Day One Part One

On my way to work, the first day of school, I rocked out to old timey Greenday, the Dookie album, and as I neared the parking lot the song ended and the DJ started with “the five things you need to know to be the smartest person at work” The first one was about an arrest being made for the 21 year old stabbing victim, and I held my breath, “not my city…, not my city…,” who died last week on High Street… I pull into a parking spot in front of the school I have worked out for nine years. This is year ten and I’m thrilled, yet I sob a little under my breath as I gave myself a moment of reflect, gazing out on the pavement of High Street.

I turn my car off and begin my day. My colleagues are all cute in their excitement, especially in the art department. What can we say? We’ve become quite a team in a short time considering that two of the three art teachers began halfway through last school year.

Homeroom starts and it’s extended. I’ll be with this group for an hour and a half. I have never seen such positivity and felt such a good vibe. I know some of these juniors and some are new to me. Even the ones who said they did nothing all summer and didn’t have a good time are cordial and energetic, so early in the morning. One girl walks in gets her schedule and walks out, ignoring my call to her. I don’t know where she went. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. I go through behavioral expectations and we joke, and I’m honest, real, funny and serious. They are a mix of the same. Engaged for the most part and asking great questions. Then we talk about the SATs and I ask if they want to learn vocabulary in homeroom, I tell them it’s no problem if they don’t want to and my students will tell me if they don’t want to. And they all vote and they all want to. Fuck. They want to learn!

For no credit.

To study for the SAT.

To get into college.

Best homeroom ever.

Then abbreviated first block and I don’t remember much about it. Except Carlos was just psyched to be there and more students than ever told me they actually want to be in the drama class they registered for. We got some theatre games out of the way and the bell rang and I had bathroom duty. I went to speak with another teacher, a very unhappy one “looking elsewhere” and he knocked my coffee mug off the table shattering the ceramic. Lost cup. More importantly lost coffee. I’d have to go the rest of the day, the first day, on three sips of coffee. I kept my cool. I am a master.

The block three, my Drama Two and the class was electric. They are just great, every single one. I was grinning ear to ear. These kids are going to fight over parts. I used to only get that happening if there was a part with no words or only one line.

Then block four. Four or five kids trickle in, one kid with purple eyes, how very game of thrones of him. I looked at the class and told them there were many more on the roster, not to worry, I just didn’t know where they were. I could tell this part of the class would be a little tough, some quiet, some moody, no behavior issues. Then the rest of the class came in with two paras. They were life skills students, about eight of them, severely learning disabled and some minorly physically disabled. I’m not going to lie, it threw me for a loop and I had a good long moment, which I hid expertly, where I was a little less of a person. I wish someone had told me a whiney voice in my head said, a few times. A panic, how do I adapt my plan, how are these other kids reacting? I knew my actions were going to set a very large reaction. I looked around the room and gaged the kids. One girl had an arm tight up close to her body and her other hand held a napkin to catch the drool. One boy hugged me right away and domineered the entire talking time of the class while his friend repeated most of what I said. One para informed me one girl was really shy and I’m pretty sure her friend was crying.

Nearly every regular ed kid asked for a pass to the bathroom.

So I did my lesson as usual. A simple theatre game that not even my highest level students mastered today. Say someone’s name across the room and move and take their place. So much harder than it sounds. Most of the life skills kids hopped right up to do I and three of my regular ed students sat out.   I made it very clear they had that option. First time all day I did so. And they started and none of the regular ed kids would say a special ed kids name, but they called on everyone. Slowly, most people were warming up to each other.

Then I stopped the game and asked the kids who were sitting out what they thought the game was about. Purple eyes sulked in the corner and had nothing to add. The other students sitting in the risers had some good ideas. Class ended and by the time he left Chris had given me two more hugs. Holy fuck, how did I do? I don’t know.

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