Thursday, August 1, 2019

Getting to Know You

And now Zephaniah Nahum, aka Mr. Z, begins Medford High's First Day Welcome Back Breakfast and Professional Development In-Service:

 "Welcome back, y'all, and welcome to all the teachers new to Medford School, home of the Fighting Meds, athletes and learners! We know you have a lot to do today and are eager to get back into your classrooms and cover the wall with wise sayings from Ayn Rand, Lysa Terkeurst, Henry Miller, Rudyard Kipling, Steven Pinker, Norman Vincent Peale, L. Ron Hubbard, Charles Bukowski, Martha Stewart, Edgar Guest and Oprah, and with oversized memes featuring kittens and Marvel Comic heroes to help motivate your kids to work hard while also displaying your 'withitness.' 
A high school fave -- God only knows why.

"Certainly we know how hectic this first week can be for you, and we appreciate all that you do on a daily basis, so we're going to make this as brief as possible. 

"We have just a few things to pass on to you from the State, the County and from our 3-hour principal meeting yesterday, but we should be able to wrap up this whole thing in, oh, 15 minutes or so.

"So we'll introduce the rookies shortly, but first let's go around the room so each and every one of you can tell us how you spent your summer.

"Let's see, there's 87 of us, so we'll start at the back. When your turn comes, first tell us your name, what department you're in, how long you've been here, what you did before you came to Medford, where and when you got your degree, why you wanted to be a teacher and when you first realized it, then tell us about your summer.

"Welp, ladies first! Ruth, we'll start with you."

Sadly for those eager to get to work, Ruth had given birth, vacationed in Iceland, taken horseback lessons in Chuluota, watched her home go up in flames after a lightning strike, found a bear cub in the backseat of her Prius, published an article on "Progress Monitoring in the Appalachians: Reaching Out and Helping the Kids Left Behind Get Ahead" which she felt moved to read in its entirety, and started a book club focusing solely on the works of Roberto Bolano, George Eliot, David Foster Wallace and Karl Ove Knausgaard.

As the teachers share their summer memoirs, and nervous Howard tries to conjure up a story more interesting than accidentally abducting a homeless man, let's dolly the camera back and upward to give us a God's-eye view of this learned congregation, this assemblage of senseis*, if you will.

There are the young and restless, eager to begin what they believe to be a lifelong calling, maybe even a lifelong passion, but, untutored in traditional socialization and decorum, are reluctant to make eye contact with their elders. 

And there are the veterans who, like the gray beard just now entering through the double doors, are hoping with all their hearts this is their last first day back, and that next year this time they'll be sound asleep, mildly hungover, still hours away from facing a new day of freedom. 

Over the summer, the faculty's weight has been redistributed -- some have gained, some lost -- but collectively the group weighs the same as it did in June, accurately indicating a consistent collective fitness about which few other schools can crow.

Eight teachers, six of them guys, have shaved their respective heads and grown the now popular Russian-novelist beards. 
Dostoevsky, Fashion Prophet

As the teachers' riveting narratives go on and on and on, a posse of coaches, seated in the back, continue to chat among themselves with their outside voices. 

A few teachers have surreptitiously inserted ear plugs and are chewing gum to the beat of Lil Uzi Vert, Keith Urban, Childish Gambino, Patti Page, Khalid, Taylor Swift, Barry Manilow, Webb Pierce, Ariana Grande and that one female vocalist with the massive bows in her hair and bangs that reach her lips.  

Many, many years pass as the teachers describe their fruitful summers, then finally Howard -- just waking from a nap in which he dreamed about abducting one of the "realators" who had catered their delicious Chipotle breakfast -- heard Mr. Z say, "That's everyone, right? Is that it? Anyone else? No? All right! We have time for a brief restroom break before our next meeting, then we'll finish up quickly and get you outta here. But first, everybody give yourself a big hand!"

Clap, clap, clappity-clap, clap.

And on and on, and the afternoon and the morning were the first day.

*A Japanese word

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