Occupational Hazards

An email to a friend at the end of the semester and a week into winter break…

“Please know I’m not a reckless flake. I had the sincere intention of making a drinkin’ date with you, like a month ago. Dumb job got in the way. I did however, manage to kill two bottles of brandy in the last two weeks. Thus, committing myself to the type of reclusive debauchery that can only lead to scenes such as those that we lovingly reference in the movie “Leaving Las Vegas”. I mean, really, it’s not every day when you get a call from a parent telling you that you are ruining their kid’s life for giving them a D instead of a C. As if the *university is going to turn away just anyone with a 2.0 average. Please, like these kids are going to aspire to much more than that pathetic guy wearing a lucha libre mask , standing in the median advertising for that restaurant on *Main St. …”

*indicates a change in name to protect, well, my ass.

I knew this day would come, when I would have to return to the classroom. I couldn’t be that lucky to be the recipient of a sizable amount a cash, to have the school spontaneously combust  in a fiery,  non-fatal explosion; its mushroom cloud visible from miles away, so I would know school is cancelled, or that I would miraculously find another job upon waking. Nope, it was waiting for me like  a forgotten piece of fruit stuck at the back of the fridge that you can’t find, making that vomitous smell that never leaves you, even when you’ve left the house.

I arrived on campus, and immediately felt like I wanted to sneak back out – fake my own death, or something. However,  I can be bad with details and really had no feasible plan worth carrying out. So, I shuffled in and unlocked my classroom to find probably the only contentment that will sustain me for the next 4.5 months –  both my plants were still alive.  At the very least, they needed me to return.

I realized, during the in-service, that the classroom isn’t for me with all of the departmental cliques and the ‘boys club’ favoritism. Not to mention, the overwhelming resistance to change and progress that comes with not only small town ideologies, but with power struggles in maintaining mediocrity. Part of my day was spent walking that fine line that children of unhappy, argumentative parents do in maintaining diplomacy. My department is divided amongst these bitter, recalcitrants who can recite the collective bargaining agreement by heart and are just biding their time until retirement and on the other side, these sophomoric, cock-waffles that never left high school themselves. Case in point: one of the teachers in my department took my keys as a joke. So, while I’m panicking about the early onset of dementia and the chance I might have to replace every fucking key on that chain, he’s sitting there thinking that he’s some brilliant practical joker. Who does that in any quasi-professional atmosphere as an adult?  This is why the teaching profession is viewed as some half-assed undertaking by those who couldn’t make up their minds as they were doing a B.A. in University Studies or by someone who was just playing rock-paper-scissors with their career choices.

In any case, I’m just trying to get through unscathed and unnoticed. Shit! I just want to do my job and do it well.  I’m not interested in turning back the clock to be the popular cheerleader that I never was, or squash the ideas and motivation of others because my time is over and all I have to show for it is a couple of cheap coffee cups from students past.

So, it starts anew, with a different group of kids and me attempting to set the tone in my classroom for some shred of excellence and the hope of what a good education can do.

“Who’s Cortez?” – 11th grader, reclassified as a 9th grader.


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