Tracy walked into the lounge and plopped into a chair with a sigh.  “I am SO ready for summer!” she exclaimed.

Katie paused before biting into her sandwich.  “What’s wrong?”

Tracy rolled her eyes.  “It’s these kids!  They are exhausting.  I never get a break.  I’m up here until 5 o’clock every evening grading papers.  On some days I feel more like a warden than a teacher.  All I ever do yell like a fishwife and fill out discipline referrals!  When do I get to be a teacher?”

“I know what you mean,” said Carrie from across the room.  “If I have to fill out one more IEP, I’m going to scream.  Every year, there’s more paperwork, different paperwork.  I want to ask someone if the paperwork is more important than the kids!”

“Tell me about it,” Katie agreed.  “I certainly won’t be getting any Mother of the Year awards.  My own kids don’t get much attention from me.  I want to spend time with them so I end up taking work home and then staying up all hours of the night grading papers and making tests.  They never told us about this in college!”

There were seven teachers in the lounge and they all chimed in with their complaints.

Morning cafeteria duty:

How can it take a kid so long to eat a Pop Tart and an orange?

Stupid complaints from parents:

And then she actually called me and asked if we could send home an extra set of books so her kid wouldn’t have to be responsible for bringing his books home!

Other schools:

I swear they must not do ANYTHING at Whatchamicallit Elementary.  Every kid we get from there is below by two grades levels in reading and they act like animals!

The school board office:

Please.  Come sub in my class for one day.  Just one!  And then you’ll rethink that new policy!  Bet she hasn’t been in a classroom in twenty years – if ever!

The principal:

Why do I bother sending bad kids to him?  He never does anything!  This in-school suspension crap is just a big joke!  Just more work for me since I have to write down all this extra work the kid has to do while he’s in there.  And then I have to teach the kid whatever he missed while he was out!

The cafeteria:

What was yesterday?  Starch day?  Pizza, corn, garlic bread stick and a cinnamon roll!  Hello?  Can you say carb overload?

 

They wrapped their misery around themselves like an old familiar wool coat.  It felt good to gripe.  To complain.  To whine.  And this was certainly the place to do it.  Nobody outside the school understood.

“I don’t see why teachers complain about their salaries so much!  My goodness, look at all those holidays!  And they get the whole summer off!”

Don’t get me started on that one!  All it takes is one rainy Saturday when they’re cooped up in the house with their kids.  Then they understand why we NEED all these holidays and summers off!

 

And then SHE walked in.

Paula Peterson Jones – one of the kindergarten teachers.

“Hello, everybody!” she sang in her chirpy voice.  “Isn’t this the most glorious day?  I think I’m taking my kids outside and reading to them this afternoon!”  She moved to check her mail slot.  “What’s for lunch today?”  She surveyed the half-empty trays on the tables.  “Yummy!  Fish sticks and macaroni and cheese!  My kids will love that! Ooh!  Katie, that sandwich looks scrumptious!  You always bring the most wonderful-looking food from home!  Tracy, what a beautiful blouse!  You look so pretty!  Mrs. Blanton, if you’d like some help with that new committee, please let me know!  Bye, guys!”

The door closed and she breezed back out the same way she came in.

There was dead silence in the lounge as all the teachers stared at the closed door, accusing it as a traitor for letting Paula in.  Katie broke the silence.

Please!” she breathed.  “She makes me absolutely sick.”

“Nobody is that perky!”

“Not without some chemical inducement!”

“Little Miss Perfect!”

“Yummy-looking fish sticks?”

“Did you see her yesterday?”

All eyes turned toward Carrie, begging for the scoop.

“She wore all white,” Carrie said.  “White pants, white shirt, white jacket, white socks, white shoes.”

“What kind of kindergarten teacher wears white?”

Really!  She must not do anything!”

“Oh, it gets better!”  Carrie said.  “I saw her leaving yesterday.  Not so much as a speck on all that white.  Still as pristine as the day she bought it.”

“Oh, please!  I wore white pants to school once.  When I got home, my husband gets this little smirk and asks where I’ve been.  I tell him I’ve been to the grocery store, to the craft store and to K-Mart.  And he says, ‘Go look in the mirror.’”

“What?” they all asked when she paused.

“Well, you know how first graders can’t just say your name?  They have to touch you and say ‘Mrs. Jones!  Mrs. Jones!  We had eaten tacos for lunch that day and I had fifteen little taco sauce handprints on my rear end!”

“No!”

“Yes!  That was the last time I wore white to school!”

“Well, Paula even cleared a jam in the copier yesterday and didn’t get so much as a thought of black toner on her white!”  Carrie said in disgust.

“Lord, I remember the first year I taught.  I made a bazillion copies first thing in the morning – remember those purple ditto copies? – and when I got into my car that afternoon, I looked in the mirror and saw that I had an extra eyebrow!  A purple one!  Right in the middle of my forehead!”

“Your kids didn’t tell you?”

“I asked them about it the next day and they said they loved me too much and hadn’t wanted to hurt my feelings!  I told them to hurt my feelings next time!”

The new teacher, Janet What’s-Her-Name, had slipped into the room unnoticed during the conversation.  “Her whole class wore white yesterday,” she said quietly.

“What?”  The eyes are turned toward her now.

“They all wore white,” she said again.  “They’re studying the letter “W” this week so they wore white.”

Silence.

None of them knew how to respond to this.  There was a legitimate reason for Miss Perky Pants to wear white to school?

Again, it was Katie who broke the silence.  “Whatever.” she dismissed this reasoning with a roll of her eyes.

Janet slipped quietly back out.

“Did you hear what happened Monday in my science class?” asked Jane.

“No!  What?”

“We were reading the chapter aloud and it was Aaron’s turn.”

“Aaron Sinclair?”

“I had him last year.”

“Sneaky little kid!  Always smuggling food out of the lunchroom to eat in class!”

“That’s the one!”  Jane agreed.  “Anyway, it was his turn and he was supposed to read ‘In the spring, the ground squirrel emerges from his burrow to nibble at the tender grass.’”

“Easy enough.”

“You’d think so.  But he said, ‘In the spring, the ground squirrel emerges from his burrow to nipple…”

NO!”

“Yes!  He just put his head on his desk and the class broke into laughter.  I was trying to stay cool so I said calmly, ‘Aaron, that word is nibble.’  He didn’t even lift his little head.  He raised his hand and said, ‘Mrs. Davidson, you’re gonna have to go on without me.  I cannot recover!’”

Their laughter erupted spontaneously.

“That’s great!”

“He’ll never live that one down!”

“Bless his heart!”

“He probably said it on purpose, Jane!  Sneaky little kid.”

They were stopped in mid-giggle by the sound of the bell.

“Crap.”

“Oh, Lord!  Is it that time already?”

“I hear them coming in.”

“I wish they got more recess time.”

“Back to the grindstone, ladies.”

“I’m so glad I get to talk to you guys!” Ellen said.  “When I complain to my husband, he just shakes his head and asks why I ever became a teacher.”

“Well, that’s a stupid question,” Tracy said.  “If we didn’t love kids, we wouldn’t do it.  It’s not like we’re getting huge salaries!”

“Yes, we love them,” Claire said.  “Warts and all!”

“Thank God we only have three more hours until they go home!”

“I am SO ready for summer!”