Saturday, February 1, 2014

Why Teachers Drink

This will be fairly short for a few reasons.
1. I'm so f!@*ing exhausted, my head is nodding into the keyboard.
2. The past 2 weeks are somewhat of a blur, therefore some details escape me.
3. I'd rather drink wine than talk to y'all.

Coffee in the cup holder.

I left the house yesterday at 7:15 a.m. and returned at 7:30 p.m. A 12 hour day of teaching, staying after school to prep for tomorrow, (teachers are always, always staying after school to prep for tomorrow), then an hour power walk around a track with my "teacher pals", wine, more wine, appetizers at a local bar and debriefing at a local bar because teachers need to debrief and debrief and debrief.

I told The Cousin and Sweet Pea I'd be back. That Wallery needed to work (not play) for several weeks in order to earn some extra money. Then, I took what's known as a "long-term sub position" in a combination classroom of 30 1st and 2nd graders. (you read that correctly)
If I've ever complained about a 1.5 year old and a 2.5 a half year old, shoot me now.

Every inch of my skin; every orifice, my feet, shoulders and head, all ache. My throat is on fire and I sound as if I've smoked a pack of cigarettes today. Sexy? Maybe. Demi Moore? You wish.
Gravelly sandpaper? For sure.
I took the 5-week position for the bank. $$$$$$. There, I said it.

Yea, there was a time, a long, long time ago in a far away land, that I taught for the pure joy,
the love of teaching. There was a time when I taught because I felt like I could make a gigantic difference and that my hands were the hands of change; molding, shaping, guiding children like an artist carefully and passionately shapes her clay.  I can honestly say, without an ounce of doubt, that those days are a colorful tapestry whose threads linger like a sweet song, but are no longer a part of my current tune.

When you're a sub, you're not a "real" teacher. Well, let me rephrase that. You're not a real teacher to the permanent staff. You are to the children, especially 6 and 7 year olds. They adore you no matter how many f!@*ing mistakes you make in an hour. But the "real" teachers, check you out, just like a bunch of high school Heathers and you put on your best face, use your most professional and positive language and avoid the staff lounge at lunch at all costs.  Most staff lounges, for the readership that are not in public education, are filled with gossipy vipers and Negative Nellies. Besides, if you're a sub, especially one that hasn't worked full-time in several years, you need to isolate. You need to prep. You need to pray. And you need, ache, crave and deserve the quiet solitude of your classroom for the 50 minutes you are allotted at lunchtime.
You sit there staring at lessons that need to be updated, stacks of folders that the real teacher left. You wonder not what's inside, but when the hell you'll have time to take a look. You breathe in through your nose and blow out, with exaggeration, through your mouth.
You're wiped and it's 11:40 a.m.

Noone. NOONE knows this state quite like another elementary school teacher.

You have to pee. You have to check your blood sugars. You can't recall who goes to speech after lunch. There's crap all over the floor. The phone rings. One of your students is unaccounted for.  You head for the cafeteria, but you can't figure out how to use the key properly in the lock. It's day 4.
Two girls come running up to you! "Teacher! Teacher! Isabella called me a cry baby and said she's not my friend."  You give the right answer and continue to the cafeteria. You see the kid. He's throwing spit wads in the bathroom. He sees you and runs into the stall. He knows you can't go inside. You scream his name from outside the boys' bathroom and you wonder where the fuck are lunch aides?
You still have to pee.

It is a blur, the past two weeks. Here's what I remember:

Establishing Routines:
Establishing routines, discipline, norms and gaining understanding of 30 small people takes time and exceptional talent. I have neither.
Noise Level:
Going from one day a week with toddlers and 2 days a week in a Japanese tea boutique where shamisen music drifts in the background versus a room crammed with 30 children all screaming, talking, laughing, whining simultaneously, all the while the phone is ringing, a parent has a question and there's an all-call over the intercom, is nothing short of hell.

Teacher Camaraderie: Fitting In
The look. You walk into the office and you are as sweet as summer apple pie. You introduce yourself to the principal, the secretary, the health aide, the custodian and every teacher that walks by you. They all have the same look in their eye: "If she's the sub, she better be good."

