Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Teaching: The First Fifty Minutes

It’s 6:30 a.m., and, coffee in hand, I open my classroom door to the world. The first representative in is Rufus, the math guy. He comes in at 6:45 every day, sits in the same place, and turns to something arcane in his AP Calculus Book.
I lift the latch on my carefully hoarded extroversion. “’Morning, man. What’s the good word?” 
 “What?” Rufus says.
“The word. Good day. Bad day. Cosine. Plastic …”
“Good day.” He returns to his math.
On my way to the first of two pre-bell bathroom visits (ninety-minutes can be a mighty long time) I run into Brenna. “Mr. Greene, do we need exactly 600 words for the first draft?”

 “Just get within spitting range. You’ll gain some, lose some as we edit today.”
I run into a colleague in the teacher’s lounge.
“Do you have Hannah Jones in first block?” she says.
I do. I need to pee, but we talk for a couple of minutes about Hannah’s recent tendency to avoid doing work.
On my way back I see Sara down the hall. She’s fighting with her boyfriend again. She’s a smart kid, but she can’t shake the idea that her life can’t be complete without a beau.
Back in my room, several more students have arrived to take their usual seats. Nate looks like hell.
“Out fighting crime again last night?” I say.
He shakes his head. “Working. I was on until eleven.”
“Where do you work?” I used to know, but my brain's misplaced the information.
Chunky’s, he says, the local eat-in movie theater. Nate probably spent some time on Facebook when he got home from work. I guess that he logged three, maybe four, hours sleep.
I write the agenda on the board, double check that I made enough copies of the “how to review’ handout  and head out for one more precautionary bathroom trip and to fill my water bottle. On the way back, I remember to grab the stack of graded articles off my desk in the lounge. AP Style is still proving elusive to my little minions. Must review.
Then I’m back in my room. I look over my students, mentally taking attendance. There’s Rufus, Brenna. Sara, Nate, Nick, tall Nick, Sean, Hillary, Maria, Steph, Pat, Toni, Trina, Ian, Chrissy, etc. Twenty-five kids in all, some of them actually interested in journalism.
The bell rings. It’s 7:20. Showtime.

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