That dreaded blaring alarm rings, a hand reaches out to grab the cell phone that’s emitting the treacherous sound. Heavy sleepy eyes peak at the time as if the person who set it the night before cannot recall the hour it was meant to go off. Maybe there was snooze time allotted, and that button is pushed, or maybe the thought of rising and getting the shit over with permeates the mind. Legs swing over the side of the bed, feet hit the floor, and a tired body lurches towards the bathroom.
Teeth are bushed, bladder is released, perhaps a shower is needed as one was not taken the night before. Next comes coffee and getting dressed. Can’t forget to do something to that hair if you’ve got it. All of the things required for the day are picked up and out the front door the feet walk with necessities in tow. Transportation gets us to the doors of the place once hated with a deep passion – school.
Walking through the hallways, familiar faces are noted, and eye contact is made but no one speaks – not even a wave. Lifeless bodies are sprawled on the floor of the hallways as students try and catch a few more zzz’s before the first period of the day begins. Others runs to each other to talk about a scandalous outfit, or something they did the night before. Yucky pimple faced couples are pushing their bodies together and kissing with hand holding ensues. A few sit with notebooks out, they are copying the assignment from another kid because they were too busy to try and do the work themselves. They couldn’t tear their eyes off the TV and they had to binge watch a few more episodes of that show they are obsessed with at the moment. Hop scotch is the game that has to be played by the walking feet with necessities in tow. No one excuses themselves as the violently push past the adult walking through the halls.
Walking quickly, the destination for phase one of the day is reached – the classroom. There are always at least three kids that made it there before you; fucking show off’s. They don’t part their lips, and they never offer to hold anything even though there is a struggle going on with the traitorous keys, capped coffee cup, and arm full of bags containing papers. The door is finally opened, and everyone goes to their seat. They don’t bother readying themselves for learning because it’s 7:30 AM and they have to check in to see what’s happening on the internet. Who is posting to their story, what’s trending, how long until the class is over (yes, before it even starts).
The bell rings and you utter your first words. “Good morning, we have a lot to do today so let’s jump in”. Outline for the day is covered, “does anyone need clarity, do we all understand”. No one answers, and teaching is underway. Fuck, six kids just walked through the door – time to explain again. Oh no, there’s a hand up in the back, time to repeat that again. Dude, are you serious, you really still need direction – how can you still not understand?
A few will ask you if you are okay, and your sleepiness has returned so you say, “everything’s cool…just tired”. You hear them talking about the lesson, then criticizing the lesson, then figuring out how to share the answers. You give time reminders and keep an eye on the clock so that you can clean up for the incoming class. The bell rings, time for the next class. Maybe you see another adult in the hallway that’s not totally self-absorbed and they speak. Most times, they just want something from you – can you cover a class, do you have this, do you know where that is.
This same thing happens again and again until you reach the time for a break, only there’s always a kid who drops by to tell you about something crazy, or complain about a grade, rarely do they stop by just to say hi. No one tells you nice things. No one cares about the time you put in. They only speak when they have a critique. It’s a bit disturbing.
Lunch passes by and you haven’t eaten a thing. But that does not stop the next period from coming. You make it to the end of the day and you wait until your time comes to leave. Back home, time for homework – prep for the next day, maybe some reading and paper grading. Got to be in bed at a decent hour if you want to be able to get through the next day.
You are literally back in school, only this time it’s by choice and it does not have an ending point. Students come and go. They graduate, and they are off to the races to begin a life much like you have already set up. I have been in high school for 5 extra years.
The four years I had to do (I sound like I’m describing a prison sentence because in many ways it was) were insane enough. I was an adolescent and my hormones were all over the place. I remember thinking “I cannot wait until graduation”. There’s was no way I was going to be one of those kids that came back to check in on former teachers. I could not connect with the people, I had a hard time making friends, and I skipped so much it’s a miracle I graduated.
Why did I return? I actually chose to go back this time. What sorcery and amnesia cocktail had I been exposed to that made me want to go back after I had such an adverse reaction to this place years ago. I had a very clear direction and reason for the destination when I took the job as an educator. I wanted to be a support for the kids that were like me. I wanted to tell them that this was only a step in their journey and that this was not the end all be of all their lives. They have way better days ahead and they just needed to make it out. I really wanted to make a difference and help them so that they could make better life decisions than I made.
Only, there are no more kids like me. If they are skippers, they are not in my classes. If they feel alone they are not a part of the population I teach. Those kids, the ones like me, are not as common as I thought they were. I have entered an environment to be a support for people that do not exist. That niche that I have described has evolved and it is just not the same. The ones that I have been assigned to teach can almost sense that I was not like them in school. They are like a pack of basset hounds that can sniff out an outsider and they bark loudly when they have found her out.
The kids are not the only ones, the adults also seem to know that I do not belong. They have talks about me that end up back in my face, even though they never intended them to. I have always been a sort of social chameleon, but even the best can be spotted if someone stares long enough. I have been found out, the witch hunt is on and I need to split before I am burned at the steak.
Take my advice if you were a kid that was anything like me, stay out of high school. It’s a jungle in there and the lions will eat you up. They will strip away whatever boarders and boundaries you have built. That thick skin you have acquired will be worn down. Your internal struggle will become more pronounced the longer you stay. You may be painted as the person with no chill. You may end up being the very teacher that you wanted to avoid. The perils are inevitable, but you can avoid them. Heed my words, high school sucks even more as an adult.