Chapter 4: First Impressions

stock-footage-typing-on-computer-keyboard-silhouette

I thought that this meeting would be about what we are doing as teachers. It turns out that it is about how little we actually know. I always assumed my teachers had their shit together and knew everything. When I went back to college to to become a teacher my fear was that I didn’t know enough so I started reading everything I could. I wanted to read all the books my kids would be reading, I wanted to know about the TV shows they watched, I wanted to know about them so I could answer all their questions. I turned myself into a teenager with all the media I was consuming.

When I finally started taking the classes on methods and teaching I learned that most teachers follow a formulaic script that they are expected to improve on to fi their style. I was let down big time. I thought that it was an art but it turned out that teaching was more theater than art. The instructors talked about how to improve and differentiate the material but I kept hearing scripts. I almost quit the teaching program right there. The only thing that stopped me was our first observation hours. I went to a school down the street from my condo and it was a beautiful well-funded school with happy children. There was just enough diversity that you didn’t have to feel ashamed and the parents all had perfect children.

The kids I met working at Clara Barton Middle School were all carbon copies of their parents. These kids had tutors, private lessons and parental support. When they asked questions they were wonderful and insightful. The teachers barely followed the script and I observed one enrichment lesson after another. The students had fun and wanted o be there. They each had their own computer and interacted seamlessly with it and the teacher. I was in love.

I knew that the instructors I had at my university were burnouts and hacks who just taught teaching classes to discourage future generations as a warning. Clara Barton Middle School was what I wanted to do. It was the future and it was my motivation.   I did all of my observation there and even managed to get my Student Teaching assignment there. It helped that I was dating the teacher who agreed to be my supervising teacher. I thought I was a lock for a job there because three teachers would be retiring this year. I was the perfect candidate for the position.

Good god this meeting room is hot. Why is everyone staring at me?

The woman who seems to be running the meeting asks me again, “Murray, you’re 8th grade right?”

This is the first I have heard about what I’ll be teaching. I respond, “It’s Murphy”

She glares daggers at me and asks, “You are the 8th Grade Language Arts Teacher right?”

“Sorry, yeah I am.” I shut up after that hoping she will explain what this all means to me. She doesn’t.

As the meeting progressed I realized that we didn’t have a script. In teaching terms this is not having a curriculum. The district had a curriculum for middle school language arts but that was something they bought 3 years ago and it was an expensive investment. This school being re-opened was an emergency response and put the district way over budget. We would not be getting a fancy script with reading materials and supplemental workbooks. We were doing this the old fashion way. We would be reading books in class sets and doing worksheets that were stolen from the Internet and any other free resources we could. The teachers around the table were divvying up the class sets of books and most of these sets were old when I was middle school. The Westing Game, Black Beauty and The Indian in the Cupboard were the ones I had heard of. Where was the Percy Jackson or Harry Potter? There was nothing that had been written in the last 20 years. The kids would not connect to any of this.

As soon as a decent book came up I tried to claim it. S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders is a bit easy for 8th graders but at least I could work with it. I was given a scowl of disapproval when I spoke up but at least I had a book. I had a direction.

I am an 8th grade teacher and my kids are going to be learning about how rough life was growing up on the streets. I think I can use this book to connect with the kids that will be here and I just might be able to salvage this year. At least this will look good on my resume for next year.

I head back to my room and start writing up a lesson for The Outsiders. I map it out to take most of the first quarter and after three hours of planning I stretch out and stand up. Just as I am shaking from the stretch and making a dumb yawning sound I turn to see Joyce standing in my door. She starts laughing as I try to straighten myself out and recover some cool. She has a giant roll roll of posters in her hands and brings them over to me.

She is still laughing when she says, “I thought you may need these. You didn’t sound like you had much in your room.” She is looking around as she says this and suddenly my row of books on the heater seems sad. She seems to think the same thing and adds, There are some posters I don’t have room for on my walls and even a few are for English class.”

“Language Arts.” I say a bit imperiously.

“Whatever, you know what I meant. Do you want to borrow these or not?” She huffs out at me.

