Monday morning Jack got into his truck and cranked up Handel’s, Messiah for Jack knew this was going to be a rough day. All weekend long his phone had be blowing up with texts from his colleagues about how the retreat went. Jack was unsure of the rules for discussing the particulars of the retreat, but he was sure nothing would be taboo when it came to the interrogation he would receive at school. While he was no prophet, Jack felt enlightened by the music and calm once he got to school.
On normal days he would be the first of the bunch to arrive. It was obvious that today was not normal as the other three PE teachers were already in the parking lot. Jack called them “George C. Scott,” because of their names, George, Carol, and Scott. They were all about the same age, had passed their primes as athletes, and had been around long enough to see educational innovation come full circle. Standards, objectives, humanism, accountability, writing, math…they had been through it all and PIOUS was just another form of innovation acting new when in fact it was just a repackaged initiative with a healthy dose of researcher flimflam and excellent marketing.
“Well, he arrives later than usual, he must be sore from his weekend retreat,” said George. “Come on, Custer, let us hear the salacious details.”
“There’s not much to say. I gave my little speech about how great PIOUS is and that was it.”
Carol said, “Stop it. There’s more. Who did everyone talk to?”
“Hmmm, everyone was kind of mingling. I couldn’t say anyone was talking to anyone.”
Scott was about to say something, but George jumped in, “You mean to tell me there is nothing of significance you can tell us about this retreat. No robes? No oils? These are you’re new friends. We want to know.”
Jack had known George forever. There was a time when the two of them did not get along. Mostly that was because Jack took a route in teaching that sought to make physical education a “respected” subject. George went a different route where PE was more like recess than school. While neither approach was wrong, the two opposites defended their opinions without much care for the other. Somewhere both realized that they were teaching the same stuff, just with different ways. Jack softened his philosophy on being a gym teacher and it became obvious to both of them that they were similar.
“Nope, there was none of that slippery stuff, but I do feel a little dirty after being around all of those visionaries.”
“Why?” asked Scott.
“Well, I was asked by a board member to keep an eye on things and that they would be in touch to ask me questions about PIOUS.”
“Which one?” asked Carol.
“I’d rather not say.”
George said, “So let me see if I’m understanding. You went to the retreat one of us. Got there and spoke like one of them only to be asked to be a rat?”
“I prefer spy.”
“Either way,” said George. “Who would be in the best position to back you into a corner? Ralph Hanby.”
Jack only smiled, but it was the kind of smile that is more confession than “I just won the lottery.”
“Priceless,” said Carol.
“No, it comes with a price,” said Scott.
George said, “Oh, you’re Mr. Blackmail expert now?”
“Think about it, that whole thing went down a couple of years ago and Hanby feels like he has something over Jack. Now he brings him favor as a sign of “it’s all good.” What are you going to do, Jack?”
“I’m going to teach my classes. If they ask me questions, I guess I’ll answer them as I see it, but I won’t be the hatchet for anyone.”
“I wonder what they want,” said Carol.
“They are after someone,” said George.
Carol turned and headed into the girl’s locker room leaving the guys in the hallway. The school was quiet as the students had not yet begun to arrive. George’s mind was racing. He loved conspiracies and intrigue.
“Hanby, he doesn’t do anything without some motive. Be careful, Jack.”
“I will, but I bet it has something to do with Dr. Betty’s Mercedes.”
“She doesn’t have one,” said Scott.
“No? She drives one that looks just like Allen’s.”
There are moments when conversations go from wasting time to full-fledged productivity in the arena of gossip. Jack had just dropped enough information to take what was a bit of friendly verbal sparring to the brink of rumor shadowboxing.
Scott asked for guidance, “Are you saying that the superintendent and principal drive the same kind of car?”
Jack saw that he now had the upper hand and that dragging these two around all day would be the best measure of his productivity. He would treat them like ferns and let them wilt without any information and then he would announce that indeed the superintendent had a car just like the principal’s. In fact, it was the very same car. She drove him around.
He said, “I have made my debut as the observer of all that is education. As PIOUS is implemented, I will share more with the world.”
“You’ve lost it,” said George.
“Maybe, but it’s time we had some fun `round here.”