The school I work at is preparing to perform West Side Story. Not my favorite musical, but not my choice. Moving on....
I am attempting to fix the steps the actors and actresses will be using to get up to the scaffolding (there is a balcony in the show, you know. It's essentially a musical version of Romeo and Juliet).
So, in order to save money, I had to go and pick up the wood. For those of you who have never done it before, it's $59 for any delivery. I was only getting some boards and a sheet of plywood.
So, I start talking to the guy behind the contractor's desk about getting the wood together.
"Where's this going?" he asks.
I tell him the name of my school.
I tell him about the show.
"So are you a teacher?"
"Yes," I reply.
"What do you teach?"
At this point I start feeling that little pang of frustration you get when a person is bored and trying to learn your life story.
"I'm an English teacher."
"Really? I used to be an English teacher in Farmington."
It's at this point that my jaw must have gone slack, because he next asks me:
"Are you ok?"
"Yeah," I reply. "Just shocked. How did you go from teaching to...uh...here?"
"I got sick of the politics. I loved the kids, but I hated everyone else. There was a day.... A student tried to hit me....I...responded in kind by throwing him up on the wall. I was protecting myself. The principal disagreed. It was crap."
I listened to him for ten minutes talking about all the reasons why he left. I felt like a priest taking confession.
"Let me ask you a question," he said to me finally. I felt like an idiot standing there with all of my lumber.
"Go ahead," I put forward.
"Do you like teaching?"
"Yes. I like working with the kids. Even when I want to put a head through a wall, I would take working with these kids over working with man-children any day."
"That will change."
"I no longer miss the classroom. This (he indicates the store) is easier to deal with on a daily basis."
I start to go.
"I'm not the only one here who's a former teacher."
He indicates three other people standing together.
"Ted and Rhett used to teach in Bloomington. Sheryl (or maybe it was Cheryl, I didn't see her apron) was a teacher in Apple Valley. All three left for the same reason I did. Too much politics, not enough autonomy in the classroom." (The fact he used autonomy shows me he was an English teacher.)
While packing my car with the lumber I had just bought, I started to wonder: "Is this my future?"
Will I end up leaving teaching at some point, disillusioned by everything, and working behind a counter at a home improvement store?
"Light bulbs? Aisle four. Shattered dreams and burnouts? Those of us who work here."
I don't know.
I love teaching.
A colleague of mine always says, "The hardest part of teaching...is the other teachers. Not the students, but your colleagues."
I don't know where I'm going with this, but the shock of talking to the guy at Home Desperate really got me thinking about my future.
PTCs are tomorrow. Huzzah.
Oh, and Greta? Congrats. Yahk-ob (as I call him) is a nice boy.