Starting School in August, and Other Items of Intrigue

I write to you during a rare and freeing moment of doing absolutely nothing on a Sunday afternoon. It’s been raining on and off all day and there’s a pretty ornery thunderstorm on at the moment. I’m sipping New Orleans style coffee from Rook – brought with me from NJ – and have set aside my guitar to write. It’s perfect. Ian would call this Magic Hour.

Life is good, albeit busy. The students were in for the first day on Thursday – I’m still not over the fact that we’re hardly into August and I’m teaching – and they were wonderful. You know how you read those books about teaching and the author goes on about a struggling student whose behavior sometimes gets in the way and the solution is to crouch down beside his desk and offer sage advice and he’ll reform immediately? These are those kids. They’re bright, ambitious, and creative. They’re respectful. Granted, it’s the first day, but I’ve had worse first days.

One stunning example, especially in the face of my time in Cairo, came on Friday afternoon during Gym duty, where I basically just patrol the gym while 50 students play basketball. It’s highly entertaining, partly because some of them got skillz and partly because there’s a PE teacher who watches with me sometimes and laughs at them when they miss. (He’s English, and freely admits that he loathes basketball. The kids seem to love him.)

Anyway, there was an assembly on Friday at 12:05, so around noon, I walked onto the court and started interrupting various games to tell the kids to move on to the assembly. I imagined the entire process would take 5-10 minutes and some real persistence. (At my old school, the kids would blatantly ignore you or argue that the final bell hadn’t rung and they would keep playing.) When I finished my round, I looked up and noticed that all of the kids had left. It was almost paralyzing. I couldn’t believe it. Basketballs had been returned to the bin, and no remnants of lunch containers or food poked out from the benches. I think I may have shed a single, wondrous tear.

The students themselves are all really interesting, and it’s sometimes hard to view them as teenagers because so many of them behave like young professionals. They clack away on their laptops and obediently close them when asked. This part is fun. My school is tech-ed out. If Google and John Dewey had a baby, it would be my school. This means we get to drop tech-savvy lingo. For example, when I want the kids to do an activity or stop taking notes/working on their laptops, I say, “OK. Time to 45.” Because 45=45 degrees, which is the angle their laptop screens are lowered to. I’m not 100% sure that 45 is a verb, but as an English major, I can verbify anything.

One of the things I didn’t like hearing before I took the job was that the school expects its teachers to work hard. This bothers me because it implies that I haven’t worked as hard at other schools because they’re not as good. It also suggests that I’ll need to sacrifice my personal life in order to succeed. So far, this has not happened. I came into work yesterday, a Saturday, to play for my IB class. It was only for 3 hours or so, but I’m not really sure because the time slipped away so quickly. I love researching articles and resources to use and planning lessons. I didn’t finish planning for the week, though, but not a problem! I’m off the first two periods tomorrow and…


I am so, so, so far beyond ecstatic about this. If Pluto is ecstatic, then I’m the New Horizons spacecraft. (I keep making references to this. I don’t know why.) I can’t tell you how frustrating it was to come into work after the weekend, sit down with coffee during your first free lesson on a Sunday, and either enhance your already-made plans or tweak a lesson. And then be told you have to go substitute because someone is absent.

To recap, I have two planning periods tomorrow that I can actually use for planning.

OK. Enough about school. Here’s some other cool stuff:

  1. I got a guitar. My own guitars are not arriving until September, with the rest of my shipping (one last parting gift from Egypt), so I happened to mention at dinner that I would like one. Eliot, a British guy who supervises a moving company, perked up and said, “Oh, you can have mine. I’ve fallen out of love with music.” This is baffling to me, but I thanked him and borrowed the guitar. It’s lovely.
  2. Everyone here is worked up about earthquakes. They’re expecting The Big One. This means lots of signs for earthquake drills, including one in a lift that listed items you should keep in your earthquake survival kit. It was a weird list, with canned food, sleeping bags, goggles, and surgical gloves. (“For digging yourself out of a grave,” Sam suggested.) I’ve been told that my building is located on a fault line, and when I asked the director about this, he merely smirked and replied, “Well, it’s not exactly on the fault line.” Better go stock up on surgical gloves.
  3. I turned a year older last weekend. I marked the occasion with a few solid and sweaty hours of karaoke with some really cool people that I’m still in awe of meeting so early on.
  4. Rugby. I love it. Have I mentioned this? I am certain that anywhere I go, if I find the rugby team, I’ll be OK. This I did pretty quickly, but this morning was extra enjoyable because a group of ladies from my school attended, many for the first time at the sport, and it was fantastic. It downpoured, we practiced tackling. They seemed to really enjoy it, and the Filipino ladies who come out resonate that friendliness and acceptance that I felt in Cairo.

I think that’s all for now. I’m off to dinner.


Not pictured: debris falling on top of table.

Not pictured: debris falling on top of table.


4 replies »

  1. OH it sounds like an amazing start. Wonderful! Not sure about the shake drill though.. . hopefully you will never have to do it for real! And yes.. school in Aug. sounds very very different but well-behaved students is a teacher’s wish so, so far you are at the right place! Take care and good luck.

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