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Unfortunate Incident

 
 


Dear Miss Barrett,

Thank you for everything …..

It’s not your fault ….. I wish

you all the happiness and

joy you der deserve …..

Some day they will

all know ….. Be well

and take care of yourself …..

I hope I didn’t inconveniance

You.

Alice Blake

 

 

* * *

 

INTRASCHOOL COMMUNICATION

 

FROM: H. Pastorfield, Room 307

TO: S. Barrett, Room 304

 

Dear Sylvia,

Can you spare some chalk?

What's all the commotion outside?

Henrietta

 


INTRASCHOOL COMMUNICATION

 

FROM: Mary Lewis, Main Office

TO: S. Barrett, Room 304

 

Sylvia— How awful! How perfectly awful! We've never had anything like this since I've been here. Where is Paul? His time card is punched in, but no one can find him. How awful that it happened in his room!

Mary

(The office is Bedlam. Finch is in hysterics—never saw her like this before!)

 

* * *

 

INTRASCHOOL COMMUNICATION

 

FROM: Marcus Manheim, Room 306

TO: Sylvia Barrett, Room 304

 

Dear Miss Barrett,

They need me as a witness, although I didn't really see it—I was just passing by 309. If you're not teaching, can you cover my class for a few minutes while I sign the papers and forms? Thank you.

S. Manheim

 

* * *

 

FROM: James J. McHabe, Adm. Asst.

TO: all teachers

 

ALL TEACHERS AND STUDENTS WILL PLEASE REMAIN IN THEIR ROOMS, DISREGARDING THE BELLS, UNTIL THE AMBULANCE ARRIVES.

JJ McH

 

* * *

 

Dear Miss Barrett,

 


Please send down Health Card for Alice Blake—Urgent!

Do you have any blank Accident Reports? I'm all out—Urgent!

Do you know where Mr. Barringer is?—Urgent!

Frances Egan

School Nurse

 

* * *

 

INTRASCHOOL COMMUNICATION

 

FROM: 508

TO: 304

 

Dear Syl—

It's ghastly, I know, but try to keep the kids busy.

Can you reach Paul? It seems she left a letter for him on his desk.

Bea

 

* * *

 

 

FROM: James J. McHabe, Adm. Asst.

TO: all teachers

 

AN UNFORTUNATE INCIDENT HAS OCCURRED. YOU ARE REQUESTED NOT TO DISCUSS IT WITH ANY POLICE OFFICERS IN THE BUILDING OR ANY OUTSIDERS. WE MUST NOT ALLOW THE PUBLIC IMAGE OF OUR SCHOOL TO BE DISTORTED UNDER STRESS.

JJ McH

 

* * *

 

Dear Miss Barrett,

Please initial the entry: "Jumped or fell" over the red line on the enclosed PRC for Blake, Alice.

You will note that her CC's for the last 4 terms indicate excellent adjustment:

 


Term 1: Nice & helpful

" 2: Leadership potential

" 3: Reliable—blackboard monitor

" 4: Lovely girl—polite

It's most atypical for a girl with her stable PPP to have done what she did, but there are factors beyond our control.

Ella Friedenberg

Guidance Counselor

 

* * *

 

Dear Miss Barrett,

Please fill out the enclosed Emergency Form:

CHECK ONE: Parent or Guardian



Reached

Not Reached

By Telephone

By Telegram

TO: Parent or Guardian of _____________

We Regret to Inform You That Your

Son ____________________________

Daughter _______________________

 

* * *

 

INTRASCHOOL COMMUNICATION

 

FROM: 508

TO: 304

 

Dear Syl‑‑

Anything I can do?

Bea

 

* * *

 

FROM: James J. McHabe, Adm. Asst.

TO: all teachers

 

YOU ARE REQUESTED NOT TO OBSTRUCT ANY INFORMATION THE POLICE WISH TO HAVE, PRO-

 


VIDED YOU WERE A DIRECT WITNESS TO THE OCCURRENCE, IN WHICH CASE YOU ARE TO REPORT TO THE OFFICE AT ONCE.

JJ McH

 

* * *

 

INTRASCHOOL COMMUNICATION

 

FROM: H. Pastorfield, Room 307

TO: S. Barrett, Room 304

 

Dear Sylvia,

What's the latest? Did Paul show up yet? I understand she left him a love letter! That's what happens when sex drives are repressed. This whole business should be aired out in the open!

