Shaping the Staff.

So, nothing is perfect.  This is about things that aren't perfect.

So, nothing is perfect. This is about things that aren’t perfect.

First of all, I discovered that it is the texture of the paper that I actually prefer using that has been causing me all of the digital reproduction issues that I have been griping about lately. That suggests that I need to make a choice, relatively soon, about paper, or just learn to deal with it. I bring it up because that kind of thing, a change in the texture of paper, seems like a small deal, but can have a big influence on the finished product.

That’s a pretty useful metaphor for one of the small challenges currently at work. It isn’t the kind of sweeping organizational problems that I used to face, but a sort of “Devil in the Details” that can easily accumulate into a significant influence on the product as a whole.

Over the summer, the district made changes to contracts, and stopped renewing certain kinds of teacher contracts. That resulted in one of the tenth grade teachers being let go, which is unfortunate. I planned with her over the summer, and she seemed pretty competent and on her game, despite being at the very beginning of her career. Her position is now being covered by a substitute, for the forseeable future. Another two sections of the tenth grade class in English were taken over by a gentleman that I just met last week, and seemed pretty set on “doing his own thing.” I’m pretty sure that I’ll be doing a post about that some time soon.

Considering that we, as teachers, are all supposed to be doing similar things, that instability is a serious liability. It doesn’t affect my own day to day classroom operations that much, but it certainly changes the idea of “collaborative planning.”

In addition, for two of my class sections, I am supposed to have a “co-teacher” who comes in and works with me, in direct support of the special education students. That position is unfilled at this time, so the have been sending a “Pool Teacher” to provide me support.

What’s a “Pool Teacher”, you ask?

Good question. This is a tenured teacher who was somehow displaced from their position at their prior school. There are a number of ways that this can happen, that in itself is not a reflection of any kind of teacher quality, or lack thereof. However, to be in “the Pool”, a teacher needs to have not been “picked up” by a school site to fill any unfilled positions that they have. This…this is often a direct statement about quality, or lack thereof.

Two days last week, a “Pool Teacher” was assigned to me for those class periods. Showing up and leaving as she pleased, sitting at the desk and checking e-mail, and periodically saying “If you need anything, let me know.” No familiarity with the student special ed caseload, and no certification as an english teacher.

To be honest, I’d rather fly solo.

That’s, of course, what the art is about. I honestly feel that after a certain time, these “Pool Teachers”, who ultimately become very expensive substitutes, need to be given a permanent class assignment at their pay rate, or let go. It isn’t really fair to more junior teachers to have a non roster carrying teacher that makes more money than they do, for less responsibility. That in itself seems unfair to the great majority of motivated young people entering the profession.

I have not yet met a “Pool Teacher” that was worth carrying at a school site.

What’s up with “Faker”? Good question. In keeping with the Fantasy Setting of the Edu-Mountain, Faker is a character lifted whole cloth from the animated cartoons of the 80’s. Faker is a fictional character in the of the Universe toy line and the accompanying animated series “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.” He is an evil duplicate of the lead character, He-Man, in service to the villain Skeletor.

Different media present differing interpretations of his character. The original toyline presents him as a blue-skinned robot replica of He-Man built to serve Skeletor, the toy was packaged as “Evil robot of Skeletor” (or “Evil robot impostor”). Right there, you can pretty much see where I was going by introducing him as a character.

Faker was one of the earliest characters to be produced for the Masters of the Universe toyline, released onto the shelves in early 1982. His toy is a blue-skinned, red-haired repaint of the He-Man figure, wearing armor identical to Skeletor’s in orange, with a sticker showing inner robotic workings over his chest. His skin color and armor are intended to make him appear as a cross between He-Man and Skeletor. Only one mini-comic, late from the original toy line’s run, features the character – “The Search for Keldor” – and the suggestion is that he is an evil robot built to duplicate He-Man’s power and use it to serve the forces of evil. He is used by Skeletor to impersonate He-Man in order to distract King Randor from uncovering the great secret of Keldor. Randor is not fooled by this attempt and Faker suffers a quick defeat.

Well, yeah. Who is going to be tricked that he’s actually He-Man? You made the robot blue, Skeletor, and He-Man is a blond guy with a suntan. Sheesh. Get other paint, evil bro.

Actually, the animated series did a decent job of dealing with that, in Faker’s ONE appearance. When Faker appears in a single episode of the Masters of the Universe animated series by Filmation, (called “The Shaping Staff”, inspiring the play on words for the post’s title) the cartoon presents a radically different interpretation of him, which greatly confused toy buyers. Faker appears as an exact physical replica of He-Man with the same skin tone and armor as the real He-Man, the only physical differences being glowing eyes and a hollow-sounding voice. He is presented as a magical creation rather than a robot, created by Skeletor out of thin air in a surprisingly easy manner, leading one to wonder why Skeletor did not use his magic to create a whole army of evil He-Men if such an act was this easy.

After a quick fight with the real He-Man, Faker charges at him and falls into the bottomless abyss of Grayskull, never to return for the rest of the series. So yeah, not very effective. Like the Pool Teacher of Bizarros.

The more whimsical version of Faker that I used as a reference.

The more whimsical version of Faker that I used as a reference.

Notice that his purple underpants appear to be made of the same noodles as the protagonist’s Noodle Cape from Friday. Noodle based clothing is a clear staple of Science Fantasy settings, True Believers. It appears though that I don’t get to offer a He-Man based solution to my Faker problem. King Randor, in that version, straight up impaled Faker, being done with him, because he was a useless robot. He-Man, faced with a non blue, magical clone, threw him into a moat with no bottom. As we can see above, from the Lord Deer, I have to work with my assigned “Pool Faker” until the position is legitimately filled, if ever.

Still…in comparison to the sweeping organizational problems that I am used to, this is a minor thing. Like a sliver in your finger, something that annoys you, but can easily be ignored.

Still, Pool Faker will clearly be an ongoing character of some kind. He works well, because he is not one of the Beastials that clearly belong in the setting, but has a fantasy styling that fits the setting. He also seems really expendable to me, like he can just be restarted after something awful happens, which seems like a fun idea. I think I’m going to keep his size at Beyond Huge, but I think he can become even more whimsical in his appearance.

Obviously, not that big a problem if that’s how I’m looking at it.

Still, it is an empirical fact that the Special Education students on my schedule would be much better served if they had a serious, caseload driven educator as my co-teacher. That sad fact, that we have a Robot Stunt Double for such an important job, is pretty much immutable.

Next Issue: The Edu-Mountain! (It’s way cooler than Castle Grayskull)

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