Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Day in the Life

“Some days are one of those days.”

Amy Krouse Rosenthal, One of Those Days

Last night, I realized that I am not a domestic goddess. When we returned from Taekwondo, I went to finish cooking my jambalaya, which entailed adding rice to the simmering pot for fifteen minutes. After said time, the rice was crunchy, so I added five more minutes to the timer. When I checked the pot again, there wasn’t enough water and the still-crunchy rice had begun to stick to the bottom. I added a can of broth, but even when that had cooked down, the rice wasn't cooperating. At this point, it was 7:45PM, and the kids were already supposed to be done with dinner and were now off schedule. I plopped the crispy jambalaya on their plates. My daughter only ate the sausages, while my son ate very little of everything. They could tell I was in a foul mood, and were kind/smart enough not to ask for anything else.

Perhaps the previous evening was a warning as to how the next day would progress. I awoke to a dark, rainy morning. Hoping I would not get called to work, I began my morning routine. By the time I’d gotten out of the shower, it was around 6:20, so I was fairly confident I wouldn’t be working. Wrong! Just as I lifted my casual clothing from the pile, the phone rang, and I was advised to report to teach Social Studies to, “Learning Community R”. The school is divided into four Houses: C, R, L, and S, which stand for Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. The Houses used to be separated by interest: The Arts, Science/Math, Technology, and Fundamentals. But there was concern that it was racially biased or tracking or something, so how they are now divided is a mystery to me. All I know is that I’ve only worked for Learning Community S, which I’ve decided stands for Swell, due to my positive experiences there. What did Community R stand for? Ridiculous? Rambunctious? Running wild? I let my imagination run wild.

When I arrived, I found at that R is in the same area as S. I was advised to report to a certain office, but the person there told me to report to another office (Which wound up being in a stairwell, so I had a difficult time locating it). From there, I was told that I’d teach in two different classrooms and I was given the attendance forms and three sheets. The first paper advised me to show a video that was housed in a desk drawer. The other two papers were a list of questions for the students to answer regarding the video. “Do you know if the teacher made copies of this?" I asked the secretary. She gave me a blank stare in response. “Never-mind, I’ll check the room.”

I rushed to the class, passing a cluster of students for the third time. When reached the room, it was locked. The door to the left was also locked and the one to the left of that didn’t have an adjoining door. The room to the right was an office in a stairwell. Someone in that office brought a key and unlocked the door. Some tenth-graders filed in early, but I couldn’t locate any handout copies, so I had to kick out the students to find a copy machine. I returned to the nearby office and began to make copies. I promptly got in trouble for: 1) using a photocopier that wasn’t from my “House” and 2) making more than ten copies. “Teachers never read instructions,” the woman admonished, as she pointed to a note on top of the machine that ordered no more than ten copies (I was rushing – not reading). “Now we’ll run out of paper.” Paper had become a limited commodity throughout the district due to the economy. Not wanting to ruffle her feathers further, I offered to return with fifty-nine blank pieces of paper from my “House” later in the day.

Upon returning to the classroom, I let the students come back inside. As I wrote instructions on the board, a student asked, “Are you collecting the projects that are due today?” Oh, there are projects due. “Yes,” I replied, erasing, To Do, and adding, Hand in projects in its place. I easily found the video, but the location of the extension cord alluded me until another student found it. I began to hand out the handouts, when I was told the students had them already. Great. I hit play on the VCR, when I was advised that they watched “most” of the video already. According to the box, the video was two hours, so after trial and error, we found out where they'd stopped at last time. While they watched, I tried to use the Internet. Although I’ve been able to get on other sub days, I wasn’t able to today. Figures.

I was glad this was the “Honors” class to help me iron out the kinks. The other two would be “College Prep”, which have a reputation of being more difficult. In high school, these students volunteer to be in the Honors classes, which means they want to be challenged. In the last week, I’d learned that the “College Prep” students didn’t behave much like people concerned about going to college (Singing, talking, chewing gum, sleeping). Unfortunately, the remaining part of the video only lasted forty-five minutes, so the students had twenty-five minutes with nothing to do. I let them talk quietly. Perhaps that would be a good bribe for periods three and four; Get through the video without talking and you’ll get free time near the end!

