At the risk of sounding rancorous, the best word to describe the various social circles among school staff is cliques. Not only for its denotative meaning of being an exclusive group; I also mean it in the etymological sense, cliquer, to make a noise. That’s what these pedagogues do, create a constant din in the background.
In many ways, they are like groups of high school children that have physically aged but forgot to grow with the imperative applications of cognitive and moral development. I imagine these people swim together in a lake filled with nostalgia from their formative years. Luckily, this pool of talented educators is readily available to guide America’s youth toward the same self-perpetuating outcomes. Clearly, anyone who claims public schools have worn out their usefulness doesn’t understand the value of conformity, peer pressure, and awkward social interaction. And while not all teachers have the good sense to inflict these values on the impressionable youth at Fairfield, a good number still do.
Luckily, I can limit my interactions with the staff. My day begins at 8:05, giving me enough time to put my lunch on the right side of the second shelf in the refrigerator. Then I check for messages in the mailslot. During these five minutes, my ears are vulnerable to the usual nonsense in the staff lounge. I do my best to get through the task quickly; then, I’m off to my classroom on the second floor.
The first period of the day starts at 8:30. It is a state-mandated Junior American Shitstory class. I prefer not to sound so crass, but I refuse to bring ignominy to the word I love. During these seventy minutes, my room is as much a detention center for delinquents as a place for learning. I am a constable in charge of crowd control, with moments of education scattered like fallen change to the floor. Which almost sounds nice, but some of those kids would stab each other over a couple of bucks.
At 9:40, classes switch over, and Senior European History begins. I am thankful to have a group that wants to learn something about the rise of the western world, even if the central tenets of historical thinking are adrift in their cerebral seas. Since this is the only course material that pertains to my area of expertise, making it a happy hour and ten minutes, I am willing to provide some lenience to those of lesser competence.
When the 10:55 alarm sounds, I trudge back downstairs to the intellectual doldrums. It is the cliquing hour, and I must hurry before someone draws me into saying something inappropriate or rude. They know with just the right topic, stated just the right way, I will be unable to hold back words that gleek like venom. I can’t seem to stop myself. These people are masters of clique-bait.
Most days, I leave the staffroom unsullied by their drivel. I snag my lunch and rush back to the classroom for web surfing or research before settling into some marking. This continues into the third period, my allotted time for preparation, professional development, and, if the gods are unforgiving, additional supervision.
The last class of the day is AP Ancient Civilizations. These are the most committed students in the school, and many of them will attend the top universities in the country. Unfortunately, we’re learning about dead societies irrelevant to the west. In a perfect world, this class would be about British history. But life isn’t perfect. And as much as I’d like to make lemonade with what’s given to me, that sweet-sour drink is enough to initiate my gag reflex.
The school day ends at 2:30. I stay another hour marking and preparing classes. While some teachers spend several extra hours at work to run clubs and coach teams, I do my best to avoid such things. I put in those additional hours when I was a new teacher. I’ll let the fresher meat continue the tradition without my interference.
I get home between 4:00 and 4:30. It’s enough time to unwind with a re-run of MASH. As a child, MASH didn’t appeal to me. I suppose I was too young to appreciate Klinger’s hijinx or Hawkeye’s quick wit. Now, I can’t seem to get enough of the show. It’s become my favorite forty minutes of the day.
After that, I make myself something to eat. Well, that’s not exactly true. I can’t take credit for the delicious hamburgers, chicken nuggets, and sandwiches I typically pick up for supper. Although, I do heat a Salsbury steak TV dinner a couple of times each week.
I used to make supper more often, especially when Katherine and I would eat together. Now we don’t see each other so often. Sometimes it seems like she doesn’t live in the house anymore, while other times, when she gets going, I can’t get her to stop talking. I enjoy it when she talks.
After supper, I read for an hour or two. I love classic fiction almost as much as I love British history. Sometimes I have difficulty choosing between the two; however, I’m knee-deep in a treasure trove of Asimov’s science fiction novels. I had no idea he was so prolific, producing over five hundred books in his lifetime. The sheer volume of words is staggering.
When my eyes blur from reading, I turn on the television for a documentary. The topic is of little importance. It’s a way for me to wind down before bed. Usually, between ten and eleven, I go to sleep.
Lastly, my weekends feel stretched into a dull grey abyss. I tend to pass the time with whatever whiskey is on sale. Typically, I’m biding my time, waiting for Monday to roll around again. There is always the hope that Katherine will be in the mood for one of her long talks. Sometimes she is, and sometimes she isn’t.