Crazy Exists Everywhere

“Well, how’d it go?”  Carol poked her head in my classroom.  It was the end of our first day of school; she and I had carpooled into the city together.  She took in the disarray slowly, and walked in.

“Well…” I started, looking around and trying to see what she saw, how she was interpreting the mess before us.

“I tried to tell you it wasn’t a bed of roses,” she interrupted, sensing my answer wasn’t a glowing rendition of the Best Day of Teaching Ever.

“I know, I know.  And it wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t.  First of all, yay for air conditioning.  That right there is worth something.  I used to come home last year in September and take a cold shower, first thing.  So crazy plus air conditioning is still better than crazy without it.”

Carol sat down on one of the long tables that counted for seating in my room as I started shuffling papers into my teaching bag.  “”Define crazy,” she prompted.

I looked around the classroom.  “Well first of all, this is not exactly the best set up for a classroom environment.”

I’d made the best of the room I’d been assigned at the magnet school.  But me being the low teacher on the totem pole meant that I got the cafeteria room.  Our building was rented space in a commercial building; we took up the basement and part of the second floor.  The building had been thought out with three grade levels in mind.  We now had four, which meant space was tight.

The room I was situated in was used as a cafeteria midday.  It had functioned as the teacher’s room for the rest of the day prior to my arrival.  It was a smallish room that had long cafeteria tables that folded up rather than desks or chairs.  A white board was waiting to be installed and perched up lengthwise against one wall.

The seating right away became obviously an issue for me when my first section of 8th graders had entered the room.  They were a decent enough group of kids, but my usual tricks of dividing and conquering them didn’t work in the tight classroom.  Long legs tucked under the table snuck a kick at friend while I had my back turned at the dry erase board;  books and papers were knocked to the ground as each student jockeyed for their own personal space.

“Yeah, I can see that.  I do feel badly for you trying to teach in here.”

“That wasn’t the biggest problem today, though,”  I said, walking around to pick up the sheaf of extra worksheets that were left behind by my last class.

“What was?”

“It’s hard to put into words.  They just kind of looked at me like I was crazy for even trying to do anything with them.  I think, at least with the eighth graders, that they didn’t take me the least bit seriously.”

Carol smiled.  “Well you’re already a step ahead of the game if you’ve figured that one out.  That took me a while.”

“Yeah, that takes a while,” Carol responded.  “They’re just testing you, same as anywhere else.  Some are tougher than others.  Just keep at them, make it fun, and be serious with the follow up when you do reprimand them.  Get the parents involved right away.  For most of them, that makes a difference.   This isn’t an easy crowd, you’ll see.  I struggle every day too.”

“Still?” I asked.  This was Carol’s third year at this school.  For her to say that getting to these kids was hard even now struck a note of dread in my chest.

“Yes, still.  But you get used to it, you really do.”

I looked around, my eyes resting on my still neat desk, the phone perched in the right hand corner.  “Well, there is a phone too.  A phone, air conditioning and a Xerox.  It’s still better than the alternative,” I laughed, putting the last of my things in my teaching bag, a gesture meant to convey that I was ready to go.

“That’s the spirit,” Carol laughed and led me out of the room.

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