(Names have been changed)
My sneakers squeak with each step as I walked down the hall. They’re still wet from the dusting of snow last night. The lights are on in the room. As I enter I see that some mail did not leave the night before. Some didn’t get put in its proper slots either. They’re reminded repeatedly to take their papers home, but they still forget. I catch some throwing their papers away. “Your parents would like to see those.” “They just throw them away.”
Eddie’s nametag is falling off. Luckily, that’s all that’s falling off. The mailboxes are just cardboard, and have been in this same place for years, just below the chart with names and bus numbers on it, right beside the door.
I sneak a quick look in the mirror to the right, and with two steps more I make sure the large, old Macs are turned on. Most days they sit idle unless I use one to check my email. The room is quiet, and the computers produce a low hum. Earphones sit waiting to be used by the little ones. The blue table in the front of the room is covered with chairs and book boxes. Pencils sit waiting in the plastic cup to be borrowed, half of which have been chewed and/or are missing erasers. These are the ones they should keep, not just borrow. I cross the room and open the curtains, throw up the shades. No sun yet, but by one o’clock the shades will be drawn again, to keep the sun from the eyes of children. Mittens hang with clothespins from the rope hung along the heater to dry them after playing in the snow at recess. They were told to take them home. Sometimes it’s like being a mother to fourteen kids. They don’t listen.
The large desk in the corner holds a water bottle and laptop. She’s here, but not here in the room. I notice the chairs at the 14 desks haven’t been put down. I do it for the kids. Blue chairs, green chairs, plastic chairs, wooden chairs, tall chairs, short chairs. All kinds of chairs to fit all kinds of kids. How many of them will be out today? I think a lot of them come each day because they’re made to. (Ex: Little Johnny says he threw up before coming to school. Why didn’t you stay home? Mom said to go to school. Thanks mom. I’d love to catch his germs! Idiot! ) From working here I’ve seen that some of these kids do not have great lives at home. I personally think some come to school to get positive attention, support, and a sense of worth from their teachers. I weave my way through the maze of desks, picking up stray pencils and crayons. My collection grows every day.
The second blue table in the room, tucked in the corner by the reading books, holds extra materials I use during the day. The math facts that Mary practices with me sit in the baggie. The container of fake money waits for her to count. I’d like to think I’m making a difference with her, giving her the extra support she needs to learn her facts, to recognize and count money. I like giving her extra attention, extra help. She ask to work with me, and that makes me feel good. She tries so hard for me.
The double door to the next classroom is open, but the teacher isn’t sitting at her desk. I go back to the bookshelves by my table. These shelves hold books for beginning readers all the way to readers who can read and understand hard chapter books. Today I look to find a book that is challenging for my group, but also one that will hold their attention. I think back to the Sally, Dick and Jane books from my early school years. None of those books in this bookshelf.
The ten foot long bookcase at the front of the room extends from the wall to the middle of the room like an arm. It’s loaded with “sharing” books. Children borrow as they wish. Some days it resembles the playroom of a nursery school. Books lain on top, books on the floor. It’s times like these that the room occupants get a lesson in cleaning up their messes. Since children read at different levels, they each have their own book box that contains books they have mastered. These boxes sit on top of the bookcase, along with containers of crayons, glue sticks, scissors and markers. Most of the colorful markers are missing. They’re probably in someone’s desk.
The paper is coming off the backside of the bookcase because kids lean against it and rip it. It’s purpose there was to make it look better but now it looks like crap. Another reminder of kids in the room. Reminder to me… replace the paper later today.
Every classroom has a chalkboard, and this one, at the front of the room, is older than dirt. It’s green and covers three fourths of the front wall. I use the white chalk to write the date and today’s special. Today is Wednesday and it’s music day with Mr. West. The students have new recorders and he’s teaching them to play them. They’re trying hard. (Note to self…leave the room at music time!) A box of puffs tissues sit near the chalkboard. Not for nose blowing, but for wiping the board clean. Much better than the old time eraser. Puffs makes the board look like it has just been washed. Someone must be getting rich for thinking of this. It isn’t me.
A quick scan of the room tells me that the room is ready for the day to begin. Everything is in place, and I’m ready. The bell rings. My day begins.