Friday, September 11, 2009

First Job

“I just got lost

Every river that I tried to cross

And every door I ever tried was locked”

Guy Rupert Berryman, Jonathan Mark Buckland, Will Champion, and Christopher A.J. Martin. Song, “Lost” by Coldplay.

When I returned home from my children’s Taekwondo, there was a message waiting for me that I had a job the following day (hooray!) at the high school for Biology. It was a relief to know what I’d be doing the next day and I had confidence (from previous experience) that high school students would be easier to manage than middle school ones. But Biology is not my forte. I put it down as one of the classes I would sub because I could follow along in a textbook, but my husband is the scientist, so he would be a better Biology substitute.

I got to the school fifteen minutes before the bell because I like to be prepared. The buildings were built when architects made monstrosities out of concrete. Inside, is a labyrinth that much reminds me of many State University of New York structures. My classroom was hidden in a stairwell, and once I found it, the door was locked. I was advised to go to two different offices to get the door unlocked, only to be told to slip in through a neighboring door and get it unlocked by another teacher. By the time I got back to my room, the door was magically unlocked with students inside and the bell had already sounded. So much for being early.

A student advised me that the teacher was coming back from maternity leave on Monday (found out later, not true – she just had a baby), and I noticed there were plans left for me for the two Biology classes, but not the Ecology class. A neighboring teacher offered to help me get something together for that class, though since I took an Ecology class in college, at least felt a little more confident in the material.

The first and fourth period students were quiet, and mostly worked on the assignment – read the textbook and answer questions. The students in second period Ecology were a little more talkative and requested more bathroom breaks, but they did work. They had the kind of babysitter assignment that can go well or poorly, depending on the group – especially with a block schedule, so you have those students a looong time. It certainly made me feel more like a babysitter than a teacher. But it was a high school gig, showing I could handle older kids and it was something that would get me a paycheck.

At my previous job, I was used to there not always being a moment of silence when the planes hit or the Twin Towers fell, so I used to commemorate the day by reading, Fireboat by Maira Kalman, and then discussing my memories of living in New York on that day. By last year, the students had been toddlers when the planes hit, but a couple still had relatives who were connected in some way or I was giving them their first detailed information about the event. Often, a few of us would shed tears. I figured that the book wouldn’t work in high school, and wasn't appropriate for Science classes where I didn't know the students. Today, the school waited to acknowledge the day until five minutes before the dismissal bell. Some of the students called the moment of silence lame because it was too short, and began to discuss the planes crashing on their own as they left. Tonight, I’ll read and discuss the book with my classroom of two, to make sure the day continues to mean something to them.

I fear that for many, the significance of September 11th has already been lost.


  1. Hi

    I want to get that book now! Fireboat by Maira Kalman.

    Take care

  2. Old Kitty, let me know if you read the book. I can't get through it without blubbering.

  3. ...I carried this experiment out in a couple IRC chatrooms. I tried asking the people in the room if the knew what year 9/11 and only 4 people out of maybe 60 or so people.
    Yeah. It gets worse. I asked them if they knew what month it happened in, and many of them couldn't answer that. : /

    In case you are wondering, the age groups went from 15 to 55...

  4. Alesa, that's shocking because it wasn't that long ago.
    15 to 55? Even more shocking.

    What is IRC?

  5. internet relay chat... An early form of chat room service from the late 80s.
    Sigh, I know. Shocking and depressing on several levels. I didn't get the opportunity to question them on what they believe actually happened, but then... I'm not sure I want to know. : /

  6. Alesa, more American children recognize pictures of Ronald McDonald than images of Jesus, George Washington, and other important people. So not surprising, I guess.