Henrietta

 

* * *

 

FROM: James J. McHabe, Adm. Asst.

TO: all teachers

 

THE NEXT TWO PERIODS WILL BE SHORTENED TO 38 MINUTES EACH, TO MAKE UP FOR THE LONG 1st PERIOD DUE TO THE UNFORTUNATE INCIDENT.

 

TO PREVENT IRREGULARITIES IN THE FUTURE, TEACHERS MUST REDOUBLE THEIR VIGILANCE AT ALL TIMES. NO ROOM IS TO BE LEFT UNCOVERED AT ANY TIME, WHEN NOT IN USE.

JJ McH

 

* * *

 

Disregard bells.

Sadie Finch

School Clerk

 

* * *

 

TELEPHONE MESSAGE

 

FOR: Miss Barrett, 304

In answer to your call, Hospital called back to say no change in condition.

 


Dear Miss Barrett,

If you're free, can you relieve me in the Health Office for a while? I must lie down someplace.

Frances Egan

School Nurse

 

* * *

 

INTRASCHOOL COMMUNICATION

 

FROM: Mary Lewis, Main Office

TO: S. Barrett, Room 304

 

Dear Sylvia‑‑

Paul just breezed in!

Guess who's been punching him in every morning? —Sadie Finch!

Mary

 

* * *

 

Dear Miss Barrett,

It has been a great shock to all of us, particularly to those who, like you, knew the child. If you wish to be excused from your classes, I shall be glad to take them over.

Sincerely,

Samuel Bester

 

* * *

 

Sylvia!

Just stepped into a hornet's nest.

I am the villain of the melodrama.

Was I supposed to encourage a neurotic adolescent?

My real crime seems to be that I wasn't in my room the first period—even though I have no class. How could I know she would walk in and do it?

 


They tell me her fall was broken by the ledge below the window. Thank God for small mercies!

She left me a note full of dots and renunciation. It had to do with a love letter she had sent me, which I handled in the only way possible.

I can use a drink.

Meet me for lunch?

Paul

 

* * *

 

FROM: James J. McHabe, Adm. Asst.

TO: all teachers

 

LESSONS ARE TO PROCEED AS USUAL, WITH NO REFERENCE TO THE INCIDENT. TEACHERS ARE TO DISCOURAGE MORBID CURIOSITY ON THE PART OF THE STUDENTS.

JJ McH

 

* * *

 

Dear Miss Barrett, Is it OK if I start collecting money from the Home Room kids in my different subject classes to send flowers to Alice in the hospital? If she's OK. The thing is we always used to sit in front of each other.

Carole Blanca

 


Debits and Credits

 

Nov. 17

Dear Ellen,

So much has happened since the last time I wrote to you, I don't know where to begin. Little Alice Blake threw herself out of a window, for the love of Lancelot. But instead of floating, pale and lovely, past his window like the Lady of Shalott (this was one of her fantasies I glimpsed when I found her notebook), she is lying in splints and traction in the hospital. She may need an operation on her hip bone, her doctor tells me. She may limp for the rest of her life. So far, she has refused to see anyone from school.

There has been a frantic spurt of directives.

McHabe advised us to keep our public image intact and our students in their seats.

Bester reminded the English Dept. to open windows from the top only. I said I would—except for my broken window, which is broken from the bottom.

There has even been a circular from Clarke, addressed to: Homeroom Teachers, Subject Teachers, Faculty Advisers, Deans, Administrative Officers, Clerical Staff, Coaches and Custodial Staff, urging us all to be aware of our responsibility in a democracy.

Paul asks how I would have handled a love letter from a student. I don't know—by talking, maybe, by listening. I don't know.

How sad that we don't hear each other—any of us.

Major issues are submerged by minor ones;

 


catastrophes by absurdities. There was a bit of a to-do about the school clerk who had been punching Paul's card in the time clock—a practice more honored in the breach. She, at least, proved her love in a practical manner. After a brief burst of unexpected emotion, she is spewing out mimeographs as impersonally as ever.

