Come, Teacher, to the lounge
For here shall be brewed the day’s first coffee.
Please partake of the leftover donuts from yesterday’s meeting.
They are already kindly cut into fourths.
As the grounds are measured and you grip your mug with dry erase marker-stained fingers,
Remember last summer when you lingered over breakfasts –
Or over anything at all.
Harken to the percolation,
Herald of the rising sun and the impending first locker slam.
The filling carafe draws all nigh:
Shop teacher, school nurse,
Part-timer with her omnipresent classroom on a cart.
The untenured. The veteran. The inter-building traveler.
The aide and the counselor. The music teacher and coach.
All the lanyard-wearing troopers who each morning achingly resist the temptation of the snooze button
To once again enter halls bedecked in inspirational messages.
Make Good Choices
Wait, drip by agonizing drip, and sort out the day with your fellow instructional pilgrims.
Is this a block day?
Who has lunch duty or pick up duty or playground duty?
Which students will be pulled from your class for trombone lessons, speech class, an interview with the newspaper, or a talk with the assistant principal?
Is there an assembly this afternoon?
Is today picture day or hearing tests or college visits or career day?
Talent show? Recital? Science fair? Book fair?
A fire drill? Tornado drill?
Or makeups for any of these?
Is there a meeting after school? During lunch? Right now?
Is it a team meeting? IEP? Grade-level? Department?
Is today the day to say goodbye to the secretary, hello to a student teacher, or welcome to another school here to observe?
Are Building and Grounds finally coming today to fix the heat in the hall that’s so chilly you wear gloves to supervise passing periods?
What day is this?
You just need to know because
There are papers to grade and plans to create, and your outdated bulletin board says
Fall Into Fall.
You need to know if
You’ll get time today.
Hear the coffee maker belch finis!
Fill your mug – the large one with World’s Best Teacher almost rubbed off from years of use – and try to unscramble your To Do list from your
Really Have To Do list:
Write report card comments;
Analyze the last spate of tests which were given to predict future test performance;
Update the review game for next week’s quiz;
Find a moment to inhale a snack to prevent daily 10 am tummy rumble;
Decide if you can coach the debate team, cross country team, and robotics team;
Don’t forget you promised to bring lunch back up to your classroom to share with the student who told you her family can’t afford lunch and she’s too ashamed to take the cheese sandwich in front of her peers.
She’ll need your undivided attention, so updating the review game will
Have to Wait.
Hear the young laughter down the hall and know the day is about to start full force.
Maybe you’ll enjoy a few sips of this glorious coffee later.
But first, handle the Crises and Unplanned Things.
The substitute across the hall hasn’t shown up.
You offer to cover a class during your free period, as was done for you that week when the flu finally felled you.
You find your stickers and your stamps
And a thousand ways to say
Yes, you will use this later on in life
Be magnificent. Be present.
Keep it up.
I believe in you.
Dig down so deep you feel the earth’s magma burning your soles.
Or maybe that’s the ache of being on your feet all day.
Brace for the nose blowing, coughing, the same question ten times,
And the magic moments when you have their focus and curiosity.
Usually, that’s when the intercom buzzes to ask for a child to come to the office.
You’ll then endeavor to recapture that momentum from a moment before
(Perhaps out the window that never lets in enough air in late May.)
You’re ready for the handwashing and the lessons
Clear a spot for your coffee amid the piles on your desk
But stop trying to match nameless papers with missing assignments when
Someone knocks tentatively at the door.
A student who needs extra help
Or a student on crutches
Or one who will miss your class today
Or missed it yesterday
Or who is going on vacation and wants a week’s worth of work by lunch.
A student chomping gum up until the beginning bell
Who pushes you with his, “Yeah, but” responses
The one who wants her 99 to be 100.
Or who wants a chance to improve his hard-earned 80 because his father told him it’s not good enough.
Or who aches for the work to challenge him a little more and doesn’t know how to ask.
Or the one who struggles, or who is hungry or neglected
Or loved and still troubled by the mini-dramas in her life.
You don’t hesitate to invite that someone in.
Take a sip – two, if you’re lucky – and look at what is in your planner
And what is not.
The laughter, the “ohhhs”
The kids who show up with completed homework and the extra credit
And those who insist they never received it.
The ones who walk, the ones who run,
The ones who need help taking off
The ones who soar
The ones who just want you to see them.
All of them
Grab your mug as the first bell rings
And smile into the cold dregs at those who blithely say,
“Those who can’t do, teach.”
Because you know that you teach because you can.
And you do – with all of your might
And the occasional boost of caffeine.