“I wish we had known, when we left, that we were leaving.”

When I left the high school for the last time

on Friday, March 13

I thought we’d be closed for a week.

Maybe Two.

I told my students to enjoy the week off.

I didn’t bother saying goodbye to the students

I didn’t have that day.

I left a water bottle in my room.

I left a stack of papers, ungraded.

I left a sweater.

I left homework written on the board.

I miss my students.

I miss even the annoying ones.

I miss the busy halls and filled-up lunchroom.

I miss the hectic joy of graduating seniors.

I wish we knew, when we left, that we were leaving

Because now we’re gone

And the school is a ghost town

But the ghosts have all left.

 

things i never told you

Basically, here’s a little tip about blogging–we don’t do it every day.

Haha, right?

I used to, back in the golden days, but now I write ten blog posts at once and schedule them a month in advance. I’m writing this on June 22 and it goes up July 15.

I don’t know why I’m breaking the glass for you like this. I have learned that sometimes it is best not to see the man behind the curtain. Sometimes it is best to not research clouds and flowers. Some things are better left a mystery.

Whatever.

By the time you read this, I have come home from Ireland, a trip I haven’t written about here at all, and have started teaching summer school, something else I haven’t written about. I’m a summer school teacher now. I’m home from Ireland, now.

What will things be like when this gets published, in 23 days? My life, once again, will have completely changed. It does that a lot, nowadays. Perhaps, though, I am due for some consistency. I have been offered a job: to long-term substitute an English class while a teacher is on maternity leave.

I’m so excited. I’m so terrified.

Before I have time to be scared of that, though, I have to be scared of teaching summer school…but, by the time you read this, I will have already taught half a week, so. Maybe it’s not so bad after all. I mean, I’ve already done it.

 

I want Ireland to change me like Norway did. Norway healed me in ways I didn’t know I could be healed. I want Ireland to not just help me heal, but help me thrive. I want to be able to fill my lungs with Irish air and fill my stomach with Irish beer and feel a sense of comfort and adventure and peace.

Why is it when I most want peace, I throw myself into a maelstrom?

Substitute Teaching in my Old High School

It’s the end of the year for the kids in high school. I’m a substitute teacher now, living the high life, nearly exactly where I was when I sat in these very rooms.

My old high school is preparing itself for destruction, its replacement soaring lines of brick and mortar right over the old soccer field. This poor old building must feel like it’s being cheated on, abused by those who once loved it, those who use it without care, those who slam the doors and scratch the walls because, hey, we’re getting a new school after next year.

The kids are and always have been rather free in this school. A public school that trusts its children? Who could imagine.

This teacher has two teal staplers and one roll of transparent tape. Her desktop is otherwise blank, as well as her classroom, besides the elephant in the room in the form of a judge’s bench. It’s the legal systems classroom, where kids come to learn about laws that don’t yet apply to them. They learn about the ramifications of drinking and driving before they are legally able to do either. There’s not a single poster on the cinder blocks, only tears in the paint. An ancient chalkboard, black and empty, hangs beside a whiteboard, streaked in blue, and a Smartboard, the dirty placid feel of printed paper.

The girls’ hair falls in pin-straight strands over their shoulders, or pinned up in a bun on the top of their head, or frizzing out of a ponytail. The lone boy stares at his phone. The door might as well be revolving, but I don’t bother to close it. It is, after all, the last day of classes.

They figure their next year schedule on their cell phones. A friend comes in, smiles at me, and sits on the top of a desk. A girl juggles a slinky, drops it against the legs of her desk with the sound of cymbals.

Teaching my sister Gatsby

My sister, a junior in high school, is reading The Great Gatsby and writing a paper on Huckleberry Finn. Could there be a more perfect duo of high school books? I read the two of them in one year as well.

It’s important because this was the first time she’s asked me for help on something, I think, ever. I’m sure she’s asked me to help her open a jar or something (though, she’s always been better at opening jars), but this is the first time for something like this. And, more surprisingly, she listened.

For about an hour I went over her paper with her, explained how she could make it more coherent and in better support of her thesis. Then I walked her through the first few chapters of Gatsby, explaining why yellow is important and who Daisy’s married to anyway, and what, exactly, even happens? It was a lot of fun rediscovering these two great works of literature that are too-often disregarded as high school stuff.

I don’t get to spend a lot of time with my sister anymore. I live away from home, and when I am home we’re both usually too busy. Even when we are in the same place, she likes television shows I don’t and I like peace and quiet more than she does and so we usually end up in separate rooms.

It was great helping her understand. She said her teacher isn’t doing much teaching, which I think is horrible. People lose their passion very easily…though, if her class is anything like some of my high school classes, I can see why the teacher wouldn’t be super excited to get up in the morning.

I guess why it stuck out to me so much is that it was the first time it seemed that my sister didn’t think I was stupid. I don’t know what it is—even though I’m older and in a good school and maintained good grades and etc., she always seemed to think I was just plain stupid. She never listened to my recommendations, always shrugged off my ideas, and never, ever asked me for help. It was really nice to bond with her, even if it was over something so silly. After all, even if we don’t always get along, I do miss her. And I do hope she understands Gatsby a little better now.