Try as I might, I never seem to get to work early, but at least I'm not late...not this year anyway. Each morning, I fly through the office doors a little before eight am, weave my way through parents, kids, and other bustling apparitions.
My mailbox is full of stuff, much of it junk, but I grab it and zip down the hall to my classroom. Bus duty starts at eight, I fumble with keys so new, they've not worn enough to slip in easily. The door opens, I dump my gear, (a laptop case, my daughter's afterschool cheer gear, and a Walmart bag with a peanut butter sandwich, yogurt, and a banana) atop my desk and dash to the restroom. That will be my last chance at a restroom break...or any break until lunch three and half hours from now.
The bathroom door slams as I trot out to the bus unloading zone with about 20 seconds to spare. I have the easiest duty spot on campus. Bus duty starts at eight...99% of the buses have unloaded their kids by 7:45 am and they have wandered off to their designated morning waiting areas. The only kids in the bus area are the kids, aides, and teachers of the most severely handicapped kids we educate. Wheelchair bound, Down Syndrome, feeding tubes...these are our most needy children. They are also to a one, our sweetest. I get hugs and high five's and we stand around for a few minutes until the first bell of the day signals the whirlwind has begun.
My first two classes are Marine Science Honors classes with kids from grades ten through twelve. They pour in, I greet each one at the door and remind them of the "bellringer"... a short assignment that they begin immediately as they enter each day. The tardy bell chimes, my door shuts, and I take the helm. While they work on their bell ringer, I look around and take roll silently. A few minutes later, we are discussing the bell ringer (today's was about seafloor topography) and then it's time for a PowerPoint on ice age sealevel changes and hydrothermal vents.
They gasp a little when a graphic of Florida 20,000 years ago pops up on the screen. It's enormous with another 100+ mile between the Gulf coast they know and the Gulf coast of ice age Florida. We discuss this "MegaFlorida" and I can tell that most of them have never considered that their state could have ever looked any different than it does now.
They gasp loudly when the next graphic shows Florida if the Eastern Antarctic ice sheet should completely melt. Florida is gone...almost the entire state is a blue swath of ocean.
"When will that be?" they ask.
We discuss global warming...factually. I explain the basic premise and express a variety of possible reasons. I pride myself on sharing all views on controversial issues and consciously keeping my feelings out of it. It's not my role to be a preacher nor a lobbyist with this captive audience of young minds...I never forget that. If I do my job, curiosity will do the rest.
Too soon, the class is over. "This class always goes so fast" is one of the best compliments a teacher can get. It means they were engaged and interested...not clockwatching. Out they go. I go too as I need to be standing outside my door as the next crop comes in.
He is there. An 8th grader, with no Dad, being raised by his grandparents. We bonded last year when he was a 7th grader...over fish, salamanders, crawfish, and anything else you can dipnet from a pond. The constant influx of wet critters in my class lit a spark in him and he became an aquarium fanatic. Every day he's at my door between classes. We talk about the bluegills in his tank, the salamander he gave me in May, and lately, his new Betta fish. He's excited because he has a female now and wants to know about breeding Bettas.
At the last second he dashes off to his class, just beating the tardy bell.
At third period, the first of two 7th grade Life Science classes come in.
After the 7th graders finish their bellringer, we return to my PowerPoint presentation on the 5 Characteristics of Living Things. I've worked my nature photos into this presentation and a large spider fills the screen with this caption, " What are some ways this spider responds to her environment?"
As expected, hands go up. I call on a rapidly waving hand. "How do you know it's a SHE?"
Good! They are thinking about more than my question. We talk about spider size and how and why it relates to the sex of the spider.
Hands are sprouting like radish seeds now, everywhere and I try to give everybody a chance, hoping to still manage to get back to discussing the 5 characteristics, but it's plain to see this is going to be a spider lesson. There are "One time I..." spider tales, spider questions, spider misconceptions, and a general amazement/interest level that flows through webs, web designs, the wonder of silk, etc. In no time, the lunch bell catches us by surprise and they gather their backpacks and flow out the door.
I walk "Mr. Last To Pack Up Every Day And Still Wants To Talk", gently out the door. I now have 23 minutes for lunch.
First things first, I hit the bathroom and wash off a few dozen high 5's and handshakes. Quiet time at my desk. In 19 years of teaching, I've never eaten in the cafeteria or the teacher's lounge. One's too noisy and the other too negative. You can guess which is which.
The bell rings...too soon, but I'm ready and the process repeats, although differently each time, for two more class periods.
At 1:30 pm, I am done with students for the day. The last period is my planning. My new computer sits glaring at me with the blue screen of death (FATAL ERROR!). It worked all of 3 days before locking up. Luckily, my three year old Dell still works, but the school wide network can't seem to find my IP address and it is a stand alone for now...at least I can type with it. The conservative school board is so afraid that someone may see something naughty on the internet that they have mandated a filtering program that allows no changes to a computer and blocks a wide variety of web sites...including my own and any other known blog site. All blogspot domains are verboten.
Only one person in the whole school has the password to get around this digital fortress and make any changes...even to the point of loading a printer driver so you can print.(You can imagine how busy this poor lady is) It is a clunky, paranoid, stupid system. We teachers deal with it and work for change, but so far...
At 2:30 the day ends as it began... with a bell. Time for me to be at afternoon bus duty, which is more interesting than the morning as every bus-riding kid (that's most of them) pours out to the waiting rumbling buses. In ten minutes, they are loaded and rolling off campus.
We teachers take a breath and get a moment to talk with another adult, but there's meetings to attend and lessons to make ready for tomorrow.
The salaried day ends at 3:30pm. I lock my door at 4:30 and walk out to the Jeep with Jr. and Emma in tow. In the parking lot, there are still teacher cars sitting. Not mine. Not today.
I need to get home, feed dogs, chickens, baby turtles, and these kids. I can feel the pace of the day slowing, my mind begins to switch gears. I think I'll make chicken marsala and a salad for supper tonight...did we buy chicken thighs? The ride home is quiet as both kids drop off to nap after a busy day. As I get to my winding sandy driveway, the deer cross on their way to the pond, and three old dogs begin to howl as they recognize the sound of the Jeep.
In a few minutes, I'm in the kitchen chopping chicken and mushrooms. Mrs. FC is on her way home, the kids are homeworking or chillin'. It was a good day. Maybe I'll tweak that Marine Science PowerPoint after supper...maybe I'll just blog till bedtime.
Life in a school...