Friday, April 29, 2011

X ~ Xylophone

Before you get all bent out of shape about me employing such a cliché, let me explain that as a teacher, I get to use this cliché. Now mind you, I wasn't an elementary teacher with the alphabet and its corresponding words as a border around the ceiling of my room, but I was a math teacher with a bulletin board of hysterical math jokes. And I played the xylophone. In front of the entire student body. Because I lost a bet. Does that sound more like something you'd like to read? Tina, sitting on the stage floor, cross-legged, green Christmas bow on my head, playing my little heart out? Thought so. Or bye. Whatever! I'm telling this story. You may read, or not read.

When I joined the faculty of, let's call it Ryder Middle School, I was a brand new teacher, fresh out of college, full of enthusiasm and ideas. It would take eight years to squash all that, but squashed it was, eventually. One of the ways I stayed sane enough to make it even that long in a broken system was that I had friends. Good friends with whom I could rant and rave my little heart out about the crap that is government bureaucracy applied to a system that's barely functioning. (I know some of you dear readers are teachers ~ this is in no way meant to demean what you do. I mean to applaud you for keeping at it. I only lasted eight years. If you're still out there in the trenches then you have that something that I lacked. And you have my admiration and awe. You rock.)

Without really planning it, five of us ended up really bonding. Let me introduce you to the group. It started with me and the veteran eighth grade math teacher. (I taught 7th grade math.) Without being asked or assigned in any sort of official way, she became my mentor. “Ms. K” had it dialed in; she'd been at this job her entire career, and she was damn good at it. I don't know what sort of teacher I would have become had it not been for her guidance.

Ms. K” was good friends with “Ms. L” the “consumer and family studies instructor” (who refused to say, “I teach home ec.”) She was also nearing the end of her career, but didn't “need” to work; she and her hubby owned a very successful business. She taught because she loves kids.

Ms. M” worked in my classroom everyday. Back then, they “tracked” kids in math, as in I had a class of pre-algebra smarty pants kids, a class of “I hate math and I don't get it and I never will” remedial kids, and three classes of “we're so average no one notices us at all” kids. The third member of our group was one of the resource teachers. That means “Ms. M” devoted her life to helping the kids burdened with learning disabilities, both in her own classroom, and if enough of them were all in the same class at the same time, in the “regular” classrooms. We hit it off right away. What's not to love about a woman with enough patience to explain for the millionth time what subtraction means, rides her Harley to school, and teaches her students poker to hone their math and logic skills? All that, and with a sense of humor so strong that we had to be careful not to dissolve into hysterics. Daily. (If you're into humor, read T is for Teacher .  She was in the room that day)

The fifth member of our posse was the guidance counselor. “Ms. N” was a pastor's wife with two grown boys, and the voice of reason we all needed. (Her boys played baseball, one of them for the Rockies. One of my most cherished souvenirs is his baseball card.  Signed, of course.)

Most Friday afternoons we met at Ms. K's house, two blocks from the school. We drank. Believe me, by Friday, we needed the release. Ms. N was a martini drinker. I'd never tried one, but now I am a martini drinker. Yes, I still chug chardonnay, but when in a bar or restaurant, it's Beefeaters, extra dry, up, with a twist, NO olives. Ms. L wasn't much of a drinker, but when she drank, it was shots of tequila. I know, right? With all the libations floating around, It wasn't long before we came up with THE perfect name for our group. 4 + 1. Yup, mathy-nerdy, but 40% of our group were math teachers!

Let me explain. You pick a category, four of us would fit, one would be left out. For example, four of us owned homes, one rented. Four of us drove American cars. One drove a Volvo. Four of us were heterosexual. One of us was not. Four of us had siblings, one did not. I could go on and on and on. Because that's what we did when lubed up enough, but I know you're all wondering, “Where's the damn xylophone?” so I'll go there now.

Middle school kids are bright. Bright, and insanely curious about the private lives of their teachers. They knew we were all friends, they knew what we called ourselves (because I cracked. And no, I never heard the end of it from the other four...) and they tried to break the code. Day after day after day of categories were bantered about, everyone trying to find SOMETHING that all five of us did/had/were. Can you see where this is going? Finally, to shut them up, I made a bet. “If you can find something all five of know how to do, we'll do it for the school talent show, BUT whoever finds that answer, also has to be in the talent show.”

So there you have it. The last act of the talent show that year was the five of us, playing xylophone. Bows on our heads. The song? Jingle bells. And no, thank GOD, I have no video.

P.S  Yes.  This was supposed to be posted yesterday.  Yes, technically, I failed to complete the AZ Challenge.  But in my defense, what I was doing instead was helping Best with the latest marketing for her debut novel.  See Family Secrets.  Then go buy her book!


Sharon Reece said...

What a story! When I was in college, I determined that I did NOT want to be a teacher. I'm not sure whether I was short on patience and recognized that fact or whether I just didn't like standing in front of a bunch of people even kids. So I got an English major and didn't have a clue what I was going to do with it. Eventually I ended up becoming a linguist.

I enjoyed your story, especially the bows in your hair. :)


H said...

I have been in teaching for longer than I care to remember (the number of years depends on whether or not you divide up the part time ones, subtract the 'time out with babies' ones and add in the 'supply teacher' ones). Sometimes, I love it. At other times, it drags me down so deep I am desperate to get out. But where else would I earn what I do for only working part time?

I do love the xylophone story and, because of the time difference between us, I wouldn't even have realised you had missed a day, without you telling me!

Brian Miller said...

oh there has to be a video out there somewhere...and we must find it...i'll make you a bet...smiles.