Monday, August 28, 2006

First Day 2006...Sans Students

The school smelled the same. I mean down to that is-it-cleaning-fluid-or-lighter-fluid in the hallway smell.
The first thing I noticed, however, wasn't the smell. It was the heat. The damn heat that's always present in a school without air conditioning and covered with material that eats up heat like Kobayashi eating hot dogs. When I lived in St. Louis, I would walk outside my house and immediately be covered in sweat because of the humidity. Imagine passing your hand under a running faucet. There's always some residual water left over. That's what it was like in St. Louis in the Summer, and that's what it was like today in the building. I walked from the first floor up to my office, and by the time I was there, I was covered in sweat. We tested the temperature, and it was 20 degrees hotter in the school than outside. 20 degrees.
Leaving my son was difficult. Really difficult. He looked so happy asleep there in bed next to my wife, and I really wanted to stay with them. The car ride to St. Paul saw me in a bad mood...until I parkd and entered the building.
The first real shock of the day came when I entered into my office. I'm now sharing the room with eleven other people. My stuff was back in the room, and my desk was uncovered, but there were still a large group of people standing in this small space.
"Oh good," one of my colleagues says, "you're here. We can have our meeting now."
"Meeting?" I reply with a tinge of anxiousness in my voice. "What meeting is that?"
"Well...we need to figure out who is going to be where, and who is going to be in here when."
A fifteen minute meeting was needed to work it all out. Most of the time was spent watching as the people new to the room attempted to destroy each other in order to get what was thought to be the "Best Desk" catty corner to mine (that is across the room and near the door).
After that, I was called to the office. There's something disconcerting about hearing your name on the PA less than thirty minutes after walking through the door.
My schedule changed...again. This was the good part of my day. I now start the day with two senior English classes. That's right...TWO! The upside? They need the grade to graduate and get into college. The downside? Wait until Spring.
After that, it's one regular and then two IB Freshman English classes. It's a pretty easy schedule. And then I got my room assignments. That "s" isn't a typo. I still don't have my own room. You see one of the teachers who assured the department of an imminent departure...didn't leave, then took an open classroom. But, this same teacher is now telling us that a job somewhere else has opened up, and we should now have an imminent departure. If that's true, I want the room. No such luck.
Back to the point. With my cart, I'll be traveling between floors...twice. I start on the second floor, then go to the third floor, then back to two, and finish the day on three. At one point, I was on the second floor until my prep and then went to the third floor, but that changed when a teacher complained and pulled a card that no man can ever use: Pregnancy. As the year goes on it will become harder for this teacher to "travel between floors."
Now I teach in a Chemistry lab and a Spanish room...but I can't store books in either room as the teachers who claim those rooms don't want to have to make space. Awesome.
As for the rest of our first day back? I ended up arguing with the custodian as he STILL doesn't know my name, but he knows he doesn't like me.
It started with him bitching at me about the state of the theatre:
"It's filthy. Why didn't your seniors clean before they left?"
I was already annoyed by my schedule, but I did not explode like I wanted to. No, I instead said the first thing that came to my mind in a calm manner.
"Isn't it your job and your staff's job to take out the trash? Plus...couldn't you have said that in a calm manner instead of jumping down my throat?"
Now our custodial head is a large guy. Likes to work out and such, and he enjoys staring at and talking to his muscles while he works out. He started to flex and look bigger as he talked to me next.
"What did you say?"
"Don't flex at me," I responded. "Look, either ask me to clean or do it yourself. Don't try to frighten me. You can go complain to the principal like you always do, or you can just ask me, but if you threaten me, I'm not going to work harder. You already won't help me whenever I ask you for it, so how much worse can you make my life here when it comes to custodial help?"
He wasn't prepared for this. He just stared back at me.
Of course he went to the principal, and she didn't do anything. Why? Because he treats EVERYONE like garbage, and he tries to intimidate people. Still, he's right. The class of 2006 left a mess that I now have to clean up over the next few days. The booth? It was a pigsty. So was the girl's dressing room. Thanks alot gang.
The end of day had me counting my department's books. Why? Because they couldn't figure out a system for doing it. That and the same pregnant teacher felt that she couldn't move the books and deal with the heat in the library. Here's a hint for you boys and girls: make stacks of ten. That's it. After that, you count the stacks. So not hard, but here were grown adults fretting over how to do it.
"Should we just count each book individually?"
"How will we get through this before 2, then?"

I counted the books for them, because it wasn't hard to do it. Took me ten minutes once they brought all the books down.
Oh, the other highlight of the day? Yeah...I might be chairing my department. I'm not the right choice, but when everyone else said no, that meant the lowest guy on the totem pole would have to do it. Oh yeah, that would be me. Do I get a bump in pay? No. Do I get extra paperwork, meetings, and such? You betcha.
The first day is done. That's the hard part.


cat said...

oh dear Leab, i really hope this is not a sign of how the whole year is going to be for you... good luck!

Arthur Willoughby said...

On the plus side, that the first day is over, don't you get three weeks off?

GET IT? Because you're a teacher and you have it easy!

Seriously, you watch "Scrubs"? Your relationship with your custodian sounds similar to that between a doctor and custodian on that show...except in your case it's bona fide frightening. Can something be done about the Neanderthal?

Your "Don't flex at me" comment was hilarious and brave. At some point people need to get over the high school bullying mentality.

Sorry, pal.

Bill R said...

Welcome back to school huh? After your adventures in classes you didn't have to take, you would think getting back to school and your job would be a good thing. The custodian sounds like a classic bully and jerk, he probably stared at you because you used too many words in your reply, he couldn't process them all quickly. Good luck with all that!