I was staring at my teacher plan book. Admiring the blue lined boxes that indicated days and subject areas. I took such joy in filling it in and seeing what the week would look like. I was completely lost in it, still trying to see what I could do for Wednesday afternoon and what could get plugged in for Thursday morning.
Suddenly my classroom door opened. I just heard the click of the knob turning and in walked the district personnel, four of them. A whopping four DISTRICT people. They entered in a line, fake smiles plastered on their faces because they always said, “smile when you walk in to the room, no matter what you see happening, just smile.” Then they each took a position at the back of the class, leaned against the counter, and held their precious papers close to their chests, still radiating those fake smiles but already I could see in their eyes the disappointment of walking in to the room and NOT witnessing any teaching going on.
I scrambled out of my desk, nearly knocking over my chair, heart starting to race, lump in throat forming and beads of sweat already on my hairline. I looked wildly around for that damn book. Jesus where was it? Oh, I knew they were seeing this, but there was no way to hide it. Where the hell did I leave that thing? I glanced back at my desk, nothing there aside from my mess of papers, confiscated toys (the ones I bothered to collect), water bottles, pens, erasers, more papers from the students, my beautiful plan book and hand sanitizer.
My eyes flew to the shelf beneath the whiteboard. Giant TE’s were nestled in there with their bright spiral bound cardboard covers showing. I saw the orange, yellow, and blue spirals, large enough to tear up and wear as bracelets, but nowhere was that small book with the black spiral. Now my palms were sweating, my heart was drumming in my throat that had entirely closed from the lump in it and I could feel the heat on my face letting me know my cheeks were turning the color of a bright cherry. I stole a glance at the district people still leaning against the counter, now making it very obvious that they were judging the class walls, no fake smiles anymore. I wish I could just tell them that I meant to update the student work that still bore September dates and that the pumpkin decorations would get put away soon, I just hadn’t had enough time to get to it. But talking to them was a cardinal sin, it was prohibited, it would mean breaking all protocol for a district visit. THEY were not to be talked to.
I was certain that five painful minutes had passed since they’d entered and so far all they had seen was the teacher scrambling about the front of the room. Dammit, I knew it was here somewhere. Eyes swiveling in every direction, I neared the easel overloaded with old charts, some dated from the previous school year (that was on my list to be removed too). I eyed the basket beneath it, crammed with markers, papers, whiteboard erasers, more papers (why was there so much paper everywhere?) but no sign of that stupid, freaking, damn book. I was about to cave in and ask the students if one of them had seen it – they always could tell me where to find things – just as my eye saw the bloody thing behind the easel, opened up to the last lesson that I probably taught. My heart settled back into my chest and a smile crept on my lips as I saw that I had even put post it notes into the book, well that would impress them. I lifted it up off the shelf and was momentarily surprised to see a layer of dust slide off it.
“Ok, boys and girls come to the carpet and sit down,” I announced as I saw my third graders look up at me from their reading books. They slowly started moving and were soon seated in front of me. I took the chair near the easel and flipped through the book to find the next lesson. As my eyes searched for where to start, I said, “Ok, so boys and girls, we have been doing a lot of writing…ummm we worked on our stories…”
“You mean small moments?” a student chimed in.
“Yes, our small moments,” I agreed. The damn thing was hard to navigate, I was still flipping pages. Weren’t these district people leaving soon? Didn’t they have a torrent of work to do at their offices? Then I saw a beacon of hope, the title of the lesson! I could figure it out from that. I launched into what I thought was spectacular teaching of writing. And soon enough, as if they had seen what they needed to see, the district people left the room, single file, fake smiles back on their faces. As the door slowly clicked back into place, I heaved a sigh. One of utter relief. I leaned back in the chair, drained from the maddening adrenaline rush. A small laugh nearly escaped from within me. I closed the book, I was not losing this thing again. I knew exactly where I would put it. Dismissing the children from the carpet, I tossed the book with its black spiral onto my desk to lay among the stash of papers.