From the BIG Desk

What about the first week of school on the teacher’s side of the desk? Someone wrote in the other day that he had had a first day of school 59 times, man and boy. Of that first day as a practice teacher he said, “you do wonder doing those initial moments just where the path will lead.”

Yes you do. I was a teacher for only a scant seven years, yet the experience shifted the whole direction of my life. And yup that first day sure IS hard, for everyone.

But picture it from up front: the kids walk in with this fixedly expressionless look on their faces. “Why should I trust you? this look says. “What if you plan on mocking me, or singling me out, or, God forbid, you force me to rise and stand suffering beside my desk, trying to stammer out some kind of answer for you?

“I won’t do that,” I wanted to say every year. “I promise I will never do that.”

But you can’t say such a thing without subtly undermining any teachers of the Don’t Smile Before Thanksgiving persuasion. The only way for the students to ever trust you is to live out that promise day after day and NOT humiliate, or single out for scorn, or laughter. The only way is again and again NOT to do that even though you have the power to do it. It’s heavy stuff.

Which isn’t to say there aren’t your lighter moments too.

I think of the time my cousin Carolyn stood up from her desk on her first-ever day of teaching and stepped directly into the wastebasket even though the first thing she was told in her teacher training class was for heaven’s sake don’t get so nervous you step in the wastebasket!

I think of the time at the start of my own second year on the job when, having mastered the teacher’s art of lip-reading, I totally saw it when one girl took a long appraising look at me, turned to her friend and mouthed the words ”She’s fat.”

I wasn’t fat actually; I was just fluffy as the saying goes; just sort of zaftig, like most 19-to 22-year-old females seem to briefly be. It’s Nature’s trick, padding us up to take aboard a baby and keep it safely insulated for the next nine months.

The lesson there? Whatever this whole teaching/learning thing is about it’s sure not about physical appearance. It’s what’s happening inside the Control Tower upstairs that you’d best be thinking of there in school.


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First Day of Autumn

It’s supposed to be 82° on this first day of fall and I’m driving 180 miles to get two things I left at our summer cottage: my planner and my diary. Without the planner I don’t know when to cut my nails  never mind meet my deadlines. I do have a Blackberry, but it stopped synching with Outlook a good 8 weeks ago and the support people can’t sort it out no matter HOW long they stay on the phone reading from their Help menus. Plus lately it’s decided to randomly match the pictures of my 500 Facebook friends with people in my 1200-person address book so when I go to call up say the info on a fan in her late 70s I get a picture of some young guy with his shirt off drunk in a bar.

I’m about done with the Blackberry to be honest. Schedules and contacts are too important to me; diaries too. What’s coming up, what’s just past: these things I really need to be able to ponder, the way other people need to breathe into a brown paper bag when they’re anxious. I haven’t written in my diary for three weeks now and so much has happened on my inner landscape plus let’s face it: summer’s over. The mice are moving back in and my little mosquito pal finds he much prefers the climate in our steamy soap-scented bathroom to the outdoors where even a warm day like this one the nights are downright COLD. Last week this maple just panicked at the thought of what’s ahead, trembled once and blushed clear down to the roots of its hair.