I accidentally got a book mailed to my old inner city school that they renovated and re-staffed, but I didn’t call to see if it was there or if anyone had picked it up. That school was way on the eastside where no one could find it, off Eastern Avenue and towards Essex. It was around the corner from the Eastpoint Mall where they had haunted houses every year and a new hibachi to-go grill restaurant. It was two miles south of North Point Boulevard where if you got in a car wreck you’d be there for hours. It was practically right on the city and county line and the cops from each district wouldn’t know which territory was there’s.
From across the hall sat “Diane” who helped us all. She used to play with a desk Zen garden that had sand, stones, and a rake. “Michael” would leave his lunches in this room for days and days after he ate them. Like this one time when he made cold salmon and brought it in a glass platter and seven days later remembered to take it back home. “Corey” used to come up to our third floor break room and purposely would leave her frozen quesadillas in our fridge so she could warm them up and talk to “Diane” , who would play with her rake in the Zen garden while she complained.
“Andrea”, the new teacher who’d previously taught ninth grade was up on our floor this year hanging up curtains width-wise with her ITunes turned up really high to a Latin radio station. “Ms. Burke” in the room next to me hung up charts with her students names on them and wrote “for homework”, “for classwork”, “for tests/quizzes”. “Mr. Robert’s” room was just like mine. We had piles of ungraded work near the windowsills and when it would rain on the weekends we would come back to find the left sides of the stacks soaked and the kids wondering where their stuff had gone.
We got new computers up from the ones that were built in 1995, in 2010 and we stored them at the end of the year in “Mr. Allot’s” computer classroom’s closets. We could get on YouTube, access the web from United Streaming, and use them on some of the teacher’s whiteboards. “Michael” even had an LCD projector that he captured and kept in his room for the entire year that he used for PowerPoint warm-ups at the beginning of classes.
There was no heat but I borrowed space heaters one year and I shot out half of my room’s electric sockets when I tried to add a micro fridge next to my computer desk. I managed to get a microwave in there that I hid from the kids between a sliding cabinet door and a red table cloth napkin. All the teachers would come in and secretly use it on their lunch breaks and planning periods. They’d strike up stuff to talk about if they hadn’t used up all their energy trying to get the kids to be quiet, or from chasing down Darius in the hallway when he might be seen by the second floor administrator.
None of us really expected anyone to leave, we’d each always separately talked about getting other jobs but we’d never really held each other to it. So when our school administrator told us that we were all bound to have to leave our jobs and apply for new ones we weren’t really shocked, just dismayed. We’d stood in lines behind each other, with each other, opposite each other, for the same English or Math or Social Studies jobs. We had to sign up for the voluntary transfer fair at a local high school and when we came there was no air conditioning on so if you had long hair or had it down to your shoulder, it stuck to the back of your neck. There was bottled water but most of it had been taken by the teachers with nice prospects who’d had good interviews.
Some of us threw out everything when we left and some of us kept stuff in the thin plastic bags that the Spanish speaking custodial workers tore off on a roll and gave to us. “Diane” had a flea market in her room. She left new notebooks, highlighters, pens, and paper clips that she had never used out for any of us to grab. Some of the other teachers did the same things too.
We had a barbeque after school was over at one of our teacher’s houses where some came who made the cut and where some came who got jobs at other places. “Michael” got a job teaching elementary school and I got a job teaching middle school. Our academy principal “Josephine” got a job as a librarian and we all came to find out that she was going for her library science degree. We were all impressed. Some of us had bought houses because we thought this job would be a long time gig, so some of us were struggling. We still keep in touch on Face book but I guess we can all say that none of us have really moved on.