out of the classroom—kids need to be in school—so she’s got no rapport with her students, either. I know how to tell when a teacher has rapport. My students always treated me with respect. Problem teacher.

Well, once this supervisory letter or whatever the hell thing he wants to call it is filed, it’s a Plan of Assistance for her; I think she’s in need of more supervision. Maybe she needs a visit every week, more formal observations—four within the next two months should do it. I think she needs to read up on rapport too, maybe these Ed. Leadership articles I’ve been saving on Shelf E here, yes, she can write up weekly reports for me, what she learned from these articles, what she did to apply them in the classroom. Yes, that should help her shape up,

and if it doesn’t, well, contracts go out in March, and if she can’t meet the standard, then the Community expects me to weed out the—spot the—do something with the bad apples. Yes, this should be enough to show I mean business, gotta look out for our stakeholders—oh, and here, I’ll add, “I will informally observe you every week in the classroom, in the halls, in the library, or wherever you are with students, and you will sign the written weekly report to be placed in your file.” That should be enough to get her attention. Gotta get home to Cherry and the dogs, she promised me Mexican Night, she knows how much I love her Lite 7-Layer Mexican Surprise, then watch a couple of episodes of “Little House on the Prairie,” she loves that, at least if I can get out of here before 6:30.


That run was good, 4:30 a.m. and I’m on it, that hill by Alstead’s was killing me, that damn dog, what is it? Spencer? Yapping his fool head off even though he sees me every day, that little pull in my calf, but I didn’t stop, did the whole three miles. Cherry had that yogurt parfait waiting for me, she’s right, I’ll be back to what I weighed in ’03 in no time. Here before 7, gotta beat the troops, no one can say Tommy Tarkington doesn’t take a leadership role. What’s this, slid under my door? Oh, great. Great way to start the day. A Grievance. Yes, I was right, this Ms. Pinkle is a problem teacher, insubordinate, doesn’t know Best Practices, what’s this crap? “Mischaracterized,” “Arbitrary,” “Retaliatory,” “Ignorance of Ethical Practices,” well that’s hogwash, and Hardtuck’ll see that, a waste of the Superintendent’s time. Add another thing to the list: I’ll have to call him. I’ll be here past six tonight, board meeting tomorrow night, Hardtuck wants me to start observing teachers every year, that’s thirty-six times the meetings plus the hour observations plus the write-ups. My God, I’ll never get home in time for dinner, Cherry’s gonna be pissed all week long. Then that Differentiated Learning Initiative he laid out, gotta cross-check all the evals with Special Ed, Hardtuck wants me to do that—why not Julie in Special Ed? Does he have any idea? Does he have a clue? But that’s okay, that’s my job and I’m up to it; I can meet the expectations. It’s all about the kids.

But this, this Grievance, this has got to stop. Here’s a teacher, obviously a problem teacher, hostile to parents, doesn’t understand kids, if we were Charter she’d be gone, but with this Union thing my hands are tied. Now, how can I keep this thing from going to the Board? But I’ve got my own Initiative, clean this place up, and I’m the one who can make it happen.


Okay, great, so now they’re bringing the lawyers in? Isn’t that what I was trying to avoid in the first place? The taxpayers don’t want to pay for that. Okay, let them duke it out, heh heh, lawyers will be lawyers, but there ya go, that’s another 7 p.m. meeting, gotta be in Albany all that day too. Meanwhile, time to make a little trip to the third floor, see what Ms. Pinkle’s up to. Hmmm, are those her Objectives on the board? Nope, too many; how can she teach Control of the Conventions and Analyze Author’s Purpose and Identify Main Ideas all on the same day? She’s not teaching for Mastery, that’s what it is. We teach for Mastery here at Green Point High; that’s what the Community wants. Too many Objectives; didn’t I say that in her eval last year? Wrong form, too: where’s the “Students Will Be Able To”? That’s what the research shows, gotta put that SWBAT right there on the board to be effective. Better add another article to that pile; she needs remediation.

Oh, and those mid-term exams. Better take those from her, screen for bias. Gotta check, make sure she didn’t retaliate against that girl with the citation error, it’s my job, so what’s that look she’s giving me? She seems to be losing her train of thought—not prepared, that’s what it is. What? Sure enough, look at that, she’s got one, two, at least three students doodling while she talks. Those weren’t notes, those were doodles. Clearly not engaged. Ms. Pinkle just doesn’t engage her students. You wouldn’t have seen that in my classroom, not in Mrs. Howard’s or John’s either. Guess I’ll have to tell her when we meet this week, from now on she’ll forbid doodling in her class. Never seen such an incompetent teacher. Well, it’s too late this year, but by next year we’ll have enough evidence, we’ll have grounds. We’ll put the word out for one of those young teaches, they put the kids first, take direction well, someone who’ll treat the kids and the parents with respect.


What’s this? What the fuck? Oh, okay, just 3 a.m., I’ve got time. No wonder I can’t sleep, after yesterday. Sandra, Mrs. Welling, how was I to know she and Ms. Pinkle are friends? When I confronted Sandra about those library books we found in her room, clearly she had some grudge against Mr. Falby and took them, but she couldn’t admit that, couldn’t accept responsibility, just like she couldn’t admit last year when she put inadequate Objectives on the board, argued with me about them, and now that Executive Committee meeting tonight. Hardtuck says they’re in cahoots, say I have a “pattern of retaliation,” something about a petition from the staff, too, well I can bet who that is, that same bunch of troublemakers I have a list of, like Fred Amstel and Cindy Blomquist and –which three was it who asked me to let them switch their schedules around? And I had to tell them, over and over like they had some kind of hearing problem, for Chrissakes, it’s not in the best interest of our students, it’s not in the best interest of our students, and all they could say was, why not? Couldn’t accept responsibility. And then I’m already behind by four evals where I should be by now, and then that dream just now, God, what the hell was I dreaming, a bunch of witches wearing cloaks and those big hats, those–they had me on trial and one of them was Ms. Pinkle, but then I got loose and grabbed her by the nose and pulled her down and started pounding away at her while she was hollering, “Observe me again, Mr. Tarkington! Please, Sir, I want it! Observe me! Observe me! Oh, please, please, do it again,” but uh-oh, look at the sheets, Cherry’s gonna be so mad, that little wash cloth she folds so nice by the bed, I’ll have to try to use that, the one she has me use so I won’t — so it’s not so messy–says she likes it better that way, well, it’s a woman’s right, No means No, but once she sees these sheets I think she’s gonna be saying No for a good long time.

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