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Ready to be an English teacher?

I wanted to save the world through education and I started in a place which could be referred to as the teaching trenches. It really did feel like war some days. The following relays the first day of a five-year teaching experience in Philadelphia.

“Last year, over seventy fires were set in the building by students,” she said. “But, there have been some transitions. There’s a new principal, so maybe things will be better this year.” This statement came from a staff member at the human resources center where I chose the building for my first position as an English teacher. She also told me that this was probably the “better” of the two options from which I had to choose. “If you leave now, you might have a chance to meet the principal and see your classroom!”

I wore a tea-length polyester knit skirt with big, bright flowers against a black backdrop. On top I wore a black tank, and on my feet I had strappy black-heeled sandals. I maneuvered my silver Dodge Neon straight to my new school.

When I arrived, I was greeted by a large brick building which loomed ominously over the street below. The dark green marble entryway sucked me in, and I trailed up the imperial staircase to the main office. I met my new principal: a large, balding man named Lohnny Fann. He welcomed me to come sit in the principal’s office to discuss my position as English teacher.

First he wanted to tell me that he used to play football for the NFL. I dutifully nodded my head. I was excited to be there and I wanted to see my classroom. But I guess I had to hear a little about the NFL first. Mr. Lohnny Fann offered to take me on a tour of the school.

Together we wound through all five floors of the school. He huffed and puffed up and down the stairs, and I pretended not to notice. Finally, in the basement, we came to a large room guarded by double-wide wooden doors. Inside the room was, well, not much. There were no desks except one teacher desk. There was a non-functioning fireplace, and there was a wooden wardrobe which didn’t close tightly or lock. This was my classroom.

Mr. Fann told me that student desks would be coming, hopefully before students arrived the next day. A woman from the office called him on his radio which was attached to his hip. Did he want his lunch now? It was his lunch time. No, he didn’t want his lunch, he responded.

I followed him back to his office. I had questions now: Where was my “roster”? What was a roster? Where were the teacher supplies from the last teacher who was there? How would I know what to teach?

He called in his assistant, Ms. Bichols. She bustled in with a big smile and a ginormous binder. This wasn’t just a thick binder. It was a long binder. The binder was three binders long. She pointed at endless charts inside. She said it contained “frameworks.” I was required to teach according to the topics in the frameworks. I could take the binder home to review the frameworks before school started (tomorrow).

As Ms. Bichols took her big smile out of the room with her, it started to rain. It was one of those dark-sky, no-wind, no-lightning, vision-impairing down-pours. Mr. Fann’s eyes landed on the pool of water gathering on the window sill and he said that he thought rain storms were “romantic.”

I furrowed my eyebrows.

Then he shook his head back in my direction and asked if I thought I was ready to be an English teacher.

©2018 Trina A. Kraus

*Names have been changed

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