Back in Harness

The first day of school hereabouts and rainy too. My ever-bubbly neighbor called merrily back to her household upon walking out her door at just now.

Meaning JUST now, at 5:25 in the morning. “Good bye Good bye! Have a great day!”  etc.

That’s what woke me.

It also woke Old Dave, who since 2:00 am had been in the living room on his insomnia couch where he very nicely goes so as not to disturb me by switching on the light. He gets under his special insomnia blanket and starts in reading the Wall Street Journal’s tiniest-printing pages and before he knows it he’s dozed off again.

It’s better than Sominex! he says, showing how sweetly out-of-date he is, talking Sominex when fully one-third of the American population is mainlining Ambien and having somnambulistic adventures that would make your hair curl if you thought about it at all . (ASLEEP WHILE DRIVING? This person in the oncoming car is actually sleeping?!)

So this nice neighbor’s voice woke him as I was saying and woke me too.

HE sank into the bed, sighing comfily and went back to sleep for another two-and-a-half hours

I couldn’t do that.

Not on the first day of school.

Never mind that my kids are out of school themselves.

Never mind that I haven’t been a teacher for many years.

Three years ago my brother-in-law, then a school principal, asked me if I wouldn’t like  to be a permanent substitute just from April vacation until the end of the school year on June 20th.

“‘JUST’ that long? You mean of course every day I suppose?”

“Yes every day.”

“You mean ALL Day every day?”

“Well yes all day every day.”

I have gone in to many a classroom since I became a writer to give little talks and workshops but I have not since Jimmy Carter was in the White House spent more than a day max. I’m an ‘act’, a guest speaker, a one-hit wonder.

Spend the whole day in front of the kids, hour after hour, class after class, selling joy, and the fun of learning, and the satisfaction of mastery over a subject?

The thought that I could do that now from the midst of this dabbling and dilletantish current life made me blood pressure soar.

It’s not a job for the faint of heart. It’s a job for the pros, the heroes, the athletes, in other words the teachers who,  in my town anyway, start all over again today. And I know one thing: THEY sure won’t need Sominex tonight or anything like it either.

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Sawdust and a Bucket: First Day Memories

This came 24 hours ago from a man living in the cap city region of New York state:  “I’m reading your blog today post while waiting for the incoming freshman class to wander, meander, stumble, and eventually find their way into my classroom for their orientation. OK Back to work! (signed) Chris.”

God bless Chris, he’s a teacher. I know this,even though the two of us have never met.  

And God bless his incoming freshmen class. Today it was their first day of school.

From time immemorial the Wednesday after Labor Day was the first day of school for most everyone – until in recent years those cruel horsemen the retailers decided to push Christmas shopping every earlier, using powerful reins to cruelly yank the whole calendar back toward early fall,  the bit in our poor mouths tearing at our delicate cheeks aaaargh!

But back to the first day of school:

Can you remember it? And if so what do you remember?

I remember standing between my mother’s legs as she tried to contain my curls in 1,000 tiny elastics, little fat milk bottles smelling faintly of cheese, the sawdust brought in by the custodian to mop up the breakfast some poor child

I remember that the simple sight of the lunch my mother had packed me brought tears to my little eyes.

I remember how I suffered after walking back into class from the bathroom with the hem of my dress tucked up into the waistband of my underpants.

I remember our 8th grade English teacher pronouncing poetry “poytry” that very first day and then trying to get us to do the same.

Now what DO you remember? 

I wrote Chris back and told him to be sure he ate a good lunch, because – just in case you don’t know this – if you think sitting in one of those little desks is hard,  try being the person standing in front of that big desk, who, period after period , day after day,  has to make the magic happen. 

A prayer for all the teachers then, at the start of  another year!