After another summer of (paid) sloth, this teacher had to go back to work. My first week back began on August 18th – for a full five-day week, mind you. But, since it was just a teacher week – no students anywhere – it really wasn’t work at all. It was one last goof off week before starting up the school year again. I organized my room, talked to people I like, and sat through a slew of soul-sapping meetings. Real tough stuff.
I also put together my entire first quarter’s lesson plans and sent an introductory email to all my students’ parents. Then I volunteered to sponsor the ninth grade class and coach cross country. Wait … you believe all that? You’re obviously new to these Teachers Lounge ramblings. I did no such things. Instead, I was my usual schizophrenic self. I spent half the week laughing, the other half wallowing in back-to-school flat-black depression. Here are the high- and lowlights.
7:29 a.m.: After dicking around in my room and not talking to anyone for the first half hour, I make my way to the cafeteria for the first full staff meeting. The first person I see if a 60-ish (in both age and IQ) teacher’s aide sitting front and center in an NFL jersey. On a 90 degree day. At work. Which NFL player’s jersey covered her meaty back? One Ray Rice. I guess she’s making a “statement.” But what that statement might be eludes me. Maybe it was just that her Aaron Hernandez Jersey was in the laundry.
7:32 a.m.: A buddy tells me about the P.E. teacher they hired as the new pool manager. They put her on the finalized master schedule. She saw her schedule and figured she’d better inform the administration of a little piece of personal information that might affect her job performance as master of the pool area, trainer of student lifeguards and preventer of kid drownings. Seems she can’t swim. Cue painstaking revamping of master schedule.
9:56 a.m.: We go to our breakout sessions, painfully silly meetings led by put-upon staffers who have to act all enthusiastic about the bullshit they are spewing. I like all the presenters, so I play along and participate. At one meeting, we are shown a clip of CNN’s coverage of the Michael Brown shooting, which took place on August 9th. It is now August 18th. About halfway through the clip, my department head, a 61-year-old career educator, leans over and asks me quite seriously, “What is this all about? I don’t know about this. What happened?” I start to laugh, but the vapidity in her glazed, searching-for-a-clue eyes tell me that this is not, alas, the first intentionally funny thing she’s ever said. I briefly tell her the Michael Brown story. A few minutes later I lean over and ask her, “By the way, did you hear that the Twin Towers were attacked?” She sneers. I glow inside.
10:17 a.m.: I’ve been back to work a little over 24 hours and I’m already looking forward to the Labor Day holiday. However, a wave of conscientiousness washes over me and I begin planning out the most important days of the first quarter on my desk calendar.
10:19 a.m.: Important September days are now duly noted on desk calendar. My depression recedes. (A little bit, anway.) I have already plotted out five days on which I don’t have to teach. One day the senior class V.P. talks to my classes about … hell, I don’t know. I always stop listening after the first six words. I just enjoy the free day. Another day belongs to the senior guidance counselor. I don’t even stay in the room for that one. Two other days allow me to take them to a computer lab, tell them to shut the fuck up and administer a state pre-test. I even contacted the good man from the exploitive, for-profit technical school who eats up a day of classes every September selling the untold glories of a life spent repairing tractor trailers. Throw in two half days, Labor Day and Fair Day (don’t ask) and September is looking damn near as easy as December will be.
10:53 a.m.: My calendar euphoria already evaporated, I head to the office for a supply of school forms. I figure I’ll load up on discipline referrals, copy request slips and unexcused absence forms. Seeing the forms, however, fills me with despair. I grab only a dozen Teacher Sick Leave forms and return to my room. I put in for two personal days for my annual four-day getaway at the end of October. My despair lightens. (A little bit, anyway.)
8:55 a.m.: I am sitting in our annual, countywide English teacher meeting. My work depression sinks to new depths. English teachers, what with their enthusiasm and self-satisfaction, will do that to the jaded. Things get even darker when we have to do one of those “clever” activities I hate. We are given a 3×5 card and told to write a six-word memoir. With despair as my muse, I write, “28 Years. What was I thinking?”
The English boss asks if anyone wants to share. I, obviously, do not. But some twenty-something Hipster Hump sure does. He bounds out of his chair as his tablemates – frumpy, too-easily-impressed women, one and all – look at this bearded, black-bespectacled fucktard with lustful eyes and twitching twats. He reads his card: “Dear Life: Please make it extraordinary.” Applause and swooning ensue. But not at my table. We collectively gag.
We start penning parodies and pass them around. I write, “Dear Life: Please kill him today.” A new girl writes, “Dear Life: Please shave his beard.” She’ll fit in at our school just fine. My buddy writes, “Don’t fucking plagiarize Robin Williams movies.” The abuse continues for five minutes. It feels good to love fellow teachers, if only for a few moments.
9:01 a.m.: The new school nurse, a middle-aged woman who exudes innocence and goodness, gives her mandatory presentation on infectious diseases and blood-borne pathogens and other tasty stuff. I hereby give you verbatim lines from her earnest talk to the staff:
“If you see something wet, don’t touch it!”
“As soon as I get nuts in my mouth, my throat starts to tingle!”
“And remember, never in the butt. Never in the butt!”
In case you’re wondering, these lines refer to:
a. Blood and saliva, not teen pussy
b. Allergies, not porn-level head
c. Having sex with students. Okay, not really. She was instructing us on the use of the Epipen.
2:47 p.m.: I can’t believe I’ve stayed this late on the Friday of the first week, but my principal’s final pep talk was so inspiring that I don’t want to leave. Seriously. He was amazing. I plan lessons. I do some copying. I write lecture notes. By this point, I am damn near ready to head to the local Burger King to start teaching up random kids. I am rarin’ to start teaching on Monday. I finally drag myself to the parking lot, and on the way to my car, I pass by a car with a father dropping off his son for football practice. Life feels perfect. For once, I experience a moment devoid of cynicism. The scene is damn near Rockwellian in its innocence and beauty. And as I pass by the car, I hear the father yell out to his son, “Call your mother for a ride home. I’m going out to get fucking drunk!”
5:29 p.m.: And so did I.
Ned Bitters teaches high school and dreams of one day seeing one of his former students on stage at a strip club. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.