I’m heading back to school, and I’m scared.
It’s not what you may think… I’m not scared of losing my free time, that glorious exuberance of summer where a tired teacher can wake up and recklessly declare: “I’m Not Going To Mark Anything Today”. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Not Doing of Things. I love free time and Not Marking… but personally, I thrive in busy-ness. I’m not scared to have a schedule pressed back into service, not afraid of getting up early and conforming to the long workday that is the High School Teacher’s world. I kinda like it.
I’m scared of other things. More viscerally disturbing things. Things like:
What if I have to poop at school?
No one mentions this at Teacher School, just like they don’t mention what to do with That Kid who will tell you to Go Fuck Yourself (hereinafter referred to as The GFY) sometime between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, no matter how engaging your lessons are, or many high fives you dole out in the hallways like lost dolphin slapping the waves looking for its missing pod. The GFY ain’t nuthin’, compared the disquiet of the demanding colon. I’ve been quite happily pooping anywhere, anytime, at the drop of a hat, you might say, all summer… no more. No one wants to poop at school, but how much control can be demanded over the wild vicissitudes of the unregulated digestive system? Don’t try to tell me I’m alone in this fear. Everyone works, everyone poops, and never the twain shall meet.
I’m scared of the cafeteria muffins.
No one warns you that you will be starving by 9am. It’s a hunger borne of the adrenaline burn of standing in front of twenty five sweaty teenagers, praying that there will be no GFY, praying that at least one of them will get your lame grammar jokes, praying that there will be an epiphany of the grasp of there, their and they’re. It eats a hole in your gut no matter how much spinach you stuffed in the blender for your uber-healthy green slime of a breakfast smoothie. Why the green slime? Because you determined to avoid the muffins. The oh-so-fluffy and fragrant muffins that call to you… “Come, we love you, we value your existence”… the muffins never do The GFY. Your waist does, after ten months of non-stop muffin-atings. (Atings… the past tense of eatings.) And, at our cafeteria, our lovely ladies let you run a tab. A Muffin tab. Which you forget to pay until June when suddenly discover you owe $300 for muffin-atings.
I’m scared of other teachers.
I have two wishes for teachers… I wish we had to wear uniforms, and I wish we would not judge each other. It’s impossible. The uniforms would never fly, because I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who would willingly and happily wear a smock and grungy sneakers every day to school, sans makeup, sans hair straightener, sans deodorant. Happily.
(Ok, yeah, I’m kidding about the deod. It just seemed to fit the whole ‘au naturelle’ theme of the sentence. Or maybe that’s why no one wants to sit beside me at staff meetings…)
And the judging? Well… it happens. They’re better than me. They’re smarter than me. They wield rubrics like a superhero’s flaming sword, where I have a mere checklist. Who do the kids like most? Who does the administration praise? Who has the best lunch? Who pooped in the staff room loo? Who ate all the muffins?
It’s scary, going back to school.
I have horrendous teacher-dreams for weeks before going back to the classroom. Falling into holes in the classroom floor, standing in huge line-ups of kids and not remembering any of their names, being flogged by the GFY. I spend the first two days in a lather of emotion… who are these new kids? What do all these new initiatives mean? Can I do it all?
Last year, I did an activity based on a novel where I had the kids write notes about what “gives you heavy boots”, which was a metaphor for what makes you sad.
The sticky on the top right reads: Having to poop in school.
I am not alone.
The sticky on the bottom right, which is difficult to read in the photo, says:
When people draw penises on my work.
It is moment like these when I remember that my fears of a new school year pales in comparison to the suffering of my students. While it is entirely possible that I may have to poop at school, I shall go boldly forth, secure in the knowledge that even though my peers may judge me, even though the muffins will win, once again, at least I know that my work will remain penis-drawing free.
Gird up your loins, teachers. Here we go!
(The “heavy boots” reference is from Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”)