This was a week for erupting passions. Henrietta Pastorfield, hep spinster, good sport, pupils' pal, found her best student, Bob, in the deserted Book Room with Linda Rosen. She flew into a hysterical rage and had to be sent home. I don't know what she saw; apparently the kids had been "making out." What the exact boundaries of making out are I'm not sure. I'm not sure the kids are sure either. But it was enough to devastate poor Henrietta. "She can't even spell," she kept gasping between sobs. "He won the Essay Contest, and she can't even spell. . . ."

She hasn't been back since, and we have a young per diem substitute who had taught shoes in a vocational high school on her last job. Though her license is English, she had been called to the Shoe Department, where she traced the history of shoes from Cinderella and Puss in Boots through Galsworthy and modern advertising. "Best shoe lesson they ever had," she told me cheerfully. "Until a cop came in, dangling handcuffs: 'Lady, that kid I gotta have.'" To her, Calvin Coolidge is Paradise.

While Henrietta is recovering from her moment of truth and Alice is lying in the hospital, life goes on. We are now involved in preparations for the Midterm Exams and the Thanksgiving Dance.

But Alice's attempt to die was not in vain. Teachers are now more careful about punching in, and Paul has appointed a monitor to guard his room when he's not in it.

You ask about Ferone and Willowdale, in that order. I received a beautiful letter from the Department Chairman at Willowdale. He addressed me as if

 


I were a lady and a scholar (hey, that's me!) and invited me to come for a personal interview in December.

And Ferone is still testing, testing me, with all the tricks of the trade. He pretends not to hear and keeps asking me to repeat. He drops books loudly, spends a long time picking them up, drops them again. He arrives late and stands gaping in the doorway. He answers me with false humility: "Yes'm, teach, you're the boss." He rocks on his heels, hands in pockets, the inevitable toothpick in his mouth.

"I got no homework."

"Why not?"

"1 didn't do it."

"Why?"

"I just didn't."

"How do you expect to pass?"

"I'm supposed to accelerate at my own speed. I'm supposed to compete with myself. Well, I'm not so hot!"

Why do I bother? Because I feel something in him that is worth saving, and because once he wrote me: "1 wish I could believe you."

Not that he's in class much; he keeps cutting to be with Grayson. I don't know what goes on down there. After the scandal about custodial misuse of funds, I look upon the whole Basement with a wary eye. There was, of course, a directive: students are not to use staircase which terminates in the basement.

All staircases but one terminate in the basement.

But whenever I feel too frustrated to go on, I find an unexpected compensation: a girl whose face lights up when she enters the room; a boy who begins to make sense out of words on a printed page; or a class that groans in dismay when the end-of-period bell rings.

In order to remember the rewards when the going gets rough, I've made out a list of Debits and Credits:

 



DEBITS

Ferone (still unreached)

Eddie Williams ( " " )

Harry Kagan ( " " )

McHabe (!!!!!!)

Mild bladder symptoms (This is an occupational disease: there is simply no time to go to the bathroom!)

Clerical work piling up, up up!

Nov. Faculty Conference:

problems of overworked teachers, overcrowded classrooms, dropouts, integration, teachers' strikes, salary raises, teacher training, building scandals—were all "postponed for lack of time"—just as they were in Sept. and Oct.

Lunch hour at 10:17 a.m.

Not enough books, chalk, time to teach, endurance ...

Etc., Etc., Etc.!


CREDITS

Jose Rodriguez no longer signs "Me"!

Vivian Paine losing weight; likes herself better.

Lou Martin, in the midst of clowning, raises a hand to answer a question!

Four kids took out public library cards for first time!!!

I may look forward to retirement after 35 years of service; at 70 it's mandatory!


 

Yes, Mother still sends me gory clippings. At the same time, she inquires delicately whether or not there is a young man in my life. I tell her there are many. Over a hundred.

I'm glad Suzie liked my birthday present. It's delicious to shop for a little girl of two. And please stop remonstrating—I may be a teacher, but I'm not that poor!

Tell me about your Thanksgiving. I was supposed to have dinner with Paul, but how can you wish on a

 


turkey wishbone with a man who is capable of correcting a love letter?

Love,

Syl

 

P.S. Did you know that a third of all New York City teachers are substitutes?

S.

 



Date: 2016-01-03; view: 316


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