Wednesday, November 6, 2013
IGNITION: Prologue and Chapter 1
It was the happiest day of my life: graduation. I was thrilled to wear my cap and gown while my loved ones cheered me on when I received my master’s degree. Afterward, my husband, Billy, my parents, and I went out to celebrate at a nearby steakhouse. My family reserved the steakhouse only for special occasions. Silk, red linen tablecloths eloquently draped each table. On each table, a candle was dimly lit. Next to the candle was a rose in a small crystal vase, which smelled delightful. We toasted the night with glorious, sweet, and dry champagne. I felt so alive and filled with elated emotions that I wanted the night to last forever. Unfortunately, everything comes to an end, and that evening, eventually did, as all evenings do.
After graduation, I consumed myself with the repetitive, depressing, continual job search. I went from school to school to try to land a teaching job. One interview I had did not go too well. I could tell the principal was not impressed with me. He seemed quite posh, mainly because he was principal for one of the best schools in the district. At this point, I was panicking. School would start really soon, and I had no prospects. However, I did have one interview left. I hoped and prayed that I would be hired and start living my dreams, educating the young minds of today.
A New Journey
August 24, was a magical day for me. Not magical in the sense of wizards
and sorcerers, but rather in the sense that I, Karen Woolsworth, landed my first teaching position. I was so excited. I could not wait to go home and tell Billy, my husband, that all that hard work paid off. Two long years of rigorous graduate school, finally over. Taking all those teaching exams and suffering for hours with a proctor staring at you, sizing you up while tapping her pencil, and distracting your every thought when you needed to be in control at that time. The day started out dreary. I woke up to rain. I spilled coffee on one of my suits and had to go to the interview in my navy blue suit and white blouse. It was not my favorite, but it had to do. I hoped that spilling coffee on my suit did not mean bad luck.
That morning, my curly dark hair stood as frizzy as can be. I felt like a cat that just had gone through a car wash. Imagine how he would look. Well, the spilled coffee delayed me a bit, but I raced for my interview as fast as a jaguar runs and I made it right on time. I was lucky that I did not get a speeding ticket. Billy would have been quite upset if I had. I also would have missed the job interview. Oh, what a shame that would have been!
When I arrived at West Street and Ninth Avenue, my nightmare began. There stood a lonely building called, The Charles Dickens School. This was a five-story building with fifteen-hundred students. The school consists of sixth through eighth graders. I was able to see that this was an old, musty building with no elevator. As I walked into the horrific huge school, I felt so small, but there was an aroma of endearing books, which made me feel quite elated. I was in awe. I grew up in the suburbs and had never been inside an urban school, so this was quite an adventure for me. I was so excited and nervous. As I walked up the three small steps, I was greeted by security, a man in a blue uniform. I gave him my driver’s license as proof of ID and signed in. He told me to turn right at the first door and on the left was the main office. I would then have to meet with the principal. I thanked him and went on my way. As I walked down the long narrow corridor, I remember my heart was beating very fast and my palms felt sweaty. It reminded me of a first date, but much worse.
The principal, Mr. Scott, a tall man with a mustache, asked me many questions. He started the interview in a friendly manner by shaking my hand and asking me if I found the school okay. At this point, I remember that his smile turned into more of a serious face, as if to say, “Let’s begin.”
He asked me, “What made you want to go into teaching?” I do not even remember what I answered him, but he must have been pleased with my response. During the interview, there was another person in the room as well. This person happened to be an assistant principal. She was on the large side with curly short blond hair. Her glasses hugged her ears tightly. She was the one who asked some tough questions. She had a poker face on the entire time and did not crack a smile once. Her name, I will never forget was Ms. Crowe. She reminded me of a spectacle-wearing shark staring at a guppy. I guess that you can guess who I was in that scenario: the guppy. I remember Ms. Crowe’s last question was one of the toughest.
“How would you prepare your students for the statewide exam?”
I must have looked at them dumbfounded. I could not believe this question. I had just graduated from my master’s program. I had never taught before. I did not know what to say.
At that moment, a magical thing happened. The principal’s secretary came in and interrupted us, saying that he had an urgent call from his wife. He told me I was hired, and then excused himself. If I had had time to answer the question, I believe that I would not have gotten the job. He informed me that I would have to teach a self-contained eighth-grade class which meant that I would have to teach the same children throughout the day. My only hope at this point was that my students would be great and not horrific.
