I got my books lined up on the heater and it somehow makes my room look even sadder. The good thing is that people will see them since they are the only things in my classroom and they will not be in doubt that I am one well-read, high-class dude. I wish I had more to put up on the walls but I was caught completely by surprise with this job. Honestly I had never really thought I was going to get a job as a teacher and didn’t really think about what my classroom would look like. Every time I zoned out in class I thought about the great discussions I would be having with my kids or the feeling of them coming back years later telling me I had inspired them. I never thought about what the first day would look like. I think I should have actually read that book from Wong & Wong.
Well, this is a good time to explore my room’s storage and see what I have on offer. It turns out after looking through all the cabinets under the heater, the closet and my desk I have exactly 6 things in my room. I have letters E, F and J from the 1997 World Book Encyclopedia; I have a composition notebook with some beautifully illustrated genitalia comprising most of the work between the covers and two dead mice in my desk drawer.
I am beginning to wonder about how I could quit gracefully and not ruin all may future career chances. Just as I consider sneaking out to my car and slinking off into the sunset I see a flicker of movement out of the corner my eye. Could there be life on this desolate planet after all?
I pop out into the hall and see the spill of light coming from a door three doors down. I approach with caution, I have no idea why but I am nervous. I pop my head in and knock on the door and to my surprise it is my 3rd grade teacher. No shit, Mr. Stakes is sitting at his desk smoking.
“Can we smoke in here?” I dumbly ask knowing full well that no school anywhere allows smoking in the classrooms.
“Fuck it, no one will know or care.” Mr. Stakes responds.
“Hey, Mr. Stakes, I doubt you remember me but…” He cuts me off.
“Let me guess, I was your teacher?”
“I’m so glad you tuned out great. Look at you a teacher now, I’m so proud.” He says with a tone that tells me this is a rehearsed speech.
“Thanks, I guess. What are you doing here? Did you volunteer for this? I thought you taught 3rd grade.”
“Who are you again?” he asks finally noting I am not going away.
“I’m Scott Murray, eh, Murphy. Sorry, a bit overwhelmed and they spelled my name wrong.”
“Is this your first year?”
It must show, “Yes, I can’t wait to get started.” Yep I am so new you can see it from space.
“Let me answer your question, I am here because I thought it would be a good idea to pad my retirement with a few more years of work. The district did not take kindly to that and was stuck dealing with it until they opened this hell-hole back up. I was involuntarily moved and find myself here talking to you. I am too old to start from scratch and they know it. I’ll be done as soon as the year is over and they get to hire another eager young beaver like yourself. “
I was getting the impression that my 3rd grade teacher had been broken by the system. This is the system that I chose to quite a job where I earned a quarter million a year doing because I wanted to make the world better. I think I may be a dumb ass.
“So, what do we do?” I asked trying not to sound lame and failing.
“We? We, set up our rooms and get ready for the meetings that will start soon and take up every moment of free time you have for the next three days.”
“Oh.” I answered and that caused Mr. Stakes to take pity on me.
“Listen Scott, you can call me Bill. This school will have students in three days. No one is prepared for that so my suggestion is that you get real good at pretending you know what you are doing and keep on faking it until you think the kids believe it. These kids will sense weakness and pounce. You lose control of your classroom and you lose the year. I suggest you get some work ready for them day one and work them hard all the first week. Don’t bother grading everything but pick one assignment and make a big deal out of it. If you can do that you have a shot at making it out of this year with your sanity in tact.”
I would later realize that this was the greatest lesson he would ever teach me. I learned more in the last five minutes than I did in all my teaching methods courses.
There was an awful buzz over the speakers and a voice called all staff to report to the main auditorium. I had no idea where that was but I can follow a crowd. I hit the main hallway and followed the trudging people to a auditorium that smelled must and looked a bit frayed around the edges.
Principal Griffin was at the front with a woman who looked old enough to have heard Lincoln give the Gettysburg Address and a knock out blonde that had my full attention. I was hoping that the blonde would be chained to a desk so that I could drop by and make her acquaintance. No woman can stand up to my charms if she is not allowed to leave when I drop b to talk to her. I call my style Tenacious Pleading.
It turns out the centenarian is the Dean of Students and the amazing blonde is the Assistant Principal. I hope to work closely with her. Griffin finishes introductions and I finally look around and realize that the staff is mostly younger than me except for the handful of grizzled veterans posted up in the corner ignoring the proceedings. It hits me that we are the misfits and rookies. We are about to be thrown into the fire and no one has any idea what they are doing. The next two hours fly by at a crawl. I don’t know what Griffin is talking about and the centenarian as it turns out is hilariously named Mrs. Edwina “Eddy” Deville. She pronounces it like Devil. She takes us through the known troublemakers that we can expect and I have no frame of reference but feel like I should be taking notes. Finally the blonde reveals herself to by Ms. Jennifer Shaw. Did she just suggest she is single? She tells us all how great it will be to work with her and I can’t wait to tell her the same.
After the meeting I stop by to talk with her and introduce myself. She stops me short and demands, “Are you Murphy?”
“Yes!” I exclaim, so happy that she got it right.
“Griffin hired you without consulting me.”
Well this is not the start I was hoping for.
I tentatively reply, “I didn’t know. Glad to be here though, I can’t wait to get started.”
“Have you ever taught a day other than Observation and Student Teaching?”
“Sorry, no I haven’t. I focused on my applications and didn’t need to work while I looked.”
“Listen to me, your trust fund will not help you here. I will be observing your room in two weeks for your first evaluation. You had better be up-to-speed by then. Meet with your subject matter team and your mentor today. You need to get on the same page as the rest of us.”
I have no idea what I did to piss her off but I do know that it could have gone better. I realize that I was so focused on watching her move during the introductions that I have no idea who else teaches Language arts in this building. I may have found what she dislikes about me but I don’t know if I could have helped it. I guess wondering around will be my next bold move.