Sunday, February 9, 2014

Hail to the Teachers!

It's 5:37 p.m. and the cats and I are nodding off. The sun is barely beginning to set.
I take a sip of "adult grape juice" and my thoughts ricochet from "Did I say the 'right' thing to the speech teacher?" to "We haven't done reading fluency this week in grade 2" to finally, "I have to get up in 12 hours." And then, of course, there's a hundred others thoughts bouncing from wall to wall in my brain.

You know, when you teach, the word "multi-task" is no longer current. It's like a Gilligan's Island episode; a telling, interestingly descriptive adjective, but hugely out-dated. I used to use it, the word 'multi-task', when I was applying for teaching positions:
"I have many strengths, but one that stands out in my mind is I'm excellent at multi-tasking."
It could be my age. It could be the broken, out of touch, ridiculous system. It could be the kids.
But whatever the fuck it is, multitasking doesn't come close to what this job requires.

When you're swimming for your life in the sea of public education, it's the little things that get in the way; leaving your papers by the copier, leaving your lunchbox in the supply room, not locking the bathroom door, turning your key the wrong way 50 times, calling Angel Alex and Alex Angel at least a dozen times in a day and searching for crap you need. Where did I put my water bottle? What about the notes from the office, the homework packets, my keys?  It's spacey, menopausal amnesia times 1,000.  And you what? Every minute of your break time is precious, so when you waste it on the 'little things', the big things suffer and your day ultimately sucks.
I wasted at least 10 minutes scouring the classroom for my purple fork.
I finally located an old white one at the bottom of a large tub. I'm finally able to sit down, relax
and graze.

I'm teaching them yoga.  Did I mention that? It's not really for them, but I tell them it is. I tell them it will help them think better. I tell them it will help them remain calm. I tell them it is good for their muscles. I tell them whatever the hell I can think of, in a split second, that will shut them up and get them engaged and silent.
"Silence" is like the coveted, golden Oscar when you're trapped in a classroom of 30, especially on a rainy day.
When six and seven-year olds enter the classroom on a rainy, stormy morning, its like a stampede of bulls down the narrow streets of Spain.  Only louder.
Katie: "God made the rain because he knows that all living things need water. I learned that in church."
Nick: "Nuh uh."
Katie: "Yes, sir."

I'm with Nick, but I move on.  Because nothing says rain quite like poetry. And Nick is a poet, an artist and just about the coolest kid alive, under his beanie and baggie Transformer tee-shirt.

First and second graders love poetry and their ability to capture life, in a few lines, is nothing short of refreshing. It tastes of fulfillment.
Nick also lives in an imaginary world in his head. I spent a good 15-20 minutes teaching a lesson on base words and endings with my group of 1st graders. I was quite animated up at the white board.
I gave example after example. I had students come up and underline the base words and circle the endings with dry eraser pens. I did page 237 with them. Then we checked it together. Then they did page 238 on their own. Then we corrected it together.  "Give me a thumbs up if you understand what we're talking about, friends!"  All thumbs go up. I sigh a penny-size breath of accomplishment.
Then Nick raises his hand.
"Nick, do you have a question or comment about base words and endings?"
Nick doesn't pause, "My mom just got a new dog."  

Nick also was in the center of a large crowd at morning recess that gathered around a small mountain of dirt near the climbing structures. Being the yard duty aficionado, I moseyed on over to survey the situation...
"It's a mole in there, teacher!"
"No, it's a gopher!"
"No, it's not! It's a mole."

"Okay, boys and girls. It's a gopher-mole and we need to just go play and let it alone because it's in its own habitat just digging tunnels and minding his own business."  Nick lingers with his recess pal who looks up at me and says, "I know where his wife is."  
"Really. Where?"
"She lives in my backyard. My dad and I saw her."
Nick and his pal are serious as a heart attack and I hold back the burst of laughter that forming in my throat.
"That's cool." I say. "All families are different and some live in separate homes."

Kids are cool. But they're weird too.
I was in a restaurant recently with my partner and a kid, who was too old to make a decision like this, walked in waving a large purple balloon as he walked in between tables toward his booth.
Since I took this teaching assignment, I can't stand to be around kids when I'm not at school. I sit away from them in the theater, I ask for a booth at the other side of the restaurant, I change lines at the grocery store.
Listening to them whine and listening to their weird, inappropriate parents deal with them (or not) is almost too much to bear.
I watched this immature kid, waving his fake sword in his sibling's face and all I could see was a large, purple penis.

Obviously, I'm exhausted. Or have penis envy.  Or both.
Actually, I'm losing it.
That's what teachers really do, you know.  After a long day of holding it together, biting your tongue with the principal, smiling at jerk colleagues, teaching every subject over and over because nobody's listening, tying a shoe, cleaning up a dropped bottle of glitter, making copies, getting a key sucked in a laminator, reteaching, reteaching, writing lesson plans, introducing a new concept, addressing the needs of the parents...After all that and much more, teachers fucking lose it in the privacy of their own homes.
And they lose it in the confines of their own minds, imagining a large purple penis, while dining in a restaurant on their day off.

I saw Sweet Pea and The Cousin the other night at a basketball game. It took awhile for The Cousin to warm up to me. (Her punishment for choosing to make bank over her) But soon, she took my hand and we were outside the gym dancing and running through rain puddles just like old times.
I look forward to getting back to the "easy life".

Have a good week, pals. And hail to the teachers!


1 comment:

  1. Hail to teachers indeed, for they have the hardest job in the world. Except for substitute teaching, which is even harder. Yoga and poetry...hope they help pull you through. I enjoyed Nick's poetry and the story of the mole-gopher, and hope this week goes better than the last. I'll keep my fingers crossed that the sun will be shining, the kids can run outside to play, and you can remember who is Alex and who is Angel. You DO deserve a medal for subbing, as much as do the Olympians!