I fumble around in my pocket, digging my keys out of the very bottom since that's where they always sink to. My numb fingers flick different keys out of their way, searching for the one this door belongs to. I insert the key into the lock and twist, I pull the door towards my body as I try to delicately balance my cup of coffee in my other hand and manage not to spill any on the ground.
I turn on the lights, set my things on the desk and press the power button on the tower of my desktop computer. Taking a drink of my coffee, I survey the room. Nothing has changed since yesterday, the chairs are stacked neatly in front of the whiteboard by my desk. The cupboards are closed. The tables have been wiped down. It's time to start a new day.
Students start milling about in my classroom five minutes before the final morning bell. Soon after they have all taken their seats, we rise for the pledge of allegiance and sit again for the morning announcements. There is always a hustle and bustle, whispers from around the room as the monotone voice of the student announcer reads off the long laundry list of school activities and upcoming events, eventually finishing with what's for lunch that day and any sporting events we might have in the near future.
Welcome to pottery. There is a bunch of commotion as students gather their supplies for the hour. Clay, tools, pottery boards. Some are on the student computers researching for their next project. Some have opened five bottles of glaze they need in order to make their project the most perfect. My life becomes filled with questions. "Miss K, what do I do next?" "Miss K, how do I fix this?" "Miss K, when is the kiln gonna be fired next?"
I dance around the room from table to table and student to student, fielding questions I've either already answered fifty times or has just come about because something didn't go right in the kiln or something didn't dry correctly, or what have you. Sometimes I have the answer on the tip of my tongue, tinged with a slight amount of sarcasm and other times I have to think about the answer before I respond.
It's a weird thing to be the teacher. I feel like I should always have all the answers all the time. But something I have learned about teachers this year is that we are humans too.
Ten minutes before the period is over there is a mad rush to clean the tables, return materials, tuck in chairs and chatter with classmates while waiting for the bell to ring. And then it's off to second period for them, while a new set of students files into my own classroom.
I rush down the hall to refill my coffee cup and wait in line for the bathroom. Other teachers and students are going a million miles an hour. Five minutes always passes faster than I imagine it will.
Art one students are seated at their desks when I make it back to my room. They've started working on their warm up drawings - little pictures that take them about five minutes to complete. Special Education students enter a little while later. Sometimes they are disruptive and noisy and other times they are quiet as mice. Today they whisper loudly and that always kind of stresses me out, although I'm not sure why.
With warm up drawings over and attendance finished, I briefly explain today's activities. We're in the middle of an ongoing project so there's no lecture today. Just a few reminders about their requirements and then they're off. We've been making Artist Trading Cards and experimenting with different media. I set out watercolors, acrylics, colored pencils, sharpies, and myriad of other media for my students to grab up and get all over the place. The content of their cards is up to them, but they are required to try out different types of materials.
Third period is more of the same. There are different faces and different questions. There is a broad range of talents as well as ages. Because art one is an entry level class worth two humanities credits required for graduations I get everyone from the baby freshmen to the adultish seniors. Some of them work really hard and really quickly, while others procrastinate or just simply take their time. Most days they make me want to pull my hair out, but the reward of seeing them finally understand and building meaningful relationships with them, inspiring them to try more in art and try different, makes all the wanting of hair pulling out worth it. I take a deep breath and plunge into the answer of a question that I've already explained five times over and made them write down. This job is tedious, but I slap a smile on my face and do it anyway. These kids need me and for some of them, this is the most fun they'll have in their entire day.
During lunch I sit in the teacher's lounge with a small group of ladies I'm slowly getting to know as the year goes on. We talk about students' needs, we talk about school policies and other teachers. We also talk about The Bachelor and Bachelorette while I roll my eyes and check to see if there's anything interesting on Facebook.
The bell rings to signal the end of lunchtime and I'm back in my classroom for the afternoon. It's my prep hour now, so I'm making copies of rubrics and grading projects. I head back to the main art room in search of supplies I'll need for the remainder of my day. Paper, pencils, glue, paint. I carry them across the school in my arms.
By the time the bell rings for second lunch, there are a couple students eating their lunch in my room. I'm a safe haven, a friend of sorts, a place for them to be themselves. We talk and laugh and they eat until the bell rings, signalling the start of fifth period.
These fifth period kids, man. They demand my attention in the most obnoxious ways, but they're coming right after the end of lunch. They've been in school for four periods already and they're a little burnt out. Attention spans have been tested to the limit and trying to get their focus is a lot like trying to herd cats. Some days they are my favorite class and some days I just want to send them all to the office. Today I'm answering their questions - what's my biggest regret in life? if I could live something over, what would it be and what would i do differently? They're in a philosophical mood today. Sometimes it's political. Sometimes it's personal. I try to answer them to the best of my ability without overstepping boundaries and some of their questions I just refuse to answer completely.
The upside to this class is that it's full of kids who are not artists. They are not interested really in art at all, but they are making the most interesting things and coming away with a lot of knowledge about how to create and the ability to problem solve. So even though they badger me with questions ad nauseum, I feel like it's worth it. These students need someone to invest in them, and that's what I'm trying to do.
Over the speakers is the sound of the bell. It's a five minute passing period before sixth hour starts. It's a flurry of motion as my fifth period students leave and my sixth period students arrive. The door is constantly ajar as student after student flows through it.
Sixth period is a crazy hour filled with student raps, lots of art, inside jokes, loud conversations and music. We paint and we draw and we learn about life together. If it was up to me, I'd just teach sixth period all day. Those students are the ones that really want to be here and better their skills in different areas of art. It's refreshing after a long day of freshmen fulfilling their credit duties in order to complete graduation requirements.
And then the bell rings at the end of the day and my classroom empties out, I lean back in my chair and breathe out a heavy sigh of relief. Another day down. I finish up some grading and tidy up my room. The students take care of a lot of the materials, but in the rush of leaving for the day, inevitably things get forgotten. Sometimes I head to the other art room, but today I'm just here. There are some students who stay after and talk until they decide to head home for the evening in favor of dinner foods and phone conversations with friends.
I'm left alone in my art room. There is student work covering my walls, posters for college programs and art departments. Chairs are stacked on top of the tables so the janitor can clean the floors. It's nice. It's peaceful. And after a long day filled with students, it's a nice time to reflect on the day. To make plans for tomorrow. To make sure that I really have everything done before I return bright and early the next day to do it all over again.
With tired hands I lock my classroom door and head out to my car. Welcome to the life of a teacher. It's exhausting and hectic and crazy, but so good. So, so good.