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 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 held haunted houses every year and where they built a 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 whose territory was whose.
From across the hall sat Diane who helped all of us. 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 mosaic glass platter and seven days later he remembered to take it back home. Corey used to come up to our third floor break room to purposely leave her frozen quesadillas in our freezer so she could warm them up, talk to Diane, play with Diane’s Zen rake, and then complain.
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 to a Latino radio station. Ms.Burke in the room next to mine hung up charts with her student’s 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 why their Algebra homework was wet.
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 teachers’ whiteboards. Michael even had an LCD projector that he squirreled away and kept in his room for the entire year that he used for PowerPoint warm-ups at the beginning of his classes.
There was no heat but I borrowed space heaters one year and I shot out half of my room’s electrical sockets when I tried to add a micro fridge next to my computer table. 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 so he that he wouldn’t 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 all had 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 interview. 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 backs of your neck. There was bottled water but most of it had been taken by the teachers with nice prospects who’d had good one-on-one’s with different principals.
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 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 Josey got a job as a librarian and we all came to find out that she was going for her library science degree. We were kinda shocked. She always had suspension files scattered around her desk and could never seem to make sense of whose parents’ she needed to call and those of whom she already phoned. Some of us had bought houses because we thought this job would be a long term gig, so some of us were struggling.
I’d drive all the way out to school whenever I had a cold because that’s where Patient First was, a 24-hour clinic. At first I tried not to look out towards our old field when I made a left into the parking entrance, but one time I caught a view of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. My room at school for the first four years looked straight out onto it, though through fogged up Plexiglas. I thought of the uncapped dried up markers that I’d left there along with old lesson plans, three ringed binders with the third ring missing, and 50 broken pink bevel erasers. Whoever was trying to look out of my blurred window now probably couldn’t see a thing, and definitely not what I saw as a leftover from here on the outside.
Tracy Hauser has currently been published in the latest issue of Abandoned Towers Magazine, The Urbanite, and The Collonades. She is involved around Baltimore in promoting writing through project-based learning activities for schools and organizations. At this time she has three blog posts entitled checkIT or exIT, When a Third World Came West, and The Man in the Truck, all viewable at BlogHer, Blogger, Wordpress, SheWrites, and Bloopdiary. She aspires to do more along the way of writing proposals to get funding for organizations such as the ASPCA, the Baltimore Opera Society, the CityLit project, the Baltimore Theater Alliance, and Bike More Baltimore.
© Copyright Tracy Hauser 2012