** I found this tonight in my stack of drafts. I'm not sure why I never hit the publish button. Nevertheless, here it is. **
We're typically done by 7:30. Sometimes I have a meeting directly after. Sometimes, I sit at my desk and huddle next to my space heater as I review my lesson plans for the day. I make my to do list. I use a mechanical pencil and a small pad of paper. It never changes. Occasionally, I'll chew on the clip.
Most of the time, a kid will pop their head in my door - maybe one of my cheerleaders, or a student that was absent the day before. We'll chat briefly. My time is so unbelievably short in the morning. I'm not sure where it goes. It's the time I'm most productive, possibly because it's the time I feel most strapped for precious minutes.
The bell rings at 7:55. It's old school. Loud. High pitched. I gather some of my things and head to a special classroom for reading. This is cutting edge. The best of the best. And it works. Sometimes I stand behind a kid while he works at a computer and let it wash over me. They're learning to read.
The bell will ring again and I'll make my way into a hallway that always smells of turpentine from the art room. The hallway jostles me like it did when I was in high school and occasionally, I'll talk to a student about a basketball game the night before or I'll ask about a class they might be struggling in. I'll almost always say hello to BFF Amber. Her classroom is on my way back to my usual room. Room 31. That's me.
By the time I get to my room, there are usually a couple of kids waiting there for me. I smile at them. They usually have their noses plastered to their phones, their thumbs moving frantically - desperately trying to get in just one ... more ... text ... message. They file in behind me. The boys have been trained to let the girls go first. The last one in always shuts the door.
We have a system.
Flashcards out. A big test is coming.
I eat a banana while they settle in. The kids wait for me to say it's the best banana I've ever had. Every time ... it's the same thing. "This is the best banana I've ever had." Their laughter is unfailing. It's silly, really, but I look forward to hearing their low, reluctant chuckles every day. Trust me. The bananas are not always the best bananas I've ever had.
Flashcards. Lesson. Group practice. Individual practice. Flashcard again if there is time.
It's a routine that will roll on all day - for the rest of the day.
On this particular Friday, the lunch bell rang. I dismissed the kids and laughed as they bolted from their desks. I walked down the hall towards my own lunch destination. I saw a kid that not long ago was helping me break up a fight. Both of us were right in the middle of things. Him pushing one way and me pushing the other. Every time I see him now, I call him my bodyguard. He laughs at me on this day, and I tell him to finish his milk.
I walked in and greeted the rest of the teachers and the television was on. Loud. Obnoxiously loud. I warmed my lunch. Sat heavily in a chair that wasn't very comfortable. And then we stared. Mouths open in sheer hurt. It was a normal day in December. Until it wasn't normal anymore.
Maybe that day hurts because you see your own children in their eyes. Maybe that day aches because you see your mom in those pictures. Maybe it burns in you because you feel like you could've done more - should have demanded better, urged for more action, helped more.
Or maybe, it's just that you walk through the same door every day, hearing it click and lock behind you. Maybe it's because your heels click through the hallway, and maybe it's because you yell hello to the hard of hearing science teacher that will beat you to school every day, no matter how early you arrive. Maybe it's because you trail your fingers down the same cinder blocks every morning, calling good morning to the young wrestling coach and the always smiling custodian. Maybe it's because you slide your key into the door, turn on the light, and drop your bag behind your desk like you do every single day. Maybe it's because you delight in the coaching banter in the workroom as you make your copies. Maybe it's because you love the smell of the coffee brewing. Or because of the kids that you dodge on your way back to your room - the ones conversing quietly, their eyes still fighting to stay open. Or maybe it's the laughter that flows up from a group here or a complaint from a group there.
Maybe it hurts so bad because that cold day in December? It was just a normal day for them, too. Until it just ... wasn't.