Suddenly I feel like a jerk and stammer, “Yeah thanks. I just don’t like calling it English because it’s racist or something. I don’t know they always corrected me in school so I’ll just shut up now”

She laughs at me and unrolls the posters. We flip through a few o them and I cannot wait to get them up on the walls because they are really good. There is even a motivational cat poster. I feel like my room is complete having one of those. Joyce helps me get them up on the walls which required hunting down tape. I didn’t even think to buy wall gum or sticky strips. We eventually see a roll of tape hanging off the maintenance cart and we run off with it. When we get the last poster hung I turn to her and offer my thanks.

“Thank you for the save, my room looks like a real classroom now. It is still a bit empty but it is better than just the books I brought.”

She smiles, “You’re welcome. My boyfriend is happy that I finally got my stuff out of our apartment. Like I said, it was either here or taking them to my moms for storage. I’m kind of a hoarder when it comes to free school stuff. I knew I didn’t need ‘Language Arts’ posters but I got them at such a deal it was still worth it.”

She used air quotes when she said “Language Arts.”

She went on, “Anyway you’re the first person who has talked to me since I got here so you get to be my friend. Stop calling me Joyce, that is a grandma name. Most people call me Joy.”

I had to smile because Joyce was my Great Aunt’s name, my Grandmother’s sister.

“Well Joy, you can call me Scott. It is short for Scott.” This joke never fails to get a smile, she roller her eyes. “You are the second person I have met today and the first person who has not shouted at me so that makes you a friend as well.” I wanted to add that it was a shame to hear about her boyfriend but I kept that to myself. “If you ever need anything I can provide then let me know. I can analyze a book or give you financial advice. Other than those two things I seem to be rather useless.”

She kept smiling and asked, “What are you planning to do with the kids?”

“Since I am the 8th Grade Language Arts Teacher we will spend the first quarter looking at the fine work of S.E. Hinton and her coming of age tale, The Outsiders. I plan to inspire a new crop of readers with this great book and the story of how Miss Hinton wrote this while she was only 16.”

“I love that book.” She laughed and added, “You sound like you got your lesson plan from Wikipedia.”

I did.

She went on, “You should take a look at some of the lesson plans online and get a feel for what they do with this book. I can email you some links, what’s your email address?”

“I can give you my personal one, they don’t have the Internet up yet here and I have no idea what my school address will be. I just hope they don’t misspell it. Everyone keeps calling my Murray.”

Joy crinkles her brow and says, “Yeah I noticed that. Maybe they hired the wrong guy and you just don’t know it yet.”

I laugh because I have already wondered this, “If a Murray shows up here I’ll tell him where he got the posters.”

She takes off and I head home for the day. I don’t know how it happened but it is already 4:30. I skipped lunch and I grab some sushi on the way home. The commute is a bit killer to get back to the city but it is worth it. I get home after my first day of being a real teacher and I cannot stop smiling. I am a real teacher. I have a classroom, with borrowed posters. I have a curriculum, which I need to improve on. I have a cute girl named Joy who is my friend and she has a boyfriend she lives with. It is not the best start but at least nothing can take away my smile.

I plan on rereading The Outsiders tonight and getting a fresh jump on lesson planning tomorrow so it doesn’t sound like I ripped off Wikipedia any more.

I spend the next few days tracking down information and sitting through meetings that tell me nothing. I get a class list right before I leave on the last day before school starts. I have not talked to anyone else and that suits me just fine. My grandmother was a teacher and the only teaching advice she ever gave me was, “Stay out of the teachers lounge and stay out of the drama. It is the fastest way to make enemies of people you’ll have to work with everyday.” I have done my best to avoid drama and it seems to be working because there are cliques already forming.

I am ready for these students. I know my first day is going to be awesome and I know these kids are going to be rocked by how much fun Language Arts can be if you have a good book. This is going to be great.

Advertisements

Chapter 3: A Friendly Face

stock-footage-typing-on-computer-keyboard-silhouette

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.

Chapter 2: Day 1

stock-footage-typing-on-computer-keyboard-silhouette

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?”