Towards the end of first period, the school began testing the fire alarms, so I decided to hide in the Starbucks across the street until third period. That reminded me that I didn’t know if I began teaching at the beginning of third period or had lunch first, having class later into third period. I ran to the office (with a quick detour to the bathroom) to find out, but the secretary wasn’t there. Oh no – did I have homeroom? The sheet from the teacher didn’t mention it. Then I found the homeroom number scribbled on one of the attendance forms. I ran to the room just as the bell rang. Did I really take that long? I knew that more than one teacher ran homeroom, but I still didn’t think I made a very good impression, so I hastily apologized, explaining my absence. At least I found out that I had class in the beginning of third period and could get some coffee.

While sitting in Starbucks, the sky began to clear. Was this a good sign? Walking back to the school, I realized that I’d forgotten my daughter’s ballet bag. Now I’d have to rush back home before picking up my children from school. I wish I’d thought of that at the beginning of my break, when I had time to go home. No time to stress about that now.

Just before class, I asked the proper House secretary for paper. She asked why, so I explained. She told me not to bother because she lets teachers from other “Houses” use her copier. “We’re all in this together,” she said.

After I left the office, I dumped the papers I’d inadvertently copied into the recycling bin outside the classroom door. As I waited outside the room for third period (the second period teacher was still inside), a flustered special ed. teacher arrived (Do I usually look like this?), who also worked in the class. She was relieved to see that I had the video and asked if I’d made copies of the handout, as she clutched the original. No, these students had not yet seen the video, and yes, I would need those copies. I retrieved the pile from the bin, glad that I hadn’t killed so many trees for nothing. I was also glad to have this other teacher in the room because these students were boisterous bunch. Only the threat of an assignment from the textbook quieted them. I didn’t blame them - it was a boring video and the first hour didn’t much answer the questions on the handout.

Fourth period had two former students from my previous school (Allies!). This group was smaller and quieter. They whispered to one another during the video, but I knew telling them to pay attention because they needed to answer the questions was a lie. So, here and there, I interjected important information. Then the fire alarm went off. “Are they still testing the alarms?” I asked. At that moment, a person on the loudspeaker announced, “This is not a test. Please evacuate the building.” Sigh. At least it wasn’t raining. As soon as we walked outside, we were told to go back, but other students were still exiting the building, so we had to find another entrance.

When the school day ended, I ran up to the first classroom to drop off the video and various papers. When I went to add the sheets to my first period stack, it was gone. Did the special ed. teacher take the pile? I couldn’t worry about that now - I had to leave.

Three classrooms, three periods, one missed homeroom, one fire drill, and one lost stack of papers.

I sped home to grab the ballet bag. Once inside, I dropped off my lunch, put on sneakers, and listened to my messages. When I left the house and hopped into the car, I called my husband and whined about my crazy day while I drove. As I parked near my children's school, I blurted, “I forgot the ballet bag!” What was wrong with me?! As if on cue, the wind picked up – tossing leaves in the air, it began to pour, and I tried to dodge drops on my way to the building.

After I retrieved my children, the sun was back out as we all filed into the car, I had to drive home, get the ballet bag, and drive to ballet (which is by their school). I knew that the rest of the day would entail more rushing from one place to another, and then cooking dinner for tonight and doing some initial preparation for tomorrow night, when a couple would be coming over for dinner. Whatever the next day brought, I hoped it would go more smoothly.

“Luckily, every single one of those days eventually turns into night. And every single night turns into a brand-new day.” Amy Krouse Rosenthal


  1. I love the quote by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

  2. Hi

    My goodness - it certainly was one of those days! But as always, you kept it together, I'm completely in awe.

    Take care


  3. Old Kitty, I only keep it together on the outside!

  4. Aww... Too bad about the jambalaya.
    I wonder what was up with that rice?

    It's quite interesting to read these post chronologically. Even though you so often seem to have harrowing days such as this one. It's like reading history unfold.

  5. @ Alesa, the jambalaya was strange. My husband made risotto and wound up having to stir for way longer than the directions said. Maybe it's us...

    I forgot about this day until your comment. If you keep reading, there are more harrowing history days to come.

  6. I'll keep reading... Slowly but steadily.
    I don't always have anything to say about each post. Likewise, please don't feel obliged to answer every single one of comments as you've been doing (though I do appreciate it). : j

  7. If I get a comment, I leave a comment back. I like doing it. And you're welcome to read or stop anytime.

  8. We also have a slight paper shortage around our school. This is something I hear about often as I am a Media Center worker (this means I have to copy whatever teachers tell me to copy). But we just run more things two-sided and go on with our lives.

  9. @ Brooke, we've been having that problem at the school I was just an extended term sub for. They've actually accused people of "hoarding" paper.

    I do a lot of 2-sided too!