Monday, June 29, 2009

Leave Taking

The last day of school falls on a Monday.

Nothing should ever end on a Monday. That's why we have Friday's, so we can enjoy our weekend. At the beginning of the year the faculty voted to take a day off between the first and second semester, but now we have to make up for it.

We were stupid to take that extra day.

According the calender it's still a day for instruction. The students are supposed to be in school.

Grades have already been submitted, technology and books collected, most teachers have even packed up their supplies. Yet, it's an instructional day.

My classroom is empty. It's a relief, I have to pack up and finish paperwork.

I silently wonder if Grumpy will show up. He's one of my more troublesome students, a freshman who hates everything. His has three lines he recites like a mantra.

1. "Man, this shit is boring."
2. "This sucks."
3. "What time do we get out of here!"

In spite of this can't do attitude, Grumpy never misses. He hasn't been late or absent once. I don't know how a student can hate school so much and still find a way to be so punctual on a daily basis. I believe he was put on this Earth to test my patience.

At 7:29 the classroom is still empty. I find myself smiling. Good, I don't have to babysit anyone today.

Grumpy walks through the door. "Man, I hate this school!" he shouts, throwing himself down in a seat.

I grit my teeth as the bell rings.

I ask him to sit and be quiet while I pack up the room.

Grumpy looks around. "Where is everyone? What are we going to do today?"

"You are going to help me pack up."

"Man, I don't want to do that."

"So why did you come?" I ask.

"Because there is nothing to do at home. It's boring."

A few other stragglers filter through the door to see Ms. Garcia and Ms. Gaitan. Being in special ed I share a small classroom with both of them. The pair of them are leaving this year, and the thought I might never work with them again sours my mood. The only silver lining is that I get to take over Garcia's desk. There is more space and it has the teacher computer.

After four years and I've finally gotten dibs on the teacher computer. I'm moving up in the world.

"Hey Leiken, can I kick it here?" Bashful asks. I nod. Sure, why not? I like Bashful, if I had a classroom of students like him teaching would be a delight. As I rifle through my desk I uncover a lost treasure - a black pirate flag with the jolly roger emblazoned down the center. The second year I had it tacked up above my desk before the other teachers made me take it down.

I doubt I'll ever use it again. I ask Bashful if he wants it. "Really, I can have it? Wow! You are like the coolest teacher ever!"

"I know."

"Man, this class sucks. When do we get out of here?"

"Does someone need some attention?" I ask.

"What Grumpy needs is a hug." Ms. Gaitan pipes in. "Bashful, give him a hug."

Bashful puts an arm around Grumpy's shoulder's - he wilts, head darting downward towards the floor. He doesn't complain again for the rest of the period.

I spend the rest of the day visiting classrooms and wishing teachers luck over the summer. Some of the them I probably won't be seeing again. It's the pink slips. They don't have enough seniority, and older teachers who have moved into advisory positions will most likely be taking over their jobs.

Only the English teachers are being pink slipped, because everyone in an advisory position thinks they can teach English. It's BS of course. English is the hardest thing to teach, but because it's so open ended most people think they can wing it.

Our academy has a going away dinner at La Huasteca, a mediocre Mexican restaurant located in Plaza Mexico, the only decent sit down restaurant within a mile of our school. The service is terrible, the food average, the company sad. With the exception of Garcia, who is going to Harvard for grad school, no one else wants to leave.

Too bad they don't have a few years more seniority.

I feel like shit.

Towards the end of the day I spot Bashful with a group of his friends. "Hey Leiken!" he calls out from across the quad. "Look!"

He unfurls the pirate flag with his friends. "Arrgh!" they cry, giving me my patented thumbs up.

A small kindness is a powerful thing.

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