We had all this weird stuff to do to shut down our classrooms for the year--and we couldn't come back the next day and do it on our own time--we had to do all record keeping on site and with children in the classroom, and of course, at the last moment. Wrapping student records in kraft paper and tying them with the red string (not the white string). Turning in all sorts of things--lunch records, my plan book, my grade book--to various people around the school. Bulletins that read like this: Please to bring alphabetically all records by age wrapped in kraft paper to main office by noon today with red string only (not white string) with retained children last and promoted children by name and age first. There was no way to get it right.
Half my children were absent that last day, of course. Most days throughout the year, half my children would be absent. One child had perfect attendance, Jazmin, because her mother had promised her parole officer that she would have her children at school every day. Jazmin was there. Every. Day. Even the snow day when nobody else was there.
was a Friday the 13th, our last day of school in June, 5
make-up snow days that year. It thunderstormed and the sky turned green
and we all wound up stuffed in the basement waiting for the tornado.
When it finally cleared and I released my children back into the wild, I
went down to the office to turn in my kraft paper mess, late, and my
keys. Mrs. Mann was there and pushed next year's contract across the
table to me. She had my evaluation as well. I glanced at it, all the bubbles filled in under "exceeded expectations."
I was one of her unwilling patsies. Never allowed to join the union, I had no idea when the "blue flu" days were and when everyone else was going to be absent. Henry had several days like that, teachers calling in sick as their own little strike. One day in January I was one of only 7 teachers who showed up (Karla, Jody, and Nicole did, too). Seven teachers and a full complement of children for the day. And very few substitutes, Henry being one of those schools subs just didn't go to. I had my regular 20 or so kids those days and then other children would be distributed. Fourth graders sat in my room, in my tiny desks. Third graders lined the wall under the chalkboard. No work for them, no books. They sat and waited the day out.
But all that was before. It was June 13 and I didn't have a job lined up for next year (Jody did. Nicole did. Karla did: all were leaving). I took my evaluation and thanked her for that.
"I'm hoping you'll come back next year?" she asks.
I looked at the contract, where she'd already signed her name under the line where mine would go. I put my room and closet keys on the table, bending over the table, I remember my long hair falling over my shoulder and curling onto my hand as I looked at it, the promise to do this again.
I picked up the piece of paper, tore it in half, and put it back on the table.
"No thanks," I said. I walked out with that giddy ohmywhatdidIjustdo feeling, my feet light on the stairs as I passed the security guard's desk. I waved at Beverly as she waddled to the office with her kraft paper bundle. And I left.
I spent the summer failing to get a job. My father-in-law fell off a roof and broke his neck. I went down to their house and babysat a bit for Jake's brothers. I sat in our apartment and did nothing. I made a cynical scrapbook I eventually threw away. I got over myself.
Then I took a job at a little for-profit school in the county where one child's tuition paid my assistant teacher salary. I made copies and ran to get my lead teacher diet coke in the middle of the day. I healed up and learned how to teach for real. In the end, that place wasn't for me, either, but after I was done, I knew what I wanted and I went to find it.