Thursday, May 14, 2009
Rolling with the Circumstances
My teaching has me on the road frequently. I have discovered several things in the years that I have been traveling to share my work with school communities: I am a magnet for snow days and fire drills, I will always be packed with clothing for the wrong weather, I sleep well on good mattresses, and I always feel like a pack mule.
Snow days, inevitable in the Northeast from January through March, are the mixed blessing. The unexpected day off is generally a delightful surprise. However, it slows down my process and usually means I lose a day of work with the students and, often, a day of billable hours. No matter that I have lost the day and am far from home so I cannot reschedule. Even if I did reschedule, it messes up the timing and flow of the process, already under serious constraints anyway.
But one snow day this past winter was incredible. I was staying at a friend's house in the country in Orange County. It is a small home in the country and there are huge windows on one side of the house in every room, including both bedrooms. Because she is not living there year round anymore so there is no cable or internet access, I had to have a friend in NYC look on line to see if school was cancelled very early that morning. The news was yes. In fact, even the Big Apple was closed for business due to snow! So I made coffee, got back in bed and watched the snow fall as if I lived in a giant snow globe. t was incredible. That morning I completed reading the new Toni Morrison novel; that afternoon, I journaled, did the NY Times Sunday crossword; that evening I revised poems and my lesson plans for the remainder of the week.
Now the weather is warm, it is fire drill season. I have been in two this week already, one in each of two districts where I am working. One year, I was in three in one week in the same school because they were making up their yearly quota. The teachers said it was me that brought the fire drill mojo and they may be right. I will be in that school all next week. I am sure that we will be rushing out the door into the spring air to practice for emergencies, stepping over the goose poop in the fields surrounding the school.
I have to pack for all weather because the Northeast is moody. Yesterday I wore a sweater and it was in the 70s. I brought a cotton tunic for today because the weather forecast said it was to be warmer today but the rain overnight changed things. Oh well. I will be warm in school and the car has a heater for the drive home.
Not only do I need to pack for my clothes and daily needs, I also need to pack all of the supplies and teaching tools that I will require for my visits. I have a car that resembles Shaquille O'Neal's rollerskate. It is always jammed with bags of books, boxes of books, computer case, suitcase, roll-along tote, chart paper, magazines for cutting words out for collage poems, and a healthy selection of CDs for drive time. I imagine I add a lot to the car's overall weight with this cargo. Fine in the winter. I need the weight to keep the car connected to the road. But I do not make the best or most efficient nomad. But the work is great and being in different communities is fascinating in many ways.
For now, time to iron the cotton after I unfurl it from the suitcase. I teach in 90 minutes and I need to get ready and out the door, then head home again after school. I will continue to monitor the fact that I am a magnet for snow days and fire drills. Three more weeks of teaching for me after this. There is plenty of time for more journeys into the sunshine in the middle of a lesson.