Saturday, August 19, 2006

I'd have to say my first day of school was relatively smooth, despite my dread that I would fumble my words, drop my lunch in my lap, or fail some other random test administered by my peers, the administration, or my students. All in all, I was deathly afraid of belying my age, inexperience, and fright. It felt like a first date.

Though I was supposed to review the student handbook, I spent all my class time going over my own classroom rules. The kids were quiet, but I think their silence was less of a result of respectfulness and more a consequence of first day jitters. I enjoyed seeing the shock on my students' faces when I explained my second consequence: copying an entire page from the dictionary. Upon hearing this, one of my students raised her hand and asked, "even the pictures on the page?" I thought in my head, "wow, that would be a ton of work," and immediately told the class, "yes, even the pictures on the page," as if I'd planned it that way all along.

It was funny how easily I could predict future problem areas in regards to both students and classes. From the first moments of the class, I saw that 6th period was going to provide a disciplinary challenge. In addition, I was able to recognize which students would be at the heart of that problem. I am sorry to say, three weeks into the school year, how correct I was about 6th period and certain students.

I can't really remember much about the rest of my first day, but I do remember being exhausted at the end, though not feeling tired during the day itself (as a result of nervous energy). My first day notwithstanding, I do have a complete lack of energy at the end of the day (including my last two periods of the day). In addition to being on my feet all day, I have usually arrived at school a half hour before whichever time is required, and I almost always stay at least two hours after the final bell has rung. Not that this schedule is uncommon for a teacher; on the contrary, I would say that the vast majority of my peers (especially the younger members of my school's staff) log far longer hours than what is required by the district. Rather, I record this schedule as an explanation for my exhaustion. My two roommates (also teachers) are also sapped of energy when they arrive home at the end of the schoolday. We sit in our living room, watching SportsCenter and trading war stories over our quickly-prepared dinners (usually Abner's for Tex, value-brand HotPockets for 'Bama, and hot dogs and beans for myself). What is most disappointing about this routine is that I have found no time to read for pleasure. My lack of energy in the evening is such that I can never lift myself from the couch and stop watching crap on TV or surfing the internet; what little energy I do have left is devoted to lesson planning for the next day.

For some reason this lifestyle - or way of eating, more specifically - makes me think of my grandmother's kitchen: small, cramped, a bit dingy, the floor covered in linoleum made to resemble bright yellow cobblestones. It was in that kitchen that I first tasted many traditional "American" foods, or, at least, it is where I first remember tasting them. Steak and cheese subs from this place called Nick's, circus peanuts, white chocolate, hamburger helper, tuna fish subs with pickles and tomatos, chocolate eclairs, and bacon and eggs (where the eggs were cooked in the bacon fat). Most of the food seemed to come from a can or a box; most meals were simple, fast, easy to make. Totally unlike the home I grew up in, which always had delishious 10-step dishes, fresh fruits and vegetables, and exotic concauctions. With what I am eating these days, I feel as if I am living in my grandmother's kitchen.


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