Things rolled smoothly through November. Once Carmen decided that she did not hate Neil on sight, their relationship blossomed. They saw a good deal of each other after school, and at least once a week they went dancing or to a movie. Neil still felt the same fire he had felt at their first meeting, and she clearly had some of the same feelings, but there was something missing. They were physically attracted to each other, but not intimate; they were friendly, but not yet friends. Some barrier still stood between them. Neil had no idea what it was, and if Carmen knew, she was not telling.
Tony Caraveli got in trouble in Glen Ulrich’s class and was suspended for three days. Duarte Zavala and Sean Kelly lived in a constant state of non-violent cold war. Neil’s other minor trouble makers got warnings and an occasional detention, but, overall, things had settled down for the winter. They all knew each other now. Everyone knew where the boundaries were and accepted them. Spring would shake things up again, but for now there was a season of peace.
November was a prime month. Everything had settled into a routine, and the children did their work more willingly than they ever had; or ever would again.
They were growing fast. Even in the few months he had been there, Neil had seen a change in their bodies and in their behavior. A few of them had lost the baby-fat look that had characterized them at the beginning of the year. Hormones were beginning to kick in. By the end of the year, they would be a whole new breed, with new interests, a new outlook, and new problems.
# # #
Near the end of November, Neil found a letter in his school mailbox. It informed him that since he was a first year teacher, a formal evaluation of his teaching techniques would take place during December. He was invited to submit the two dates he preferred to be evaluated, and was informed that there would be an additional three unannounced visits.
Carmen was standing beside him when he read it. He passed it to her and made a face. “I hate evaluations,” he said.
She smiled in commiseration. “We all do.”
“Yes, but we aren’t all leveling our students behind the superintendent’s back.”
There are few things more nerve racking to teachers than evaluations. First of all, they are subjective. If the teacher shares the same philosophy as the evaluator, it is hard to get a bad rating; if they are at odds over what should be taking place in the classroom, a bad rating is almost guaranteed. Second, much of any day’s teaching depends on luck. If the children are in a good mood, motivated, and if the day’s lesson happens to be interesting, they will make the teacher look good. But if the day’s lesson is inherently dull — and not everything worth learning is necessarily fun to learn — then they will make the teacher look bad no matter how well he prepares and delivers his lesson.
Neil wanted to get the evaluations over with, so he invited Bill Campbell in for the morning of the first of December.
On the appointed day Bill came earlier than Neil had expected and sat down before the tardy bell had rung. The more mature students tried to look at him without seeming to do so. The others just stared. Neil rapped the desk for attention and took roll. Then he said, “I had intended to tell you today that Mr. Campbell would be coming by for evaluations, but he has gotten here sooner than I had expected. How many of you have been through these teacher evaluations before?” more tomorrow