But if movies have taught us anything about prison, it's that every jail sentence comes with a grizzled but kindly mentor who will teach you what's what. Kelly called these people "the old guard." When she first showed up, she didn't even know how she'd manage to pull off that most basic of rubber room activities -- sleeping -- because the room banned pillows (along with mattresses and beach chairs). But then a long-timer said, "There's no rule against bringing sweatshirts from home inside your purse for a makeshift pillow." Armed with this advice, Kelly spent many a peaceful hour asleep, her sweater stuffed under her head and her jacket draped over her.
This member of the old guard had been there five years. She knew which guards (sorry, we mean "building employees") would let you leave the room to make an emergency phone call, which ones would never let you out period, and which would probably briefly let you out just whenever. She had the supervisors' annual schedules memorized. Other old-timers were so in tune with the day's routine that it was fascinating to watch them. One crafted an elaborate fitness regimen that lasted for hours, with a built-in break for when lunch began and a wrap-up exactly 15 minutes before the school day ended.
Kelly was released from the rubber room after one year and two weeks, so she never joined the old guard herself. And then the old-timers were all released as well, because in 2010, news of the rubber rooms finally came to light thanks to a documentary and several news stories. The public was outraged over the $65 million that went annually to these teachers who didn't teach, and the backlash led New York to announce they were closing all the rooms.
Though the rooms returned years later in some form, New York mostly moved to making these teachers do administrative jobs rather than sticking them in detention. Reading and sleeping, of course, had been a lot less work than filing papers in some broom closet. But that's exactly what makes rubber rooms so awful to be in, says Kelly. "It may sound great, but don't be fooled," she says. "It's kind of fun for the first week or two, because you can get organized, look up everything on the web, play games. But that soon becomes nothing. You want a job. You want to do something meaningful." Because while there are plenty of people out there happy to do nothing so long as they have money, very few of them choose to become teachers.
Evan V. Symon is a journalist and interview finder guy for the Personal Experiences section at Cracked. Have an awesome job or experience you'd like to see in an article? Then post us up here or here!
Teaching is difficult, consider getting your child's teacher some tissues or other classroom supplies, just to help.
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