If a horror movie is going to succeed as a movie franchise, the most serious challenge is to make a good #2, So, for the sequel to The Haunting, I will tell you about the Wicked Witch of Creek Valley. I hope to haunt her when I become a ghost, I really do. And I should explain to you why.
My first job in the Dallas Fort-Worth area was at Creek Valley Middle School. I was hired there by Dr. Witchiepoo (most likely not her real name… though not to protect the innocent). She was a very prim and proper sort who had a reputation as a really good principal for earning high test scores on the State tests. When she hired me, it was because I could demonstrate from school-district records that I, as the only 7th grade English teacher in the South Texas school district, was responsible for improving writing scores, above the State targets for the increasingly difficult and high stakes writing tests. She was good at recruiting talented people for her school. She was not, however, very good at treating talented teachers as human beans… er, I mean human beings.
I was assigned to be the #2 English teacher in Team #2 of the Eighth grade. I soon discovered that I was #2 because #1 was one of Witchiepoo’s favorite teachers. Now, I don’t blame #1 for that. She was a nice teacher who loved students and didn’t understand why she got all the best students and the best treatment at faculty meetings. I, and two other English teachers had to handle all the thugs and discipline cases. In fact, the History teacher on our Team was also a basketball coach, and he shared with me the fact that all the worst kids in the 8th grade were in my English classes. Classes of not less than 24 kids and not more than 30, for two consecutive class periods (double-dipping kids in reading and writing for two of the five major tests on the all-important State tests) can be a nightmare when they are packed with discipline problems. I had five special education students who were all emotionally disturbed. I had a bipolar teenage girl in one class who refused to take her medications and was not even identified by the special education department. I had to find out about that one from the mother when discussing incidents in the class room. Juggling that many wackos is possible, but you have to be properly informed and prepared. And I was handling them as well as it is possible to do.
But, Dr. Witchiepoo did not like the way I taught. She believed good classroom discipline is a quiet classroom, and bad kids controlled completely through fear. I normally engaged with kids, joked with kids, listened to kids, and other things that made noise. (Oh, my gawd! The evil-eye looks I got from the boss.) And I had at least one young gentleman of color that Dr. Witchiepoo wanted to see expelled for poor behavior. The thing that ground my kippers the most about that situation was that he was actually a good-natured kid, quite likeable, and trying his hardest to meet behavioral expectations. All of my favorite kids that ill-fated year were actually black kids. I got the distinct impression that Dr. Witchiepoo didn’t feel the same. Bipolar girl registered some kind of complaint about the young gentleman. Dr. Witchiepoo was on my case to punish him daily, but without telling me what he had done wrong in my classroom. I watch kids constantly and learn a lot about them just by looking. Whatever this invisible behavior was, it gave Dr. Witchiepoo the fuel she needed to burn me with. The fireball came during my evaluation. Dr. Witchiepoo came in to evaluate my teaching methods in the class in which both bipolar girl and the young gentleman were in attendance. She told me she didn’t have enough information for her evaluation after the first period-long evaluation (I still maintain it was because she didn’t see any bad things she could use against me). So, she came back on another random day, un-announced, and she lucked out. It was a day when bipolar girl was on a rampage. I knew from the usual signals, late arrival, catty comments, and brooding silence, that bipolar girl was having a bad day. (I have since learned that special education law specifies that my ignoring any attention-getting behaviors was the proper procedure for that kind of problem.) While the bipolar girl was ignoring my wonderful teaching all period long because I didn’t rise to any of her bait, the principal spied the colored marker drawings that bipolar girl was occupying herself with instead of interrupting my lessons. Principal Witchiepoo marched over to bipolar’s desk and took her markers away from her. She didn’t shout at the girl, but she said things to her that guaranteed the retaliation that followed. Witchiepoo put the markers on my desk, indicating that bipolar girl could not expect to get them back. Well, then bipolar girl did interrupt my lesson and quietly got out of her seat without asking permission, walked to my desk, and took her markers back. This is when the shouting started. Not me, mind you. Principal Witchiepoo and bipolar girl. I was ordered to take my class to the library for the remaining ten minutes of the period while the Principal did whatever evil thing she intended to do to bipolar girl.
My evaluation nearly ended my teaching career. As far as I know, bipolar girl got her markers back and maybe sat for two hours in detention. I, on the other hand, was zeroed out in two domains on my evaluation, discipline because that was the obvious one, and promoting critical thinking in the classroom, because Witchiepoo couldn’t guarantee non-renewal with just one zero. I was doomed from that day until the Garland school district gave me another chance to be a teacher three years later. I felt ambushed. The human resources officer for the district I was working for was rooting for me to get another chance, probably because he was getting other similar reports of abuses by Witchiepoo, but because I made the mistake of signing the bad evaluation, he had no recourse but recommend non-renewal of my contract.
So that is why I intend to haunt Witchiepoo. But it will be hard to find anything scarier than she is to use against her. The one thing a bully in a position of power like that fears most is loss of control. To accomplish that, I will have to possess a number of her students and make them defy her. Nothing scares a bully more than when the powerless stand up to them.
But there are drawbacks to this plan. First of all, being inside a middle-school brain is bound to be super-yucky. Boys often have the next closest thing to raw sewage going through their imaginations at any given time. Girls can be full of saccharine-sickly pink clouds and butterfly-farting unicorns, or they can be darker and more super-Goth than any boy. Possessing a boy would make me feel polluted, while to possess a girl is risking complete Silence of the Lambs levels of insanity. So, there is that.
And worse, by now, karma has probably already caught up with Dr. Witchiepoo. She had driven twelve teachers out of her school with her demanding micro-managing by the time the first semester had ended the year I was teaching for her. The administration was already beginning to wonder. The last time I talked to a colleague from Team #2 about Witchiepoo, a very talented math teacher who was also looking for a new job, I was told that she was on the verge of being fired for excessive abusive behavior against teachers and students. And that was eight years ago now. What are the chances that the tiger traded stripes for lamb’s wool? So once again, my haunting plan will probably not work out.