All Over Again

I remember, during the weeks and months that I taught kindergarten, that the little ones I spent my days with never really left me. Sights in the city, on my commute, at home, reminded me of them. I heard their voices in my head, echoes of their most popular phrases, their calls of teacher! teacher! My dreams found me back in the classroom, surrounded by tiny people with big voices and even bigger needs. Their futures- tomorrow, 1st grade, as adults- hung over me like a vast, dark balloon, and the realm of that bright classroom was where my mind lingered in most of its spare time.

One week into the 5th grade school year, these eleven students- older and yet somehow just the same as kindergarten- have begun to take a hold of me in the same way. Wrapped in our little room for four hours in the morning, we move- sometimes trudging, sometimes swinging, through Bible, math, social studies, reading, writing. We’ve a 45-minute lunch and recess pause in the middle of the day, and I’m in the office, in the 3rd grade room, at my own desk, spooning food from a Tupperware, gazing around the mid-day havoc of a classroom scattered with papers, notebooks, pencils, textbooks.

The bell rings, long and loud, just as the whistle blows in the school yard outside our window, four flights down. Those stairs, those towering, twisting stairs, together with 8 hours on my feet, are the reason I’ll be built in June; it’s upwards of ten times a day that I’m up and down- trailing kids, enforcing quiet, accidentally falling into hushed conversations with them with every step up.

The afternoon brings work, specials, grading, recording, organizing, dismissal, and stairs- oh those stairs all over again. And then, somehow it’s 6pm and I’ve been at school nearly 11 hours and, aftercare over, the halls are quiet, the only sounds the background buzz of Chicago movement, and the infrequent slamming and scraping of the front door, far below.

And the evening hours bring rest, planning, eating, an occasional Netflix show while wrapped, even as I am now, in the fuzzy Muppet-like blanket on the futon in the apartment. But always at the back of my mind, ever present beyond my immediate thoughts, I’ve the next day, the next hours spent with those eleven learners. And in the morning, when the alarm goes off at 6, when I walk into the still-quiet school at 7:30, I might not be ready, and there are one thousand things I’d like to try, one hundred ways I think I could improve, but I will be there, and so will they, and together, we will learn another day. All over again.

~Natalia

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