. Regurgitated Alpha Bits: Staff Infection

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Staff Infection

What do you do with a unceasingly sunny personality? I am not asking for myself. Apparently, I was innoculated for that along with measles, mumps, and rubella as an infant. What I am wondering is how does one deal with such a person when you must interact with them daily at work. To me, perpetual rosiness seems more of a curse than a personality trait. What an albatross to bear day in and day out. Happiness is exhausting.

As a teacher, we have surprisingly few such people in our profession and I am relieved. The general public has an image of teachers as either yardstick-whacking, "put that gum on the end of your nose", drill and kill, child-wranglers or as matronly, warm, child-hugging, hand-holding softies who wear "eau de fresh baked cookies." In reality, most of us fall somewhere in the middle. The outlawing of yardstick-whacking forced us to adopt this centrist point of view. Still, a few on the far ends of the spectrum have survived and are still teaching in classrooms across America. For now, let's focus on the softies.

I would imagine any workplace with more than ten employees has at least one Suzie Sunshine. If you are a teacher, I could even describe her to you. I am the Amazing Kreskin of educators. Suzie Sunhine is the most easy-going person on your staff. Even after busting her hump in the educational trenches for 45 years, she expresses no desire to retire anytime soon. "It's the kids that keep me young,"she sighs. The kids are taking years off me too, except I fear that is only leading me to an early grave.

Her classroom is decked out in post-modern Suzie's Zoo characters and she actually has living plants in the corners. Her collection of "World's Greatest Teacher" magnets litter the whiteboard. Her collection of "World's Greatest Teacher" coffee mugs have been employed as pencil cups around the room. Of course she won't be using them for coffee because she doesn't drink it. "All I need are the smiles on those little faces to get me going in the morning," she glows. As for me, without my coffee, no one smiles and nothing glows. On the one occassion I did forgot my coffee, my students frantically searched through their lunches for a coke in an effort to spare their own lives.

Suzie takes copious notes during meetings; all the while smiling and nodding along in agreement with every word spoken. Occasionally, she will throw out an, "Ohh! That's a good idea," that is just one degree down from an "Amen, Sister," which mercifully gives the principal the illusion we are all listening. Meanwhile, people like me surruptitiously pass notes written in secret code in case we get caught.

Finally, a bit about Suzie's style. Her fashion sense directly reflects her laidback personality. Each morning she arrives in a brightly patterned buttondown shirt worn jacket-like to reveal a cotton tee decorated with a basket of flowers she needlepointed on herself, paired with elastic waistband pants sprinkled with cat hair from one of her three rescued cats, and dark shoes of indeterminant shape and lacking in any heel to speak of. The ensemble is topped off with "teacher bling," a necklace made of wood and adorned with any variety of giant apples, rulers, school buses, or A+ signs. The rest of us are wearing dark jeans we are trying to pass off as slacks and any shirt that conceals coffee stains. If a coffee stain is visible, we cleverly cover it with one of our "World's Greatest Teacher" pins.

And there she is, smiling that sunny smile and gabbing about her "kiddos" like they piss rainbows. Nothing stresses her, no one gets her down, and happiness virtually shoots from her eyeballs. Where is that getting her, though? Despite all her "World's Best Teacher" paraphernalia, it is I that holds that title. I have a t-shirt that says so.

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