Value Over Replacement Teacher
A week to sit on the couch and catch up on television sounds more enticing than it turned out to be, especially when Covid saps your desire to do anything else. I started feeling sick Wednesday, tested negative, didn’t reach the level of calling in sick, then tested positive Saturday. My doctor told me to isolate all week, gave me paxlovid, and prescribed a massive dose of Vitamin Couch. I felt bad, but never truly terrible. The worst part was isolating, especially from the wife, who managed to stay healthy. A lonely week.
It made me think about about a favoritely named baseball stat: VORP, Value Over Replacement Player. How much better is Derek Jeter than the average shortstop who would replace him? Especially on a week away, I wonder about my VORT. Why do I matter?
A sub won’t be a salesman like I am. I know I have to sell each individual part of class, so I bring my trademark exuberance and humor. That has to earn me a few VORT points, right? Plus, a sub can’t quiet the class just by stopping mid-sentence and waiting. That juice should get me some more VORT points. The kids don’t usually notice what I’m doing, but when I’m suddenly gone a week, there’s a subtle appreciation.
Of course, being out a week, I’m not being replaced by an average of other sixth grade English teachers, but by a someone just trying to maintain order. My VORS is astronomical, just like it is for every teacher. But I tried to keep kids making some feint of progress in my absence. Kind of nuts that it all kind of stops without me. Always makes me feel like I matter.
And another thing
Pretty frustrated I got covid. Not too many teachers still run the air purifier or blow a fan out the window, but I started in March ’21 and never stopped. I’m up to date on boosters, including the bivalent. I masked at school the week before December break and first couple weeks back. Getting Covid feels like a personal failure, like I didn’t protect myself sufficiently — if only I kept masking at school, or masked at Whole Foods, or during teacher meetings, or in my sleep. It’s hard to convince myself that People get sick, it happens. And it happened, and I’m glad to coast on a couple months of immunity.
The Urban Blah
Back in 2009-11 I collaborated with the brilliant Lovisa to make a webcomic that failed to become syndicated across the globe. I am pro-recycling.
I got this idea from a movie where a husband can’t admit he lost his job, so he dresses for work and says goodbye to the wife and sits in the park. The Full Monty? Anyway, the joke didn’t really survive the pandemic, what with the zoom meetings being hard to fake. But I still occasionally dust this one off since I “returned to school.” And the Blah Wife’s point about it being a self-defeating game will again provide the Real Life Wife™ with a glimmer of recognition. And hey, Lovisa has a substack, you should subscribe!
Jam of the Week
I don’t know how I found Jackie Mittoo’s 2017 compilation, The Keyboard King at Studio One, but man is that my jam. Funk-inflected organ grooves with a light reggae overtone, which makes senses since he was a member of the Skatellites. Fantastic stuff.
My Back Pages
From a dumping-ground file of half-started essays cleverly titled, “Nothing.” The most recent date was June 15, 2007, so no so more recent than that and probably earlier.
I’ve been finding myself around my arch-nemesis more and more lately. He doesn’t know he’s my arch-nemesis, and in fact the only time we spoke, all he said was, “Nice to meet you.” But I’ve appointed him my arch-nemesis based on his role as The Guy Who Asks Questions in Meetings. Questions that would get answered if he waited another two minutes to ask them. Questions specific only to him, as if the entire meeting was solely for his benefit. Questions that are just an excuse to speechify and blab. I have no doubt that when he gets a mass email, he hits reply-all every time.
I think I know who this is, but the type is hardly one-of-a-kind. My time working in a university office job, explored last week, was a poor fit after years in a much looser Hollywood. As for questions, I make all sixth graders wait that two minutes, All questions at the end. Then I answer anyone’s questions, at least until it starts getting hypothetical; Sixth Grade 101 says abandon ship.
Five years working on sitcoms didn’t exempt me from the boring meeting, but it was a different flavor of boring. The other day I was in a meeting to discuss an upcoming event, the end result being, “Let’s do what we did last year.” Of course, it took an hour of meeting to get to this, and a follow-up meeting was scheduled to spend another hour to decide, “Yup, we were right when we said same as last year.”
Worse still, most meetings are on issues that either don’t concern me or can’t be affected by me. The sitcom meetings were usually like that, but at least they were funny.
My wife’s university jobs were never stupid, but mine sure was. I think partly because it was at such a wildly lower level than her.
After listening to some of them fume at the reminder to stick to our 9 to 5 schedule (minus an hour for lunch), I wanted to scream at them, “I WAS ONCE TOLD TO CRAWL INTO A DUMPSTER TO RECOVER A MISSING LIBRARY BOOK. CHILL.”
Ah, Hollywood. I remember the decision wasn’t, “Should I climb in?” It was, “Is this how I quit?” Because it was not a dumpster-worthy gig. Sure, it got me onto my first set, but the show was Simply Quilts. Luckily they found the book in time and I later quit because I landed a job on a Patrick Swayze movie. Which was indeed dumpster-worthy, but they humiliated me in other ways I’ll save for some other time.
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