MacGyvering the Classroom

I hollered at two kids yesterday for using my tape.

I only have 1.5 roles of Scotch tape to last me through the foreseeable future.  And I am guarding those sonsabitches like nobody’s business.

Why, you ask, in a world where most cutting and pasting is done in Microsoft Word, am I so hyper possessive of my tape?

Dictionaries, for one. I’m constantly taping them back together.   I have no idea how teenagers manage to make a simple Spanish to English Dictionary look more well-worn than a trashy mag in a sketchy men’s restroom, but manage it they do, with under-the-radar dictionary destroying abilities, even when I’m at my most vigilant.  (By coincidence, of course, the binding is usually split open to the page where the word shit handily announces that you are now in the sh- section of the alphabet.)

Shit dictionaries aside (ha! pun!) it’s the damn tape that stresses me out.  What the hell am I going to use to stick my books (not to mention the various homework assignments, tests, and the occasional flip-flop)  back together once my 1.5 rolls are gone?

Buy more?  What?  What is this crazy excess of which you speak?

Forget MacGyver. Any clown can make a walkie-talkie out of toothpaste and a hairnet.  I’ve gotta teach 120 students on fifty cents per student per year.  Give MacGyver 120 teenagers,  sixty bucks and 180 days and I guarantee something will blow up.  Probably good ol’ Angus’ head once he realizes that his teenagers have already destroyed sixty dollars worth of pencils in the first five minutes.  (Bet you didn’t know that MacGyver’s first name was Angus.  Yeah, neither did I.  Google!)

Gather ’round kiddos.  Time for a little math and the joys of inter-curricular learning.
Eight full time world language teachers + load of ~ 125 students per teacher (not including study halls or related responsibilities) = 1,000 students/ a department budget of $500 = 50 cents per student.
Voilá!

And ours is not the biggest department in the school.  The doozies – the history department, English department – they teach way more kids than us.  And guess how much they get this year?  $500!  Wheee! So they’re really looking at more like 30 cents a kid, with which they will buy:

whiteboard markers
erasers
pencils
pens
staples
tape
paper clips
file folders
hanging folders
three ring binders
glue
scissors

Oh…forget it.  Just go open your desk drawer, take note of everything in there and then multiply it by one high school.  Checked out the price of a roll of Scotch tape lately?  Nearly two bucks.  There go four students’ entire annual budgets.

But I’m a lucky gal.  I work at a school that would rather cut the budgets for absolutely everything else but leave my job and my salary intact.  So I’ll pay it forward.  I may not be as ’80s fab-tastic as McGyver, but I can pull some impressive feats.  I will not cheat my students just because the system has.

“Alright, punks,” I tell them.  “You want to make masks for Day of the Dead?  Fair enough.  But part of my job as a teacher isn’t just teaching you Spanish…it’s teaching you how to think.  So, make the most culturally accurate mask you can, but each one of you is limited to one piece of paper, five staples and three colors.  GO!”  Suddenly,  they’re competitive.  And clever, bragging to me when they underuse their limits.  And thinking harder than they would be if I had supplies coming out my wazoo.

Yes, I could teach better if I had a few more resources.  But I try not to teach worse, just because I don’t.  And even though I’ve just completely contradicted myself, I get to do that because I’m a teacher.

I’m not contradicting myself.  I’m making you think.

Which brings me to the hidden perks of teaching.  Shit I Can Get Away With Because I’m a Teacher and You’re Not.

But that’s for another blog post.  For now, I’m off to grade ninety compositions with nothing but a butter knife and some tweezers.

And in case you’re wondering…all those MacGyver references?  Don’t use them in your classes.

They just make you look old.

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One Response to MacGyvering the Classroom

  1. LibraLabRat says:

    I have been taking a route that makes veteran teachers spit out their possibly alcohol laced coffee: I have bought nearly 300 pencils this year, god knows how many packs of loose leaf paper…and beakers. Don't get me started on the beakers.Why? Because I have kids who show up to school with nothing, and rather than be seen as poor, make it a point to appear like they are nonchalantly doing nothing.The beakers? After our first lab safety class, when I told them that chipped and broken glassware is dangerous….they pointed out that nearly all of the glassware was chipped. FML.I give myself a "monthly allowance" and I have an awesome catalog from a place called American Science and Surplus which has everything you need to build a robot girlfriend, give that girl a rubber chicken and a Vietnam era French steel pot helmet, and pose her over a Russian medical microscope.I want these kids to LOVE science, and giving them old cast off crap is not the way to do it.

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