“Well, yeah.”

“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.

Chapter 1: Becoming A Teacher

I have no idea what I’m doing.

I have two Bachelors degrees and had a successful career for 5 years and I still have no idea what I am doing. I could retire tomorrow and live comfortably as long as the market holds so what am I doing looking at my name miss-spelled on a door to a classroom? There are three days before the school year starts and I have nothing to put on the walls. I have no idea what the curriculum looks like and the only person I met was my principal who didn’t remember who I was when I walked in. He interviewed me and hired me in the same day and seemed relieved that I could walk upright and form full sentences. His only concern was that this was a second career for me, no one seems to understand why I quit being a financial advisor to become a teacher.

They spelled my damn name wrong.

I hope that the phone works.

There is a ringtone but I don’t know who to call or what the extensions are. Looks like 0 will be my first attempt. On the other end I hear a haggard voice, “District Middle School 3, this is Deb how can I help you.”

“Hi Deb this is Scott Murphy, who do I talk to about getting the name on the door fixed? It was spelled wrong and I don’t want the kids to be confused.”

“Hold on one second.” She sighs and I get put through to my savior.

It’s voicemail, “This user has not set up an outgoing message.” BEEEP.

“Hi, this is Scott Murphy. I am sorry to bother you and I know you are busy but the name on my door was misspelled ‘Murray’ not ‘Murphy’ and I was wondering if someone could fix it to limit confusion for the kids on their first day. Thanks!”

I hope that went somewhere and hang up my phone.

I am not prepared for this; I have no idea how to decorate a classroom. I know what they should look like. I have sat in them for years and know that I should have posters and motivational cats on the walls. I know I should have a bulletin board. I have no idea where to get that stuff. What the hell was I thinking becoming a teacher?

I drop my box of books on my new desk and quickly realize that I do not have a chair. At least I have a desk. It looks like it may have sailed over on the mayflower but it has four legs and some drawers. It looks like my students wont have to worry about where they sit since their desks are attached to the chairs. I was afraid I wouldn’t have desks. This school was old when I was young. It has been closed for 5 years after they built the new middle school across town. The sudden population surge in the last two years has caused a frantic need for classroom space and they re-opened this school. They took the original name, Sally Ride Junior High, and changed it into a middle school before they slapped it up on the new building. We get the cast off building and currently no name. We are the fighting District Middle School 3s. We are the red-headed step-child of Island Grove. I want to say I hate this town but I grew up here and I had hoped when I moved to the city that I would never return other than to visit my parents on holidays. I don’t hate this town, your hometown gets in your blood and you can never get rid of it.

Island Grove is a big town outside of a small city. It doesn’t matter where it is because all towns like it look the same. It started out as a land grab and absorbed a few local unincorporated areas back in the 70s. It grew around a thriving downtown and shopping district that people still call quaint despite the fact it is rife with chain stores and coffee shops. They have a damn Apple Store; what is quaint about an Apple Store? The town as people think of it is prosperous and prestigious to the people who live in the area. No one at college had ever heard of it. The tradesmen and laborers who lived in the surrounding towns built Island Grove, not the founding fathers. Those tradesmen eventually made enough to build hoses within the town limits and live a comfortable life.

My dad was a plumber who moved us here when I was 5. He claims to have build our house and I believed him. What he meant to say was that he knew a guy or two and called in favors to have our house built on land we could barely afford for next to nothing.

Island Grove grew for years and then the 2008 market crash happened. Suddenly there were foreclosures as far as the eye could see and people began to wonder what would happen to the subdivisions that were sprouting up everywhere. Turns out that the people who managed to hang on to their house were so desperate for neighbors that they pushed through approval for a new developer, John Samson. Samson developed the lands while receiving nearly criminal tax breaks. He developed those well-planned beautiful subdivisions into low cost housing that was cheap and looked two steps up above a trailer park. The houses were all prefabricated and the truest sense of the phrase cookie cutter. At first the residents of Island grove were not too concerned about this but it became clear that Samson knew something others did not. The state had enacted laws that would allow low-income families to afford low cost housing at a subsidized rate. Samson was going to sell all those houses and the taxpayers were going to pay him to do it.   This population boom caused a huge surge in students. The old families and well to do did not want this riff-raff mixing with their kids and quickly re-opened the old schools that had been closed when they made the new education campus just outside of downtown.

