“And she laughed
And she cried
She damn near died
On the day it rained forever”
Song “The Day it Rained Forever” by Eurythmics
I was to report to the Inclusion School again yesterday. I’m beginning to think that High School Science and this Inclusion School have been requesting me. Although it was rainy, I decided to straighten my hair anyway. Rain is my kryptonite, but I told myself that I could keep it covered while I rushed to and from the school, so it should be fine. I had read somewhere regarding a study about curly-haired versus straight-haired people, that curly q’d women were considered flighty compared with their smoother-locked counterparts. Secretly always coveting smooth hair, I got my hair cut into a bob with bangs, and began using a flat iron this past February, hoping I would appear more professional. My own unscientific research has reached an identical conclusion to that of the study.
I put on my chic (in my mind, anyway) gray cap, opened the umbrella, and rushed into the car. On the way, and actually, quite near the school, a Cambridge Public Works truck meandered before me, loudspeakers blaring, “Street Cleaning No Parking on the Even-Numbered Side. You Will Be Tagged and Towed.” I chuckled over the accent – pahking. Then panic hit me – street cleaning! Not only would looking for a spot make me late, but… my hair. As I write this, I am aware of how vain I sound. Luckily for me (and my hair), the school is in a residential location, so I got a spot easily, just a block from the building. If only I could afford to live in that neighborhood.
I entered a quiet, well-organized third-grade classroom, already filled with three instructors: Lead, Shadow for an autistic child, and Student Teacher. I would be filling in for the Special Ed. teacher. Even though I could never get a full-time position here (except for building substitute), because it was only K-5, I enjoyed the time spent in the school; it was bright, with an upbeat staff, and a real commitment to Inclusion.
Two students required their own checklists for staying on task, being quiet, and acting respectful during each subject. The girl did better than the boy, who, after eating two (yes, two, which is 400 calories) sugary Pop Tarts during snack, became out of control during the next class; Math. The girl fell asleep a couple of times during Math, so maybe the boy should’ve shared one of his Pop Tarts with her. It was a slow day for me, going from group-to-group or student-to-student, when help or refocus was required. But after Health at the end of the previous school day, I was happy to have slow, because slow meant easy.
During Science class, a group of outside teachers came in to teach about habitats. One of these mad women announced that we would be going outside to collect specimens, to later be drawn by the students. Didn’t she know it was raining? Not only did she know, but she was ecstatic because it meant that worms would rise to the surface of the soil. So, I tucked my hair into my cap, willing it not to frizz, and we all grudgingly (at least the non-Science teachers) trudged into the rain, to look under rocks and logs for millipedes, rolly pollies, worms, beetles, spiders, and other creepy creatures around the playground. The students enthusiastically scrounged and studied, while the non-scientist adults stepped back, shivering in the damp. The poor Student Teacher hadn’t even brought a coat. When Pop Tart student rolled over a large rock, revealing an army of slugs, the Science teacher declared, “It’s a slug paradise!”
When we returned to the classroom, the students sketched their finds, safely secured in transparent plastic boxes. When the class was finished, the Science teachers promised to release the icky insects back to their habitats outside of the school. Icky is my word.
At lunchtime, the announcements announced that each classroom could decide if they wanted indoor or outdoor recess. Indoors, please say indoors. When the time came, I tucked my hair, which was looking worse for wear, into my cap, and pulled my hood string tight around my face to endure another fifteen-minutes of chill and mist. As the students screeched, chased, hula hooped, and tossed balls around, I couldn’t look at any of the logs or rocks in the same way. Who knew that this city could be crawling with so many bugs? I had thought that was a bonus of city-life; the downside being vermin; mice and rats, which is why we have a cat.
The day went quickly after recess. During the last ten minutes, the students were given free time, and one of the girls used this time to make me a picture of an enormous head of what I think is a bear. She wrote, “To Ms. M” and signed her name. I always give the students a choice of saying Ms. Milstein or Ms. M, since it’s usually just for a day, and since I can’t learn all of their names that quickly, they don’t have to memorize mine. It’s nice to know that even for one day, I could make a positive impact in the kids’ lives.
When I came home, I had a message that I’d be back at the high school for eleventh-grade AP Biology the next day. It was the same cluster of classes I’d already taught twice this year. I knew that in-between walking around and making sure they were working, I’d have time to read and write. And the entire day would be spent indoors.