I always loved this time of year as a teacher. Things would just be humming along in the classroom so I had time to poke my head up and see what everyone else was doing. This inevitably lead to observations of the new teachers.
They are always a funny group. All that enthusiasm and a belief that they could re-invent the wheel. You wait for that day when they realize that they will never actually be able to ever 'herd the cats' but they can get them to come if they run the can opener at the right moment.
They also volunteer for everything not knowing that all the marking and planning will be overwhelming enough. No wonder the sports teams never do well. Coach numnut doesn't even know the rules of volleyball, let alone how to coach that sport.
For me the most fascinating thing to watch were the school assemblies that were organized to build some kind of school spirit. These are usually run over the lunch hour and all the kids just mill around looking to cause some sort of mischief while an over enthusiastic newbie tries to keep their attention for more than 30 seconds.
There was a first year teacher that I knew once who I thought was different than all that. She was always bright and cheery and was willing to listen to more experienced educators around her. She asked lots of questions and worked hard - first one there in the morning and last one to leave at night. We all had big hope for her.
She even volunteered to run the 'House League' for the month of October despite the fact that we tried to persuade her to choose a month later in the year. She, however, was determined to prove herself.
Now the 'House League' is a way of keeping kids in line and building spirit. Each kid is divided up into one of four groups...each with their own color and name. Throughout the year the group gets points for doing good works or volunteering or winning contests throughout the year. They lose points for skipping class or being late or being sent to the Principal's office.
At the end of the year the winning group got a big bbq lunch put on for them by the PTA and the local firehouse, plus a ribbon of achievement.
Since it was October, this teacher thought that a pumpkin carving contest would be a great idea. Jr. high kids would be divided up into teams of two and each house would have four pumpkins that they had to carve. The staff would then vote on which pumpkins were the best by dropping their vote tickets into the pumpkins of their choice. She even designed the vote tickets special on the computer and printed them out on orange paper - oooooo.
I am sure she had visions of pumpkins like the one's pictured about providing the mood lighting at the Halloween dance.
I had to admit it was a great idea. Creativity, team rivalry, secret voting (except for her and another newbie, every other staff member was barred from the event lest we show favoritism to one color or team) and excited students who would all be on the edge of their seats waiting to learn who was the winner once the votes were counted. After all, there were free tickets to the dance and bags of candy to be won. Motivation was high.
She just messed up in one tiny way. She made it a SPEED event.
I still remember the screams of the students as they ran from the gym in a panic followed close behind by participants with shirts rapped around their fingers - shirts stained with blood. There was blood everywhere, on the pumpkins, on the gym floor, on the newbies, on the carvers, on other kids. It was a freakin' horror show.
Despite the fact that only 3 kids cut themselves badly enough to be taken to the hospital, the rumors grew. By the next day it was believed that half the kids had died from getting their throats cut or from being stabbed. Emergency parent/teacher conference. Gotta love the grapevine.
Of course the newbie was terrorized over what had happened. If she had known about it, I am sure she could have gotten worker's compensation for her post traumatic stress disorder. This was her Vietnam. She was never quite the same after that. Any event from then on had to be heavily vetted lest we actually kill a kid the next time.
She might have recovered and lasted the year if it wasn't for the 'snake incident' but that is a story for another time.