Musings While At the DMV

I recently had to spend some quality time at the DMV.  You see, I have a birthday coming up and as a special gift to me from the universe, my driver’s license is set to expire this year.  Happy birthday to  me!  Cut to me standing in a line that was five people and countless inefficiencies deep.  After I checked Facey Face, caught up on emails, played a game or two of Scrabble on my phone, read the news headlines and checked the weather (twice), I had some time to stand and think.  (Yes, there was time….lots and lots of time.  Like endless amounts of time.  For reflecting.  And death staring.)

Time to think and watch.  Watch as the employees at the DMV engaged in an elaborate dance that could be called Ignoring My Responsibilities and All Sense of Customer Service: A Movement Study.  After “helping” (servicing?  dealing with?  tolerating?) an individual tax-paying citizen, one DMV employee in particular would begin her dance.  It went something like this:

Take a sip of coffee, exclaim about it’s temperature, carry the coffee to the copier under the guise of copying something (although no actual paper was involved), carry the coffee back to her station, check her messages, adjust her station on Pandora, chat with the employee next to her about the last song played, laugh about a comment so hard that laughter deteriorated into a fit of coughing that spewed germs on everything in a ten foot radius, comment on coughing, sigh deeply, roll her eyes at the clock and then, with a strong, undeniable annoyance, end her complex dance by bellowing, “Next!”

“Help” the next individual and repeat.

As performance art goes, I say well done!  However, as far as efficiency, customer service and general awareness of how germs are spread goes, I say holy crap this is UNBELIEVABLE!

During my ample time to “reflect,” I had a thought.  Everyone hates going to the DMV for just this reason.  (Apologies to all you rockstars at the DMV….wherever you are hiding.)  It seems to be common accepted knowledge that the DMV is chock full of inefficiencies, employees who could give a shit, pointlessly long and redundant paperwork and confusing lines that are impossible to navigate.  Even if there was an employee who came in all gung-ho and full of (what’s the word?) work ethic, would it matter?  Would it make a difference?  Would anyone notice?  Would that employee be able to sustain his or her commitment to a job well done?  Would it be long before the reputation of the DMV became a self-fulfilling prophesy?  Before this individual was crushed into submission, bitterness, and fits of coughing by his or her colleagues?

Can you see where I’m going with this yet?

My next thought was, “Will it be long before the same things happens to teachers and education?”  I mean, we already take more than our fair share of finger pointing in the media.  Just this last week, people (including myself) collectively gasped in horror when we heard about the teacher who had used insanely inappropriate images of slavery in word problem.  Granted, girlfriend was wrong with a capital Crazy Pants, but still. Where are the stories of teachers doing amazing things?  Teachers inspiring their students?  Teachers who are able to make a difference without ruining their marriages, sleeping over at their schools or giving up everything in their lives a la every movie about “good” teachers ever made?

How long is it before the general public assumes we are all lazy bags of hair who collect a paycheck while doing the least amount of work possible because we only got into this profession for the summers off anyway?  How long before the general public just accepts that public schools can be equated with failing schools?  And how much longer after that before it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy?

In my last school, I always wondered about co-“workers” like the Fanny Pack, the Bacon Hunter and the Big White Guitar.  Was there ever a time when they were killing it in their classrooms?  Did they start out this way or did the system slowly eat away at their work ethic and commitment to children?

Anyone else feel like a drink?

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  • Me. In fact, make mine a double.

    This is a very real concern, I agree. Very reflective post, Mimi.

    January 11, 2012 at 7:52 pm
  • 1. Even though his administration has been a disaster for teachers and students in Indiana, our governor has, indeed, improved the state DMV. The lines are no longer incredibly long, the service is mostly good, sometimes tolerable, sometimes excellent (which is probably what you would expect from any government agency). I would never vote for him or his cronies again, however, if someone ever asked me to say something positive about Indiana Governor Mitch Daniel, I guess it would be that the DMV is not a living hell any more.

    2. I read a lot of education blogs, and, because of a deep seated need to punish myself, I also read the comments. Teachers are already being blamed as the problem. It's a done deal. Oh, the politicians will always say they love teachers…and then turn around and take away our collective bargaining rights, or make sure that the 23 eight year olds in the room are responsible for the future of our careers.

    Corporate America hates us, Fox News hates us and continue to spread their venom about how badly we do our jobs, how rich we get off taxpayer money, and how we can retire at such a young age and live in luxury the rest of our lives.

    The good news is that parents and children still love us (See the PDK-Gallup poll). Oh, and Matt Damon loves us.

    This is a great post, Mimi…and timely. Teachers need to find their collective voice and attack NCLB and Race to the Top with the same vigor and energy which is used to attack us. Check this out…

    January 12, 2012 at 1:21 am
  • Yes. And I have worked at your last school. I am glad I am no longer working there. I think I'll have that drink and reflect on it now.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:21 am
  • I just stumbled upon this blog, and I love it! I've only read a few posts so far, but I really relate to what you're saying. Just added this to my Google reader and I'm looking forward to digging through the archives.

    January 26, 2012 at 1:50 am

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