My tripped out bike.
“They call me the apologist
And now that I'm at peak
You know at first it really hurt
We joke about these things
I've skirted all my differences
But now I'm facing up
I wanted to apologize for
Everything I was. So
I'm sorry, so sorry”*
When I began subbing last spring, I had few jobs until the end of May. For two months, I worked on an average of two days a week. And I didn’t get a gig at the high school until June. The whole point of switching my job was to get known in the district and show that I could teach upper grades. I failed on both counts.
So my winter depression because I had to leave my job led to despair I liken to being on suicide watch.
I wrote through it and the powerful emotions I had made its way into the Aura manuscripts. But the guilt I felt for writing when I was supposed to be “working” tore at me so I felt like less than a person.
Now, I’d give anything to be back in that place.
Okay, not the near-suicidal feelings, but the time to write. Last week, I worked all five days at five different jobs. Friday, I became a high school Math teacher. Those of you who have followed me for more than a month are now cringing, fearing for those poor students’ education. I assure you, it went better than the last couple of times.
I arrived at the office. As I signed in, the SPANISH teacher I’d subbed for on Wednesday came waltzing in. And it’s not a metaphor – the man was buoyant. Clearly the epitome of rest and health, he gave some story about having bronchitis and a virus. Which one, dude? Everyone knows that bronchitis is a bacterial infection. Then he waxed poetic about his trip to Central America and promised the secretary he’d bring in pictures. I did my best not to glower as he fingered his useless sub folder in his mailbox.
Then the secretary turned her attention to me. She handed me the schedule and attendance, and then informed me that the Math teacher was in his classroom. After a week of fractured plans, this was a hopeful development.
He was in his room, as promised. The teacher explained that his son had a fever, so his wife was home while he taught A.P. Calculus (he hated to have them get behind so close to MCAS). He told me to come back for homeroom and he’d discuss the day, but I’d be proctoring a test for blocks three and four. I could live with that.
The only speck came when the teacher told me, “Don’t hesitate to press the safety button if any students gives you any trouble.” Was this a likely scenario?
My “work” during that time was to bring papers to the photocopy room to be copied and pick up the copied papers. They have their own photocopy room? He told me where to go. It was a big room with large machines and lots of shelves, run by a woman and a young man with Down syndrome. I found out that he’d just graded last year. The copies were ready, and the man quickly took care of the new order.
Then I had a nice chunk of time off. Of course, I went to Starbucks across the street. When I stepped outside, I heard those pipes they used to play during Revolutionary War times in front of the library. Think Boston and Cambridge are obsessed much?
Because I had off second period, I decided to ride my bike home and try to get something done in my crumpling house. Laundry piled. Dust accumulated. Clutter abounded.
Third period was fine. One student introduced himself as LeBron James and I laughed and shook his hand. During the test someone made birdlike noises that magically ceased when I sat next to LeBron.
During the test, next door was awfully loud. I tried to ignore it, but when a student said, "Can you tell them to keep it down?" I had to interfere. I opened the adjoining door a crack. The classroom was chaos. While the teacher helped a student at the white board, the rest of the class was rambunctious and unfocused. I called him, but my voice drowned in noise. When one girl saw me, she called the teacher twice. He couldn't hear her. She got up and tugged on his sleeve, pointing to me. "I'm sorry, but the students are taking a test next door." He nodded.
I heard the teacher tell the students to quiet down because of the test. It lasted all of thirty-seconds. After that, I'd hear periodic threats to send misbehaving students to the office. My students chuckled at these outbursts, but kept working.
At lunchtime, I passed the Spanish teacher in the hallway.
“I subbed your class the other day,” I blurted.
He stopped. “Which day did you sub?”
He nodded. “I’m sorry about that.”
“They said they finished their packets, so they watched a DVD.”
“Not all of them did the packet. I checked.”
I shrugged. “Sorry about that. I took their word for it since they'd already handed them in to another sub.”
Fourth period was even easier. (No birds.) For both classes, I stayed extra for students who needed more time for the tests. It was the least I could do since I’d had off first period.
When the day ended, I was dead tired. Even though these two periods hadn’t been taxing, it had been a long week. And I knew the weekend would be filled with cleaning, laundering, and ironing to get back on track. I’d just have to hope for a little downtime next week. And some much needed writing time.
“Did you understand me right?
The people here are good
They tell me what I should have done
And offer what I could
I'm good, all is good
All's well, no complaints
When I fell regret,
I get down on my knees and pray
I'm sorry (so sorry), so sorry (so sorry)”
- *Buck, Mills, Stipe. Song “The Apologist” REM