Saturday, November 28, 2009


On Friday everyone leaves school at 3:00. Not me. Usually I'm there til five or six. Am I slow? Am I stupid? Neither actually, but it takes me that long to pull the week to a close and head toward Monday with some semblance of sanity. How come, though, everyone in my building is gone but me?

It's lonely being there at sunset. I look out my windows and wonder what other teachers do from three to six on Fridays. (When John was in grade school, he was right there with me. He'd roam the halls making friends with custodians and the principal. Now no John, just me and my husband who is working on yearbook and newspaper.) What is it that keeps me there? Mostly I think about my students. They are so fragile in a world that is ready to devour them, even before they leave home. Divorce, strife, unemployment, relocation, foreclosure, heartbreak, suicide, cutting, alcohol, drugs, religion and a myriad other evils visit upon them and leave them weak and desperate for truth, which is revealed very seldom.

So it's lonely. I ache for them. I pack up and leave Monday on my desk. Turn out the lamp (fire marshall still doesn't like me) and head to the car. Plans for the weekend beckon.

Saturday list: sleep til seven or eight. Can't get past eight. Too many years of five 0'clock. Newspaper--the New York Times because all others have forgotten what journalism is about. I love the print news, especially the Times. Paper and coffee done. Laundry. Clean something, usually the bathroom or the kitchen. Exhausted after one. Groceries. Reading. Talking about students and school. Talking some more about school and students. Talking some more. I am unable to let them go. It has been this way from the first. Never put them out of my mind. If I read something in the Times, I want to share it with them. If I see a new book, I want to share it with them. If I have an idea, I want to try it out with them. If I find a new website, I want to share it with them. Saturday night early to bed. Too many years of bed at nine o'clock.

Then comes Sunday. Stopped going to church some time ago. My students wonder about my religious views. I am a "tree hugger" I tell them. A Thoreau-dyed-in-wool. God is in the sunrise and the trees. I don't tell them that I believe God is in them. Scary for teenagers. But they do constitute a large part of what I believe, what I hope, what I have faith in. And what do we do on Sunday? Newspaper. Coffee. Laundry. Reading. Napping. Some football. Think about Monday. Always think about Monday. Retired teachers tell me that Sunday nights are the best part of retirement. No more thinking about Monday. But I fear I will always think about Mondays. It's like a beacon. Keeps me out of the shallows and on course.

So it's Saturday now. So tomorrow the Times, coffee, napping, football. Thinking about Monday. Students. Patience and perseverance. Thinking about Monday.

First Day

I have always wanted to tell the world what it felt like to look out at an empty classroom filled with desks and expectations. I thought the world might want to know. Most of the people I come in contact with outside the classroom seem to have no clue. Recently my doctor said, "You have to build your life around your diabetes, not your diabetes around your life." I flashed on the 10 inch stack of papers to grade which would keep me seated at the dining table for the next two days. I thought of the grades I needed to enter in the computer which would keep me seated for the at least several hours. Right. Let me figure out how to walk briskly for an hour while marking comma splices. Let me input scores while using the treadmill. But I get ahead of myself.

The classroom sits waiting. I enter every morning at 6:30, sometimes earlier. I turn on the computer (I have to sign in that I am present.) I turn on the lamp on my desk which is illegal (fire marshall does not like me) and sit down to eat my Greek yogurt and protein bar. (My weight loss coach says I should have boiled eggs, but my desk does not have a hot plate (well, not yet) and no fridge (it's across the hall.))
I am in my email. And there they are--everyone wants some part of my day, my brain, my thoughts, my opinions, my energy. Always. Everyday. (Why am I not wafer thin? So much of me is asked for.)

I eat and type simultaneously. I avoid yogurt on the keys. I sip my coffee, already growing cold in a travel cup guaranteed to keep it hot.

It is now 6:45 and buses have pulled up to gorge students and begin my day. Actually, I like the sight of students fresh from home getting off the bus in the morning. They look so possible. In the afternoon when they load up, they seem closer to impossible. But at 6:45 I have hope. It carries me through to first class.

Teaching? Well, first I am a secretary. Then I am a mom. Then I am a messenger. Then I am a citizen (the pledge of allegiance every morning). Finally, I am a scheduler--we fill out their planners with upcoming events. Tomorrow one or two will ask about these dates as though they were absent today. And, probably, this early in the day, some are.

At this point you are asking yourself, SO? Well, you pay me to take care of your child for several hours everyday and you know nothing about what I do or much less think. I can tell you this much today. I will throw myself in front of a gun, be the last one out of the building, pull wrangling kids apart and stop a fist from landing a blow. I don't do this for the salary. I do this for your kids.

This morning at 6:45 I have hope. Hope I'll need to do none of those things and maybe get to teach. Maybe. We'll see how first class goes.
Sun's up. Time to start.