Monday, July 6, 2009

New Job Starts Today

New job starts today. Ugh. Or maybe yay. I don't know yet. This is a new situation, not teaching, and I don't know what to expect.

Of course, with teaching, when you walk in on day one, you hit the ground not just running, but hurtling yourself head-first with desperation. You have to stay a step ahead of eight or ten people you've never met before, already pretending like you know their likes and their dislikes and the things that will motivate them. You call them "Class" or "Boys and Girls" and the words slip out familiar, as if you know each of the boys and each of the girls individually. They never notice the cheat sheet of names sticking out of your pocket. It never occurs to them that they are strangers.


The funny part is, they pretend to know you, too. You are Teacher. Teacher might change names and faces every year, and certainly every teacher has a different management style and reward system (mine's best. So there.) -- BUT -- Teacher can be anyone, that first day, as far as the kids are concerned. It doesn't matter who she is, as long as she can tie shoes and dry tears and wipe noses and call mommy if need be.

Last August, on my first day of my last teaching job, I arrived at school at 5:30 a.m. It was my tenth day in a row working, because I had spent the end of the summer building a sensory room for my students who needed a calm place to be. By the time the students started arriving at 7:25, everything was in place. Desks were clean and facing the board. Chairs were pushed in. Lights were set low and soothing. "WELCOME BACK!" was printed on the board in giant block letters, even though most of my kids weren't readers. I picked up nine cartons of milk and nine blueberry muffins from the kitchen. I smoothed my outfit one more time. And I opened the classroom doors.

Twenty minutes later, the board had been halfway erased by an elbow. The lights were being flicked on and off. Two of the nine milks were spilled on the floor and three others had been gulped by the same person. My skirt had blueberry smushed into it. Desks were askew. And nine people scattered themselves about the room with the same question etched on their features:

"Just what are you going to do about it?"

Little by little, a milk and a desk and a muffin at a time, we put that classroom back into order, and then into a much better order than it was ever in before. We learned things together that nobody thought any of us could learn. We wrote novels together. We sang songs and made paintings. We learned about our government when there were those in the school who thought my kids couldn't even learn their names. We were a team, me and this rough and tumble bunch of kids who gave me such a challenge on our first day together.

Today, on the first day in my new job, I will mostly just be turning in paperwork and watching training videos. There will be no milk and no muffins. No paints and no boards to erase. I do think I'm going to make a positive difference at this job, or I wouldn't have applied for it. I'm going to be helping adults and children with disabilities in a new and perhaps more effective sort of way.

I just hope I know what I'm getting into. And what I'm getting out of.