Chapter 3: A Friendly Face

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Using superior deduction I head to the Library and hope to find the book nerds there. I know I am a book nerd as well but I still don’t feel like I am part of the school yet. I guess when you only have a total of 4 hours spent in the school you can’t feel like you are a part of it yet. Hell, the school doesn’t even have a proper name yet.

I find a group in the library but it seems they are the IT crew. I ask them if they know where the Language Arts teachers are meeting and one of them spits the suggestion of emailing them. It hits me; I have no idea how to access any of my school accounts. With my captive audience I ask them how I access my email. My Cro-Magnon conversational partner grunts something about a school computer and access information. My questions about a school computer lead me to an understanding that we not only do not have computers yet but we also do not have Internet. I ask him how he suggests I use email to contact my team and find myself no longer in possession of a person to talk to.

I wonder where the damn Language Arts meeting is. The school is laid out like a big cross with the gymnasium at the top right. It is two stories tall and looks like it should be big but feels small when you get inside. The ceilings are low enough that I can touch them if I stand on my tiptoes and stretch. That doesn’t say much since I am only 5’10”. The building was built in the 60s and is already over 50 years old. It doesn’t help that it sat empty for the last 5 years being neglected.

Walking the hallways I see mostly dark doors and think to myself that they must all be somewhere. You would think that with three days to go before school that this place would look like a bee hive all busy with teacher bees trying to get set up for school. The idea of teachers as bees has me smiling when I come across an occupied room. At least I think it is occupied, there are boxes everywhere and the lights are on.

I pop my head in and whisper shout “Hello.”

All of the sudden I hear a tumble to my left and a small form falls out of the closet. She brushes herself off on her jeans and shoved her hand out to me announcing, “Hi, I’m Joyce Rainer.”

“Hi Joyce, I’m Scott Murphy.” Is all I can manage taking her in and shaking her hand.

Joyce looks to be just over 5 feet tall and small enough that she could fit in one of the boxes she brought. She has her brown hair tied up in a way that looks both careless and complicated. She is dressed in paint splattered jeans and a shirt that some would call vintage but looks more like she got it from a rag bin. All in all my first impression is of a mess but she has a nice smile.

“So what’s up Scott?” she asks as I realize I am staring a little too much.

I test the waters and ask, “Do you know what’s going on around here?”

“I have no idea. I was hired just before that meeting this morning.”

“Wow, that’s less time than I have had. What are all these boxes? Did they leave them for you or what?”

“Oh these? No, I had them in my car because I knew I would get the job.”

“That seems confident of you.”

“Nope, this was my last resort and either I got this job or I drove these boxes back to my parents house to put in storage. It was either this or go back to waiting tables.”

“So, what are you teaching?”

Joyce looked sheepish, cast her eyes down and answered, “Art”

I exclaim, “That’s cool! I loved Art as a kid. It was the only class I didn’t have to pay attention in.” as soon as the words leave my mouth I realize I sound like a jerk.

“Yeah, that’s the problem. No one takes Art seriously and I am not even sure if I’ll have a job in a year. This school is not in the budget and they are doing all they can just to get it open. Art is expensive and I have no supplies other than what I brought. I have no budget as far as I know and there isn’t even a sink in my room. If I keep thinking about it I’m going to cry.”

Well this turned sad fast. I don’t know what the hell to say to someone crying. I don’t know how to handle this, I’ll try being funny that never fails.

“You could teach them how to draw on their note books. They will be practicing in my class anyway. Nobody pays attention in Language Arts.”

Her pause and eventual smile make me think that she now considers me an idiot rather than funny.

“Thank you.” She says and then changes the subject, “Do you know what we are supposed to do next?”

“I was told that I should meet with my subject matter team but I have no idea where they are. Other than that I have no idea. But at least I’m not alone in being lost. Do you need help with any of the boxes?”

“No thank you, I am sure you have your own room to unpack and hang up.”

“All unpacked. I only had one box of books and it looks sad in my room.”

“You don’t have anything else?” she asked with a sense of confusion.

“Nope, I never really thought about how my room would look.” As I say it feel how lame I must sound. I can’t believe I sound like such an amateur. I was always prepared when I was a Financial Advisor and now I sound like I just woke up and decided to be a teacher. That is kind of how it went but I should sound more prepared.

“Are you a second career teacher? You look too old to be straight out of college.”

She looked too young to be out of high school but I decided that would not the right thing to say after she was just on the verge of tears.

“Yeah, I used to be a Financial Advisor and decided to become a teacher. I quit my job and went back to school. This is my first job.”

“You quit being a Financial Advisor for this?” She doesn’t sound incredulous but she also doesn’t sound impressed at my sacrifice.

“Yep, I wanted to do something good in the world and being a Financial Advisor was boring.”

“Why didn’t you become a Math teacher? Why Language Arts?”

“Being a math teacher means you’re the boring teacher and I guess maybe I watched too many movies like Dead Poet’s Society.” It sounded lame when I said it but she smiled.

“How about you, why Art?”

“I guess I never grew up. I always wanted to be an artist but I was never that good. I am still working on it but teaching is better than being a waitress so here I am.”

“You shouldn’t want to be an artist.” She gave me a death stare and I hurried up and said, “You are an artist. You just need to make what feels good to you and others will eventually see it.”

She gave me a big smile and looked like she was going to cry again. I said it was nice to meet her and scurried out of the room. This seemed like a good time to go.

The hallways were still empty but I had a bounce in my step as I headed back to my room. Joyce seemed nice, a bit dramatic, but nice. I realized that I would be the oddball in the school since everyone else was either in their early 20s or ready for retirement. Here I am just past 32. I am not really young enough to hang with the twenty-somethings and I am nowhere near old enough to identify with the old codgers. I guess I’ll just have to see what happens.

Something happened that surprised me. That eardrum-rending buzz came through the overhead speakers and my name was being shouted out to report to the conference room. I asked the speakers where the conference room was but got no reply as I expected.

I assumed the rom must be near the office so I hurried down there and found out that it was the same stale sweaty room where I was interviewed by Principal Griffin. The room was packed with faces I barely remembered seeing from the meeting this morning. They all looked at me and I had flashbacks to dreams of showing up to school without pants on. This was not what I expected. I found a place in the corner and tried not to attract any more attention to myself.

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