Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Score (Part I)

Dawn is when the madness begins. Awake from no consoling dream of far fields or tall mansions, you take the minimal sustenance required for the walk to the bus stop. And so, on to work.

Along the way, a stray kitten follows. You wish you could spend more time with it, but you never see it again and on morose days you pray that it survived to have its own kittens. Along the way, early morning cook sounds sizzle through what is still night. And you sleep along the way.

The bus ride reminds you of the girl who used to sit with you on every bus ride for a long while. But now is not the time to remember eighteen when you are now on the way to school as a teacher of fifteen year olds.

There is a high bridge, a sky bridge, a bridge of birds (and avoidance of their excrement). You walk through crushed morning flowers and fallen leaves before the clearance crews do their own wearisome morning job. And at the chainlink fence you pause, for much has been lost and there is yet much to lose.

You dump stuff at your little wooden desk, the kind they give temporary teachers in an old school at the edge of the 'hood. There are books marked, unmarked, unremarked. You share a desk with the teacher from the afternoon session. She is not thrilled.

What's lovely is the sudden assembly of the masses in classes and the irrelevant irreverent thought of the old rhyme that says guys don't make passes at girls who wear glasses while the principal says something. A few months later, same students, different principal.

You bond with the young people as much as you can. That you're newer than they are gives you leverage — young people are always so keen to show older people what they don't know. You use that and other little cues to establish that your authority is worthwhile but unthreatening. You'll need every advantage you can get.

You teach football coaching instead of English. You teach entertainment instead of Chemistry. You teach thinking instead of Computing. And somehow, some people get it. They learn. You thrill.

A score of years have gone by, and I still remember names and faces. I doubt they do. Trainee teachers come and go, and most of them are gone for good within five years. Many of them become insurance agents — in this part of the world, that is what education is: an insurance policy against the ravages of life. It won't pay for everything, but it's money in the bank.

And so, your first year.

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