Saturday, June 2, 2012
School's Out! Part II: Adult Edition
When I was a student, I loved days off. As a teacher, I may have loved them even more. I think about those early-morning phone calls (in the days before Internet postings) on dark winter northeastern Ohio mornings when I would hear that voice--that sleepy but also joyous voice--of the colleague above me on our school "phone tree," that voice bearing that glorious news: No school today! And I would quickly dial (yes, dial--later: punch numbers) the colleagues on the tree's next branch, then roll over in the warm, comforting arms of Morpheus for another hour or two of semi-conscious bliss.
For one period of years, though, we had a Hard Ass for a superintendent, a man who decided that Snow Days were for Girly-Men. He virtually never made The Call, so there were times I had to drive--sometimes sideways--through several closed school districts to get to work. Such sadness: Seeing through ice-glazed windows the dark school buildings in other communities, thinking of those students and teachers and Morpheus, who has room in his arms for all ... One year, I recall, we were on Cleveland TV news because we were the only school in the Milky Way having classes that day.
Text of SNOW-BOUND), a poem whose opening lines some cheerless teacher once made me memorize. (Did I cheat on the quiz? Surely not!) I crept to that meeting about 15 mph, uttering grievous execrations the while. No one else was on the road. Even the plows had called in sick, feigning infections of various sorts. When I arrived, there were a few other disgruntled folks there, sipping tepid coffee, pondering donuts. As soon as he saw me, the Hard Ass came over and said he was canceling the meeting. He'd decided too late to make the call. So sorry I had to drive on such a morning. Etc. I thought something Dark and Arctic but did not utter it. Drove (slowly) home with an odd mixture of terror and elation.
So what did I do on those days off? I worked. Almost always. Worked. Graded papers. Prepped for something imminent. Read ahead. You know ...
Later in my career, the union negotiated into our contract menu two delicious dishes called "Personal Days." Twice a year we could take days off (unrelated to our Sick Days) to conduct business we otherwise could not. Hard Ass (and his successors) were sometimes annoyed that every teacher in the district seemed to take both days every year. I can understand that, I guess. But I took them both anyway--every year I could. And I almost always did the same thing each day: I wrote. At the time, I was doing op-ed pieces for the Plain Dealer (freelance), about once a month, and I loved having some uninterrupted time to work on them. It's hard for me to write an hour here, an hour there, in an Old MacDonald's Farm kind of way ("everywhere an hour-hour ..."). Having all day to write, revise, then drive the piece down to the paper (in pre-fax and -email days)--I loved it.
There were times, though, when I hated that Snow Day call--always because it had inconvenienced me in some way. I had a test I had to reschedule. Or some activity I'd planned that I now could not consummate. (Consummate is a perfectly good word; cleanse your filthy minds!) Even worse--the cancellation corroded the delicate clockwork of my play rehearsal schedule, a schedule that to me was nearly Biblical in its authority, even sanctity.
And now--in retirement--every day is a Snow Day, every day a Personal Day. But without a job, you know, the free days lose a little of their sweetness. Still tasty, though, very tasty--like glazed donuts someone has forgotten to glaze.