The Laminator:
I'm unsure if I've mentioned to y'all that I obtained a teaching credential in 1982 from SFSU.
(Go Gators!) I first subbed in Sonoma County, then later was a director of a state funded preschool in that area. Then, after years in the coffee industry, I finally found my way back to public education.
There was no gold medal waiting for me.
Since 1983 or 84, and what the hell does the year matter, I have used laminating machines.
Never with a problem. Fast forward to 3 days ago.
We had made bookmarks, after a firm and meaningful lesson on why we don't fold page corners of our library books, and I headed to the staff room to laminate the children's work.
Being the conservationist that I am, I tried to line up as many bookmarks as I could, as to not waste the plastic. The machine gave me the green light; it was hot and ready to go!
As I'm feeding the row of 8 markers through the two hot, plastic cylinders, I lean forward into the machine and without notice, my room key, which hangs from a lanyard on my neck gets sucked into the piping hot, oval pistons and I am in a serious adult jam.

Quietly, but with a sharp element of panic shooting through my veins, I search for the "stop button".
A crowd gathers.
By the time I locate it, I am 3" away from having my lips laminated. I can't move. Of course, the children will arrive at the classroom any minute.

The culprit

Notice the clip in the above photo. A good samaritan approaches, attempting to hold back the laughter, and unclips the keys from the lanyard, since my face is too close to the machine and I'm unable to remove it over my head.
Meanwhile, there's a secretary on a walkie talkie seeking a custodian. There's an all-call for the woman in charge of the laminator. There's teachers chuckling and, of course, there's the raising of eyebrows.
I feel a joke coming on...
"Well, folks, this will certainly give you something to gossip about when I'm long gone. Meet here, at the same time tomorrow, for my next act."
When maintenance finally separates the cylinders and removes the key, it's hotter that shit.
It's thrown up in the air like a hot potato and teachers are ducking. 
I'm late. And you know what?
When you're late for 30 kids under the age of eight, it's far more stressful than when you're late for the office.

First Graders:
I've only made 3 cry.
Come on! I forgot how sensitive they are! It's totally my fault and I take full repsonsibility. I moved too quickly that first couple of days. I gave them too many tasks in a row. I also forgot that Band-Aids were so important. When I taught 4th-6th, they didn't say a thing. But these rugrats tell you every single damn detail, right down to the imaginary, minuscule splinter that's in their right thumb that needs attention.

Second Graders:
Tattle Talers.

Sore Throat:

Know the Schedule:
So the regular school day begins at 8:15 a.m. and ends at 2:41 p.m.  And there's lots to share of the minute to minute detail that goes on between those times. But one day a week, due to meetings, leadership gatherings, grade-level planning and principal "wisdom" pow wows, the schedule is different... So, afternoon recess normally begins at 1:40 p.m. I bribe my class by telling them if they're organized and prepared and "show me they're ready" by quietly putting their heads down on the 1983 desks they're provided with, I will take them out to recess 15 minutes early. I figure, since I don't have afternoon recess duty, I can hold my pee until the teacher on duty relieves me (no pun intended) at 1:40 p.m. Bribery prevails and we're soon out running, jumping, climbing, building sand castles all by ourselves. I still have to urinate. I look at my watch and it's 1:50 p.m. I feel a slight irritation that the teachers are tardy. Time continues to pass. Play continues to happen. Then all of a sudden I hear a first grader's voice,"Ms. Fern! Today is short-day Thursday!" Holy crap! I now have 5 minutes to get 30 children, who are thousands of miles away from me and in their own worlds, off the playground, to the classroom to collect their things and then to the bus.
I still have to pee.

Teacher Bathrooms Lesson #1:
All the staff bathrooms can be opened with room keys, hence the slider bolt lock inside the door, which I neglected to lock the first time I used my new school's bathroom. Surprise!
I met another staff member.

Yes, it is a tiring profession; one that you never just "shut off." I'm experiencing long periods of sleeplessness, usually between 1:00 a.m and 3:00 a.m. where I turn on an old episode of Law and Order just to stop thinking about tomorrow's lessons, order of the day, what's due, and which children need special help. Teaching is not for sissies.

These two things are saving my ass:

So, in closing, I raise my glass to teachers! If there's a heaven, I'm positive there's a billboard with bright lights stating, "Teachers: This Way To The Bar!" 

1 comment:

  1. Oh my, this reads like a tragic-comedy! You had me laughing out loud...truly, this was one of the best blogs I have ever read! As vivid and colorful, to you I suppose, as a root-canal, but to us readers, it was priceless. You had me howling....glad it's all in the past. I certainly hope things have improved. If not, hang it up and move on! Wine can only go so far to keep a person sane! Your blog should be required reading for every new teacher and all subs before they dare step into the classroom. Now take care and get some sleep!