“History is merely gossip.”
- Oscar Wilde
I overindulged in food this weekend. Saturday morning was innocent enough with a bowl of granola cereal. Then for lunch, my husband, son, and I ate at a Thai restaurant and I ate half of my heaping plate of noodles. We had friends over for dinner, so I had way too much cheese and bread, followed by my (moderately) famous Mexican corn soup with lemon and fish tacos with a jicama slaw. For dessert, we had Trader Joe’s Tiramisu.
Sunday morning was Mother’s Day. To celebrate, my husband poached an egg, topped it with sautéed shallots, smoked salmon and hollandaise sauce. At our local Ryles Jazz Club’s brunch, it’s called Eggs Copenhagen. For lunch, I finished the other half of my heaping plate of Thai noodles. For dinner, my husband cooked potato gratin (and didn’t hold the cream) and fried calamari.
Probably five pounds heavier, I woke up at 5:25 am. By the time I got out of the shower, still no call so I was confident I’d have the day off. Getting dressed, I planned my day. I’d print excerpts of manuscripts for the conference, get some editing done on The Disappearances, prepare a few pages of my new manuscript (Naked Eye) for the peer critique at said conference, get my mother’s birthday present and buy two suitcases. It was gonna be a spectacularly productive day.
At 6:47 am, the phone rang me out of my reverie to send me to the Freshman Academy. Remember when I used to be a gym teacher? Now I seem to be the Special Ed. go-to guy.
I arrived at the school and the secretary immediately said, “She doesn’t have much of a schedule. You don’t have anything for hours.” This teacher only has two classes she co-teaches the last two blocks. If they didn’t have anything else for me to do, I wouldn’t begin until about 11:45. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a crystal ball to know this nonsense in advance so I could sleep in? My sweatpants were way more comfortable than tights. Then I was told to wait in the library for someone in charge to show up and see if there was some other place to put me in the meantime. Did this mean I would be paid for a part-time gig? Grrrrr.
All of first period came and went. Then homeroom. I certainly had Internet and editing productivity even if I was trapped in a chilly library. Second period, a class came in to use the computers so I lost Internet access. After I could edit no longer, I read The Hunger Games.
Lunchtime came three hours after I’d arrived, and so I made my way to the teacher’s room to use the microwave.
At 11:45 am, I had my first class. All I knew was the classroom number, so I was pleasantly surprised that it was a History class. The teacher showed the students a news clip from eight years ago about horrendous factory conditions in Northern Marian Islands. The teacher received grudging respect from the ninth-graders, but he used a lot of street lingo, and I’m not sure he was being ironic about it like when I use it. And he said some phrases I wouldn’t say like, “Shut your cakehole.” Also, the volume of his tone was more appropriate for an auditorium than a small classroom.
The students had a lot of questions about how the system had been set up, so the teacher made an analogy to prostitution by women from Eastern Europe who’ve been tricked into coming to New York City as models. That led to a conversation about parents selling children into prostitution or to work in factories. And that turned into a discussion about power and husbands who can kill their wives and daughters without penalty in certain countries. Then the teacher reminded them about how slaves could be killed without convication during the time of American slavery. One student kept responding, “That’s messed up.” Indeed.
Halfway through, I was sent next door because the teacher hadn't returned from lunch that took place in the middle of class. I walked in and of course it was MATH. Aack! Prior to lunch, there had been a Math discussion so there was really nothing for the students to do. Instead of eating me alive, they quietly talked until the teacher returned. Turned out she'd failed to return in time for, "personal reasons". Then I was free to return to History class. Sigh of relief.
The last class was a small group of kids who were performing low and had behavioral issues. It was my job to take one girl, who’s not a problem when she’s one-on-one to work on the Social Studies packet. It soon became apparent why she’s a problem. She cannot read. Below are two sentence. Each word she couldn’t pronounce or understand is in bold:
On September 7, 1892, in New Orleans, Louisiana, the first heavyweight title fight under the Queensbury rules was fought. This championship fight was between John L. Sullivan and “Gentleman Jim” Corbett.
When the students left, I spoke with the teacher about this student. Her response? “She reads on a first-grade level. Maybe lower. There’s a program for her at the main campus, but her father refuses to let her in the ‘retarded’ class, so she’s just been moved up each year.” The following week the girl would finally be moved to a special program in Lexington.
On the way home from my children’s school, my daughter chirped, “How was your day?”
“Not too bad. I didn’t have much to do.”
“Getting paid for not doing much is good because it’s good to get paid and not do much. That’s one of the good things about subbing is that you don’t always have to do so much,” she said.
I can't argue with that logic.