I found myself looking for a job as a Language Arts Teacher in a job market that was flooded with Language Arts teachers. They don’t tell you this when you are in the education program but everyone K-9 is qualified to teach LA. The amount of general education classes you take is usually enough to qualify even the most inept educator to teach reading. That’s right, one of the most important subjects is the one with the lowest bar to entry. I found myself a grain of sand on the beach of reading teachers. I had filled out over 200 applications in 3 states and interviewed at 42 different schools over the last 6 months.

I had just about given up when my phone rang while I was at lunch. I would have ignored it but my ex-wife was sitting across the table from me and I was in a mood to piss her off. The haggard voice on the other end asked me if I was still interested in the Language Arts position and if I had time for an interview. I was and I did. He gave me a quick interview over the phone while my ex stared daggers at me. I was shocked when he asked me to stop by later that day for a second interview. As soon as I had the details I had second thoughts.

It is true; I had applied for a Language Arts position in my hometown. I had known they were opening up the old Sally Ride School. I had not considered they were going to ask me to work there. I went to an Ivy League University and Graduated near the top of my class in Business Administration. I was all set to be a CEO or as it turns out a Financial Advisor. Why would they think I should work in the Island Grove ghetto?

The school was exactly as I remembered it from playing sports. It was a dump. It looked like it was in the middle of being torn down and there was only 4 days until the school year was supposed to start. The secretary was absent. The entire office staff was absent. I walked around until I saw a light on in an office. It turned out this was the haggard sounding man who called me. His appearance matched his voice. He looked as though he had been trapped in this room for days and judging by the stack of take out cartons in the trash he may have been. He was about 40 pounds past obese and looked like he was somewhere between 30 and a stroke. He asked me to sit down and made some excuse about not meeting me while mumbling about where the time flew off too.

The interview was not about my ideas or my skills or even my thoughts on education. All Principal Griffin wanted to know was if I was qualified to teach middle school Language Arts and how quickly I could get a TB test and physical. I said I had them al ready to go since I had to get them when I was in the finals for a different job. The audible sound of relief in his voice made we sad for him. In less than 20 minutes I was hired and told to report to the District’s Headquarters tomorrow at 7:30 AM for paperwork and assignment. I walked out and it was surreal. I had a job, easy as that.

It was not that easy. It turns out the District Headquarters does not open until 9 AM. August is a hot month and I felt like I was a criminal casing the place as I sat in my car with the air running. I had already had my coffee for the morning and had nothing I needed to do. I chased the first person to arrive into the building. My eager excitement was a burden on the poor office drone that had no idea what I was talking about. It took me until ten before I was seated across from somebody who had an idea of what I was supposed to do. I then spent a grueling 5 hours getting paperwork completed, fingerprints taken, papers filed and question answered. By the time I final left and hurried over to District Middle School 3 to see if I could get into my classroom and get a feel for what I needed.

I was disappointed when the doors were locked. No one answered my knocks and though there were cars in the parking lot I could not find a single human being to let me in other than a little old lady who shook her head when I knocked on the window and pointed at the door. I was too new to let that diminish my excitement. I went home and packed a box full to bursting with books that would convince people that I was smart and well read.

Here I am finally in my room and all I have is a box of books and my name misspelled on the door. Turing around I notice that my phone is blinking with a message. I like the receiver and hit the button marked with a faded looking envelope. In my ear I hear my won voice, “Hi, this is Scott Murphy. I am sorry to bother you and I know you are busy but the name on my door was misspelled ‘Murray’ not ‘Murphy’ and I was wondering if someone could fix it to limit confusion for the kids on their first day. Thanks!”

God, I sound like an ass. Well at least I don’t have to worry about anyone else knowing that I have no idea what I am doing.