Saturday, August 25, 2012

Another Reason to Avoid PD

Dear All,

Since I started teaching, I've managed to forget about or be sick on every district-wide professional development day.  This has been quite a boon to me; I was actually looking forward to Thursday's session.  I was right to want to go: our facilitator was dynamic, she gave us planning time, we received most of the materials we need to plan for the year, aligned to standards, etc.  Wonderful.

The room was really hot, and, not having been to a PD before, I expected air conditioning.  I mean, even if most of the high schools don't have it, it would make sense to hold PD in a school with some kind of central air, right?  I mean, there has to be at least one, doesn't there?  Well, the host school was no cooler than mine, and there I was, in a sweater and cords.  It was 90 degrees, and I was sitting by the heater, in front of the windows.  When we had our first break, I made a beeline for the hallway.  (Having no windows, the hall was much cooler.)  The heat didn't send just me running, though.  Yells from the corner where I'd come from followed me out.  I chatted with a friend in the hall, but floods of people dispersed us.  Why?

The heat chased a snake out of the heater.  It slithered right onto my bag.  Had it been there while I was sitting in my chair, hiding it from view?  Did they scream because it came out when I left, or because it stirred on its way to my chair?  It was a long, black, orange-striped snake.  The stripes were shaped like diamonds -- a rather menacing shape on a reptile, I think.  When the dude who caught it wrapped it around his arm, it went all the way to his elbow.  The creature was an inch and a half in diameter, at least, but I was shaking with shivers too much to get all that close.

I was skittish the rest of the day.  My effort to look like I wasn't trying to keep my feet off the ground while watching all four of the legs of my chair meant that I have no idea what was said about our unit plans, curriculum, or testing.  No idea.

But it's all okay.  The school was glad to find it, really.  No matter about teachers whose bags are inspected by reptiles -- they'd been looking for a replacement for the Science Department pet, lost last October.  Oh.  Wait... maybe this was the same little guy, just hanging out?  Living off mice?  In the school?  For nine months?  What else is living in our halls?

I'm glad my bag was an attractive enough lure to get it out of the heater, at least, even if I may never again set foot in a professional development session.

It didn't help that on my way out my department head told me about another one in the Social Studies room.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Second Year Begins

Alas, it was not in the cards to document my first year as a teacher.  Perhaps, in the relative calm of the second time around, I will be more attentive to my web presence.  Here's to that, I say, and clink my cup of tea to the edge of my computer.

My to do list stretches on and on, well into impossibility, but today I learned that the pushpins will hold posterboard to the cloth wall of one side of my room.  At least, the posters weren't falling down when I left, an hour after putting them up.  I also learned that the age of the screws holding the blinds make pulling some of them down to cover the wall of windows difficult, at best, but at least when the rod of the shade hit me in the face it didn't leave a bruise (yet).  The sink in my room isn't working, so the risk of water fights is nil (huzzah!) and the unfortunate juxtaposition of said sink with the only working outlets and internet jacks is rendered a bit less problematic.  My boards aren't covered in The Sticky, that unnamed substance which so often mars good slate blackboards, and I have confidence that I will have a computer in my room by the time students arrive, even if it is my laptop from home.

I must confess that fear has been building in me for weeks now.  What if they fight?  What if they refuse to work, even more than last year, and what if (God forbid), I'm not ready?  What if I haven't written my syllabus before the first day?  I had that nightmare the other night.  I woke up in tears and cold sweats.  Then, yesterday afternoon, as I settled in to work after a long morning of polishing silver, cleaning faucets, watching Frasier, cooking a three course breakfast, and staring at my bills, my flash drive announced that it needed formatting.  All the work I'd done since July -- admittedly, not as much as I'd have liked to have finished -- was gone.  You can imagine the panic.

So yesterday evening, after making dinner for my Grandma and seeing all my old teacher friends at a barbeque, I collapsed into a Negative Nancy I don't ever want to be.  The panic and the fear chased off all the rational solutions to the problems I face with data tracking and objective mastery.  I sat on the couch with my wonderful boyfriend offering me all these great answers to my questions, but I refused to see the light.  I couldn't breathe for all the problems I felt.

But hope comes from strange places.  A good night's sleep and decent breakfast helped, as did seeing friendly faces before I even left for work (what joy it is to live with a good friend), but hope comes from stranger places than that: the smell in the hallway when I walked into school banished my panic.  The smell of old, chipping tile walls and slightly rotten laminate floors, freshly waxed; the smell of dust and grime sloshed away for the new beginning of a new year.  It was the smell that came off of the cafeteria and gym, unused for a summer but seasoned well by years of service.  It was a familiar.  This place was familiar.  The hallways made sense, they looked the same; the morning light felt like it usually does in the stairwell, unnecessarily filtered, not quite able to bleach out the scent of old soda in the corners.  The lights in the hallway upstairs weren't working, but the form of a favorite colleague was familiar enough to recognize.  I knew we were smiling before I could see her.  And my new room, my room next to the stairwell with the most fights, my room next to the only plug in the hallway and therefore a favorite site for skipping and for water coolers; my room, full of things that haven't happened yet -- I was happy to see it.  It's a new room, but it feels right.

I will buckle down and rewrite my lost syllabus.  I will write my late slips and refusal to work forms, I will organize a new flash drive and back it up to the cloud, even if Dropbox won't load at school.  I can't believe it's over, this summer; I spent such energy looking forward to it.  Here I am, now, and I guess I get to spend my energy looking forward to tomorrow, instead.  Maybe I'll get better at being this happy exactly where I am.

After all, there are too many windows in my room to avoid the light for long.