The fields are so saturated with moisture that the alluvial silt, built up for eons, slowly oozes onto the sidewalks and under front doors. Certainly some kind of prehistoric bacteria has infected us all with a plague that makes us ache in our own skin.
The black crows crowd the green fields puddled with mosquitoes and I ache. They fly away as I approach, but here I remain, breath hot and damp in the morning air, too cold for spring, and too warm for winter. Soon these nonexistent hallways will be filled with over a hundred sixth graders who hate our guts. We’ll stand on duty to make sure they don’t kill each other with pencil shanks or fists during class changes and they’ll glare at us like we once glared at our teachers vowing, “never to be like them when we grow up.” But you are always only just a slightly better version of what you so detested at a younger age.
Now, in this solitary minute I simply take a deep breath, choke down the many words I’d like to write down in a coffee shop somewhere, and walk into my room that either has no key or has a key but it wasn’t given to me. I turn on the light, put on some school-appropriate jams that both my students and I hate just a little, wipe down the tables filled with pencil graffiti, sweep the floor, write up my objectives, make the copies, staple the copies, sharpen the pencils, put out the papers, straighten the desks, and grab my clipboard.
I exhale and in come my students. I smile my best, “firm, but caring,” smile as I calmly say, “Good Morning” to each of them while I gauge how tired, how uninterested, how sick, or how hyper they seem this morning. They never want to be here unless it’s prize day. Today is not prize day, so I have some work to do.
I close the door. Now it’s just us and the lesson I created that I hope to god works. For the next hour, I will be firm. I will be understanding. I will expect too much from them and from myself. I will be cajoling, excited, disappointed and inspired. I will doubt myself at every turn and in every second. We will take a journey together in this small windowless space barely qualifying as an art room sharing ideas, learning new things and seeing new things. When they leave, they simply must remember but I must gear up to do it again, and again six more times today. Each time though, I must be wiser, stronger, quicker and smarter because each class hates my guts more than the last and each class wants to be here even less and less until the bell rings.