Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Official End of Summer

On Friday, a small group of us gathered for dinner at a friend’s house. We numbered six; five of us (including, as of tomorrow, me) are teachers. Will is the lone man out, but since he’s an expert on high school sports, he moves smoothly through our conversations.

I was almost too tired to put on a smile. It was the end of a whirlwind week that began on Monday, when I put on a suit and summoned my friendliest expression and interviewed for a job teaching seventh and eighth grade Language Arts. I didn’t tell Will I was interviewing; I had only mentioned, with extreme casualness, that I applied in the first place. Teaching isn’t my long range plan, but short term, it allows me to pay off bills, get ahead and pursue the long range plan (writing) in the future.

On Tuesday morning, I got the call: The job was mine. “I’m so excited!” I said to the person in Human Resources, and this was true. But my mind was already reeling – thinking of what needed to be done to set up a classroom, and the freedom I was leaving behind. While still on the phone discussing my units and benefits, I emailed Will: “Got a job. Dinner’s on me.” That afternoon I drove to the school and picked up my keys.

Wednesday was spent signing papers at the district office and filling two Walmart shopping carts with all the stuff I was going to need – all the stuff I’d essentially left behind at my last teaching job, since some of it had been purchased with school funds, and besides, I was done with teaching, anyway, wasn’t I? Notebooks, lined paper, pencils, crates, manila folders, Sharpies, dry erase markers. I ended up spending $160 on items ranging anywhere from ten cents to two bucks apiece.

Thursday I spent cleaning in my new classroom, sorting into piles of things that may be useful (ancient curriculum binders) and things that definitely wouldn’t (three mismatched shoes). I met my new colleagues. I drew posters, determined to cover as much of the light gray walls as possible.

Will had Friday off and helped me move desks, hook up my computer and – surprising both of us – complete an art project for my “Word Wall”. I ran copies, skimmed through textbooks, made frantic lists of things to do over the weekend. So I was exhausted when we finally got in my car for the trip to Hughson – if I allowed myself to close my eyes, I would have been asleep instantly.

But the company was fantastic, our friends’ remodel so gorgeous I offered my housesitting services, the food melt-in-my-mouth delicious. Four kids wandered around the periphery, kicking soccer balls and racing each other. The sun went down and the night was gorgeous, the sky a velvety black dotted helter-skelter with stars. The kids started it, dragging blankets to the backyard, and we adults joined them, settling onto our backs. We spotted the Big Dipper, the North Star, a few planes that might have been UFOs – you never know.

In a week, we would all be back in school, back in the rhythm of bells ringing and pledging to the flag, passing out papers and collecting homework. Our time would not be our own. My time would belong to hordes of twelve-to-fourteen year-olds and I’ll be lucky, I know, if I escape grading papers for an evening or two of writing.

But it’s just a change of circumstance, not a change of essentials. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

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