I thanked him and walked out of his tight, stuffy office, leaving him and the shark behind. As I walked out the door, I felt relieved that it was over and my teaching career would begin. The following week I would start and I could not wait. I was overjoyed that I felt like skipping down the block. However, in case the principal should glance out the window, I knew I had to maintain self-control and save that giddy emotion for when I got home.
When I was a child, I would watch my mother who was also a teacher, come home from work and grade papers. At the dinner table, she would tell my father and me many stories about her students, making us all laugh with some of the stories that she shared. I was able to tell that she always had so much fun as a teacher. She enjoyed her job and profited from it. I wanted to feel the same sense of accomplishment that she did.
I had a few days off before my journey would begin. I knew I had a lot to do. I went to the teaching store so that I could buy some materials for my classroom. I felt like a child in a candy shop. There were so many items to choose. I bought some literacy and math books, as well as some borders for my classroom’s bulletin board. I chose some with positive words on them, such as outstanding, stupendous, fabulous, wonderful, etc., because I had learned in graduate school that setting up your classroom in a positive way reflects the learning atmosphere positively. (Yeah right!) From that day on, I went on the Internet and looked for ideas for setting up an eighth-grade classroom, as well as lessons that I could use for my first week. That week went by quickly, and it was soon time for orientation.
The time had come for me to meet my coworkers and set up my classroom. As I walked into the building, the aroma of schoolbooks, which made me feel so happy to be there, once again greeted me. The pale blue walls throughout the building were quite calming. Teachers were told that they must report to the cafeteria for a staff breakfast. When I arrived, most people seemed to know each other. I sat next to a few women and a skinny, balding man wearing glasses.
He introduced himself to me as Mr. King and asked, “What will you be teaching?”
“I was hired as an eighth grade teacher.”
He looked at me and said, “Good luck!”
When he said these two words, he had a serious look on his face. It then
hit me that in a few days I would meet my students.
Some questions started to form in my mind: “What should I say to my students on the first day? What will happen if they hate me? How do I—” My thoughts were interrupted when I saw a tall man with a mustache come in. It was Principal, Mr. Scott. He asked all the members of the faculty to introduce themselves.
My palms were very sweaty as I said, “My name is Karen Woolsworth and I am going to teach class 8E.”
Everyone gasped and looked at me somewhat funny, as if they knew what was in store for me. I had to stop for a second and try my best not to think bad thoughts. After Mr. Scott’s speech, we went to our classrooms.
I opened the door to a big, lonely room. There were boxes everywhere, which I assumed were from last year’s teacher. I decided to set up my bulletin board. There was so much to do, and I had never set one up before. It took me six hours to set up my room, and even then, it still was not complete. I did have to stop a few times because we had several meetings with the assistant principal, Ms. Crowe. She seemed nice but stern and reminded everyone to be strict. She also warned us not to crack a smile on the first day of school. I could not believe that we could not smile. I noticed Mr. King attended most of the meetings that I did and realized he must be an eighth-grade teacher as well. As I sat during each meeting, I could not wait for either the principal or the dean to shut up as I had so much more work to do in setting up my classroom.
I did not leave school until seven thirty that night. When I arrived home, I told Billy all about my first day.
“Billy, everyone gave me a weird look when I told them I was teaching 8E. It was almost as if they were warning me.”
“You are being way too dramatic. You didn’t even meet your students yet,” Billy replied.
“I’m so worried. My first teaching job. I don’t want to be bad at it.”
“Stop thinking negative thoughts and relax.”
With that said, he hugged me and I felt assured that I would be fine.
I had one more day of orientation. It went quite fast with one meeting after another. I hardly had any time to spend in my classroom and see what else had to be done. The weekend also sped by. Labor Day was sad and painful. I had jitters all day because I knew I would meet my students the next day and that it could be great or awful. I told myself to get all the negative thoughts out of my head and that I must enter the school with great expectations. Billy held me all night long. He was like my teddy bear, comforting me, as he knew I was nervous. The next thing I knew, the alarm rang. My adventure would soon begin.
>Please listen to the story that I am about to tell. With the
information you are given, you will determine my fate.