I'm there before 7:30, which turns out to be a mistake. The security guard arrives at 7:45 with the keys. The street, the playground, the neighborhood is empty. He lets me in and tells me not to be there too early next time.
I rush up to my classroom and find that I have a desk and a chair. The hallway is cluttered with children's desks, too, more advanced than the one-room-schoolhouse versions at Simmons but still old enough to have holes for inkwells in the writing surfaces. I count them. Twenty-five. Good. No tables, chairs, or bookshelves yet but this seems promising.
I drag all the furniture in and debate how to set it up. Rows? Pods? A circle or u-shape? I decide on rows, which is what I saw in every classroom yesterday, just until I figure out what these students are like. It'll do for now.
Mrs. Morris shows up--at least that's my assumption, since she's carrying an armload of supplies. I introduce myself and she does not.
"Paper." She puts down a pack of copy paper. "That's for the month. Make it last. Teacher pens. Red pencil. Chalk. You can have all the chalk you want. One eraser. Roster and plan book. Box of crayons." The box is an institutional pack, 8 colors but 30 crayons in each color. "30 pencils. Pack of student paper." She drops the last chunk on the seat of the desk and then looks at me.
"November, you get more copy paper. Mimeo machine is in the teacher's lounge. Anything else you need, you got to talk to Mrs. Mann or Mrs. Conway." She sniffs the air unpleasantly. "This was supposed to be the music room."
She leaves. I look at the supplies on the desk, not really realizing (in fact I don't realize it for several more days) that this is it. I do get more copy paper and chalk each month. And I scrounge up a pad of large paper and a multipack of construction paper at some point. But this is truly it. The children bring no supplies. There are no scissors, no glue, no markers. Nothing else.
There is chalk.
In the closet, the afternoon before while I tried to fill the time until I could escape, I found several cardboard boxes. One was filled with wooden sticks which today I might recognize as spindles from a Montessori math work, but that afternoon had no context. The other had 29 slates.
Slates. Like Mary and Laura, buying a slate at the general store. Little flat black chalkboards.
There is chalk...