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EDUCATION; Darkness at Noon in Santa Monica
[Home Edition]
Los Angeles Times - Los Angeles, Calif.
Subjects: Educators; School buildings; Education reform; Accountability; Secondary schools
Author: Horn, Lorri
Date: Dec 23, 2001
Start Page: M.1
Section: Opinion; Editorial_pages Desk
Abstract (Document Summary)

I'm sitting here in the dark at my desk at Santa Monica High School. To turn the lights on, I have to get up, take three mother- may-I steps away from my desk and flail my arms about. Since it takes me about 15 minutes to grade an essay, and I have to get up, on average, three times per paper, I figure the motion sensors are set to turn off the lights about every five minutes. It's some architect's or engineer's idea of how to make energy use more efficient in classrooms. The assumption, apparently, is that when the children leave, when the motion stops, so does the life of the classroom.

With the first round of construction at Santa Monica High came new toilet-paper-roll holders rigged to dispense one square sheet at a time--for teachers who do not have time to get to the bathroom before the next bell rings. So I filled out a work order. The replacement dispenser was rigged to prevent paper waste. But what did it do? The toilet paper wouldn't stop flowing. It rolled to the floor and puddled. Waste galore. I wish I could stop there. But there remains the installation of the hand dryers. You know, the ones to prevent all that paper waste. But the bell she is a' ringin', so we teachers all run around wiping our cold, wet hands on our skirts and pants as we head back to class. Where's the dignity? I secretly suspect that teachers, when their colleagues aren't around, don't wash their hands after visiting the restroom.

I ask you: You want literacy? Did you know that of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, California ranks 50th in class size? An English teacher who teaches five periods a day finds herself accountable for upward of 140 students. At 15 minutes per essay, that's a lot of jumping up and down to keep the lights on. The options are downright dismal: streamline and conserve your energy, partitioning out your desperately needed comments one little square at a time, or roll and roll until you're all out of steam, of innovation, of charm.

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