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Friday, Dec 19, 2014
Steve Otto Columns

Otto: New school year, same old routine

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Our bedroom clock has one of those nagging alarms that steadily increases in volume and irritation level. I hadn’t heard it in a while since the Frau decided to put away her bullwhip and No. 2 pencils and leave the Hillsborough County school system a few months ago before that sore on the top of her head from hitting it against the wall got any worse.

I tried to grab the alarm but only knocked it off the table to the floor, where it hit Tennessee the dog, who jumped up thinking it was time to go outside and bark at something.

“What’s happening?” the Frau said, rolling over in bed and crushing the Whitman’s Sampler box she had been snacking on while watching her show the morning before. “Is it time for ‘Matlock?’”

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“No, honey,” I whispered. “I have to go down to south county to talk to a bunch of new schoolteachers about what to expect next week. Just go back to sleep.”

“SCHOOL!” she said loudly, sitting up. “MY LESSON PLANS! I’VE GOT TO GET DRESSED. WHAT TIME IS IT? MAKE SOME COFFEE WHILE I TAKE A QUICK SHOWER!”

“Now, just lie back down,” I said as soothingly as possible. “You don’t have to get up before dawn anymore. She settled back into bed, twitching every now and then, grating her teeth as if she were still grading math papers.

I opened the door and headed into the darkness, smack into a steam bath. Wasn’t there a time when kids went back to school and it was fall and the air was crisp?

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Truth is, she already does miss it. Oh, she doesn’t miss the bureaucracy that cares more about putting up numbers to look good instead of trying to inspire kids to learn something. She won’t miss endless meetings and conferences. She certainly won’t miss having a “mentor” who knows nothing about her students, their issues or what is happening at a given time coming into her classroom and making evaluations that have little to do with what actually is going on.

She will miss the kids. She loves it when some 6-foot-4 behemoth comes up to her in the grocery or at church and asks if she remembers him when he was half that size. She does.

I’m not sure why they asked me down to south county today to talk to the new teachers instead of her. If you haven’t been to this part of Hillsborough County in a while, it’s a whole new world. The old tomato fields now have upscale gated communities.

I think it would be good to be a teacher out here. For one thing, you’re away from all those administrators downtown. My guess is they don’t know where the schools are out here anyhow, and a teacher might have a chance to actually teach. It’s another year.

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