Sunday, January 24, 2016

It's What I Do

When I read the article, I was sitting in my classroom, preparing for another day. I had already made sure that all the chairs had been moved back from the library so that children would have a place to sit. I checked the date on the board to be certain that I had the right day of the week written there so as not to confuse the kiddies. The ones who bother to read what is on the board, that is. I made a cursory check of all the plugs and machines in front of which students would be sitting. The lights were on, the teacher was home. Next door, another teacher was busily stapling homework packets for the coming week. We were preparing for the day. It was still dark outside. I blew my nose and coughed, surrendering to the age-old question: Am I sick enough to stay at home?
Most days I don't bother too long with that question. The notable exception would be those halcyon days of kidney stones and pain medication. Those are the ones I fail to negotiate. Surrender. Missing a day of school is tough on a kid, who spends the rest of the week trying to catch up. It's about thirty times harder for a teacher, who misses out on all the things those kids do and say in their absence. Staying on top of the flow of the academic year is a challenge for educators who are in attendance every single day. The idea of substitute teachers is a calming one, and there are thousands of them roaming around this area, and millions more across this great land of ours. The problem is that with a few exceptions, it's like a box of Forrest Gump chocolate covered shrimp. You pretty much know what you're going to get: chocolate covered shrimp. Which is great if that is what your lesson plans calls for, not so much otherwise.
What to do? Push the fluids, get your rest when you can, pound down those antihistamines and pack a pocketful of cough drops with the idea that you can make it one more day. Friday is coming, and then you can hold still for a couple days while your immune system plays catch up. Meanwhile, the treadmill of education continues to run under your feet and the district benchmark or the oratorical fest looms on the horizon. Will I be ready? Will the kids be ready?
So I blow my nose and get ready to face the day, knowing that there are teachers who have figured out how to balance their mental health days with their sense of responsibility. I know that those teachers in Detroit are not actually sick, but participating in a work action, or non-work action, in order to bring attention to the deplorable conditions of schools there. They are sick, in a metaphorical sense: sick of working in overcrowded, rundown classrooms.
My classroom is pretty nice. Some days it gets a little crowded when we get extra students. We get extra students because teachers call in sick and they can't get a substitute. Going to work or watching daytime TV? I'll dose myself up and give it the old elementary school try. It's what I do.

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