The First Month of School

Today I saw a girl in a busy hallway who I dimly recognized.
"Mr. Cifaldi," she said, and gave me a look as if she was unsuccessfully trying to reconstruct a relic from a lost age.
"Macaulay." I mumbled, as I struggled to remember her name.
Then it all clicked into place. I think the expression is epiphany. I should know as I've spent most of the week trying to teach epiphany in My Left Foot to a bunch of unreceptive 10th graders.
Roberta was another new teacher at my school back in the day, somewhere in the Jurassic period or at least in the dark ages when Beowulf was written.
A month ago to be exact.
We hung out one lunch time on the whirlwind induction week and talked about teaching. In measured tones and idealistically.
Have I mentioned it was only a month ago? Before the age of students.
Neither of us has got out much since; not out of our classrooms let alone into the sunshine.
Except when the school holds fire drills.
And the only contact I have had with my fellow students on the career switcher course has been on taut emails when they have described their nervous breakdowns.
The girl who landed a job teaching at the school I wanted to teach at quit after a week-and-a-half.
She couldn't stand another day trapped in a "windowless hell."
My classroom hasn't got windows either. And it can resemble hell.
Whenever an administrator comes in and all hell is breaking loose I tell him or her we are rehearsing Milton's Paradise Lost. There's a limit to how many times I can use that excuse.
The trouble is that, while I like many of my students individually, collectively they can become a rowdy mass that's hard to bring to heel.
But then sometimes, against all odds it works. The class is silent and I have to pinch myself to believe it's true.
Then a few minutes later it isn't. I'm floudering like a big filleted, flat fish on a beach as the tide recedes.
And inevitably time becomes the tide. I'm looking at the electronic slab of a clock, at the angular red letters on the gray wall, wondering if my material will run out before the bell. I know chaos could ensue on the next digit and if I lose their attention for a second, I'm doomed.
But let's look on the bright side. I survived a month and June is just round the corner. Kind of.


  1. All of which I couldn't be a teacher, especially high school.

    I admire your fortitude.

  2. Thanks - could be worse, it could be errr middle school.


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