Monday, January 23, 2012

Education Major Survival: Driving to the Classroom Observation is Half the Fun

(photo @ howstuffworks.com)


Any college students that are majoring in education must do classroom observations of local area public school teachers. This can often be a great way to gain an understanding of how a real classroom operates outside of the models and theories in the educator handbooks.  But as I’ve discussed before, these experiences can also serve as a frightening glimpse into a world that might make you consider throwing in the towel and majoring in communications like all your other friends.  


At the very least, some classroom observations should probably be a mandatory addendum to any sort of birth control or abstinence education program.

But today is not about discussing the observations themselves.  While they provide plenty of fodder for a good story, the trips to various schools near a college campus can be adventures in and of themselves. 

My friend Brad (who has accompanied me on ill fated observations before), was the one that often drove us to the various schools.  This was mostly due to the fact that I didn’t have a car for my first two years of college.  Once I did get one, it did not come with the inherent sense of direction that I so desperately needed.  I could get lost walking from the front door to my bedroom.  Brad, on the other hand, could find the lost city El Dorado if you gave him a few days.


...and a truck with 4 wheel drive.

One of the hardest parts of classroom observations is getting up in the morning.  Most schools (especially elementary schools) begin the day at an hour when most college students have just entered the deep/R.E.M part of their sleep cycle.  


As Brad pulled up to my dorm to pick me up, we would simply nod to each other silently and begrudgingly begin our journey.  The closest that we could that ever got to conversation was our palpable anger at having to be awake before the sun came up while the psychology majors wouldn't have to wake up until noon.


                                                         noisearmitage
And that's just to catch a few CSI reruns.

During one particular adventure, our first stop was at a local high school to listen to observe the jazz band.  Since the rehearsal was before school, we arrived to a nearly empty school parking lot.  As Brad pulled into the school, I noticed that he passed a giant sign that read ‘EXIT ONLY.’  I used this opportunity to finally break our silence.

“Way to fight the man, Brad,” I said as he turned his head back towards the sign. 

“Ah crap,” he replied as he pulled into a parking space.  Brad rarely made mistakes (especially when driving and/or the law was concerned), so him pulling into an empty parking lot through the exit lane was about the closest I would get to something I could give him a hard time for. 

Little did we know that when I made a joke about “fighting the man,” that fight would be against a female police offer that was larger than both of us combined.  


                                           freerepublic
...and focused on us instead of a turkey leg.


As we got out of the car, officer jogged over to us (which for her may have been a dead sprint) while screaming “SIR!!  SIR!!  YOU NEED TO STOP RIGHT THERE!!!”

We waited for her to cross the parking lot to meet us.  After about half an hour, she finally reached the car and began to aggressively confront Brad.

Now just so you’re clear on how bizarre this was for me to observe, Brad is the type of guy that can be diplomatic, friendly, and calm in nearly any given situation.  During the time I had known him, Brad had been pulled over by the police 5 times…and had never gotten a ticket.   The fact that a male was able to talk his way out of so many tickets without the benefit of a female form was astounding.


                                       examiner.com
Christina Hendricks probably gets out of a lot of 
traffic tickets just by holding that stare for 30 seconds.

Brad was also a pretty good looking guy (at least that’s what every female friend or girl that I wanted to date told me), but I doubt that all 5 of those police officers who pulled him over were smitten ladies.  Unfortunately, this particular woman of the law was not impressed with Brad in the slightest.

"Sir, are you aware that you entered the parking lot through the exit lane?!" she barked.

"Yes ma'am," Brad replied in his polite, southern drawl.  "I'm really sorry.  I didn't even notice..."

"You see, what you did could have caused an accident," she angrily interrupted.  "And here at Henry Clay High School, WE DO NOT HAVE ACCIDENTS!  What you did was reckless and could have hurt someone!"

As Brad futility tried apologize to the police officer while she continued to berated him for entering an empty parking lot the wrong way, the sun began to peak through over the tree tops.  It should have been beautiful, but somehow the surreal combination of a gorgeous Kentucky sunrise and an irate school police officer screaming at my friend made me realize that this was going to be a long and horrible day.




Just kill me now...

The observation itself was uneventful...literally.  After finishing up the class by watching a student teacher spend 20 minutes trying to tune the jazz band on a single chord, we left to go to another observation.  On our way there, we decided to take advantage of being awake and on the road before 9:00 AM with a quick stop to get breakfast at Arby's.


"Hey boy!" she said with an accent that would make even most southerns cringe.  "Looks like someone hasn't been to get a haircut in a while!"

"Ummm....yeah," Brad responded with a chuckle and polite smile.  "Could I please have a breakfast biscuit..."

"Your hair's longer than some girls' hair is!" she interrupted.

"Yeah, I guess," Brad replied with zen-like patience.  "Could I please have..."

"You need to get a haircut!" she exclaimed, smiling broadly and displaying less teeth than either of us had reasonably expected.

Somehow, Brad was able to finally make his order.  As our cashier/hair style critic brought us our food, she looked at Brad and said:

"Hey hon, I'm just joking around.  Sorry if I made ya feel bad.  I didn't mean to make ya feel self confident."

Now before you think I made one of my usual typos, please know that I am fully aware that I type "self confident" rather than "self conscious"....because that's exactly what she said.



After eating breakfast, Brad and I drove to our next (and final) observation of the day.  We watched an orchestra teacher attempt to get a room full of 30 5th graders to play in tune, questioned many of our current life decisions, and finally began to head back towards campus.

After a few miles, we came across a huge oak tree that was standing by itself near the side of the road.  The branches were bare enough that we could see the tree was covered in birds.  The perching of hundreds and even thousands of birds on one tree (who will suddenly all at once fly away) is something I have only seen in Lexington, KY...and it can be terrifying.  You can be walking to class, walk by a tree, and out of nowhere you are surround by a million birds fluttering by you.

                                                 wehadfacesthen
We have to keep moving!  Today is a lab assessment!

As we got closer to the tree, my thirst for revenge led me to suggest to Brad that as we got close, he should honk his car horn and scare the birds.  I'm not sure why Brad would ever listen to such a stupid suggestion from someone like me, but he did...and sure enough, the birds simultaneously launched themselves out of the branches in mass.

For about 4 seconds, Brad and I thought it was pretty funny.  This pretty much what our brief moment of joy and triumph sounded like:



Those brief seconds elation violently interrupted, however, by 3 loud thuds on the roof of Brad's car.  A split second later, Brad's 1986 Honda Accord was dive bombed by copious amounts of bird crap reigning down from the sky.

"HOLY CRAP!" Brad screamed over what sounded like a world ending hail storm.

"Birds are such jerks," I muttered as I rolled up my window and wiped off my arm.

We headed back to Brad's apartment, parked the car, and walked to class.  Since this was before the days of laptop computers being the norm in a college classroom, we were forced to actually listen to a sociology lecture for the next hour.

That day's lesson was about westward expansion.  I've got to admit, as bad as our trip was, those early American settlers had it a lot worse than we did....but I think my Arby's breakfast my have given me dysentery.

                                                     junkfoodbetty
No one ever says that 2 hours later while sitting on the toilet.