Somehow More Bearable

“Who’s in?”  Becky and I were standing in the middle of the hallway that October, having walked the last of our students out to the dismissal area for parents and buses.

I had thirty six students in my first grade class this year, a slight improvement over last year’s numbers.  Becky had moved her classroom directly across the hall from mine, due to the fact that our colleague Earline was now teaching a 2/3 split, and needed to be located further down towards the third grade classrooms.   We had decided this year to do as much co teaching as possible, dividing the year up into thematic units.  We were doing pumpkins now and had spent the day measuring pumpkins, counting seeds, weighing them, and tasting them.  As crazy as our work still was, everything was easier working more with a partner.

“I’m totally in,” I answered.  It was Friday, and a group of us often would go out for a few drinks before heading home for the weekend.  I would call my sister sometimes and ask her to pick up Zach if we were out past the six o’clock deadline for daycare.  But often I would share one drink, stay for an hour of camaraderie, and then go retrieve him with time to spare.

Laurie, my friend from college who’d joined us this year, nodded.  “Definitely,” she answered.  We all sympathized with the tone in her voice; we were used to the rigors of the city school but Laurie was just getting her sea legs.  “What about you, Paul?”

I looked over to where she was nodding, my heart skipping a little.  Paul had joined our building late last year as a permanent substitute teacher.  He was an impossibly good looking African American male, in his mid twenties.  He’d moved back home from Tennessee where his ex lived with his young son.  He had started last spring with the hopes of obtaining a full time job in the fall, which he’d succeeded in doing.  He currently taught in the classroom above me, teaching many of my students from last year in his capacity as a second grade teacher.

Paul had impressed me from the start.  He was very conscientious, joining Becky and I for lunches to ask about the personalities and learning styles of our former students.  He’d asked me to sit in on his classroom during my free periods (when I didn’t have anywhere to go anyway because the music teacher used my classroom for her instruction) and watch from the back to offer suggestions.  He, like me, visited the parents of his students and gained an immediate respect from them as an African American male trying to do right by their children.  Many of them did not have fathers at home and his role modeling as a well dressed, gainfully employed, college educated male, thrilled our students’ parents.  We had become friends over the first few months of school, commiserating about being single parents and our students.

I knew I was developing a crush on Paul, him being the only single twenty something male I’d come across that was focused on responsibility and their offspring.  I knew that nothing possibly could come of it, but it was fun just the same to engage in conversation with him and find out what life for him was like growing up, what the circumstances were of his son’s birth, and what he was doing to support the former girlfriend who was raising him.  I respected his choices as the opposite side of the coin of my own experience, and he graciously gave me just the right amount of male indignation when he’d heard my own story.

“How could I say no to a group of fine looking women such as yourselves?”  he responded.  “Where are we headed?”

Christine pumped her fist up.  “Paul’s in!  Let’s get going ladies, we all just found ourselves a date.  You don’t mind being the only guy, do you?”

Paul grinned his most devastating smile.  “Are you kidding?  I LOVE being the only guy.  Don’t worry, there’s plenty of me to go around, y’all will just have to exercise a little patience.”

I laughed and went to go get my purse.  It was nice to have something to look forward to again, even if it was just harmless flirtation.

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