Joanne Faries

I, Anne Barbara Cook, initial forms for administration and return to the classroom before my third graders tumble in from gym class. I hate this time of morning because the kids are wound up due to jumping jacks or whatever children are allowed to participate in these days. Not dodge ball, I do know that. Anyway, I need to get them settled into reading before lunchtime.  

I hear a clatter in the hallway and get up to open my door. “Quiet everyone. Seats please. Simon, you know you should walk in before Trevor.” I tap him on the shoulder. “Zachary, close the door.” Glancing around the room, all is in order. Anthony a desk ahead of Brittany with Mike, Monroe, Murray, and Nick tucked into the middle of the room. Yasmin and Zach back in the far corner. I take a deep breath.  

“Social studies, page thirty-one. Charles, you may begin to read about aborigines. Then we’ll proceed by first name order,” I say and am relieved that no hands are raised. Everyone gets his turn. I don’t always begin at the letter A. That wouldn’t be fair. I keep a detailed log of the beginning letter of the day and the ending one. Monday might cover C through F and then Tuesday leads with G onward. No student has complained, though Mrs. Tucker sends me daily emails, concerned that Ike isn’t getting called upon. I haven’t sensed urgency on Ike’s part and I reassure his mother that he’s a bright youngster receiving exemplary checkmarks in participation.  

I’m tired of hearing Charles drone and stumble over words. “David, take over now. Thank you.” I ask a question once in a while and immediately call on the next in line – Frank, Gina, then (thank goodness) Ike. The kids have figured it out. I see them slump or pass notes when they know it isn’t near their turn. But if I pick up the pace of our lesson, they are alert.  

Lunch bell rings and my muscles tighten. I haven’t achieved order at noon. The children snap their books closed and hustle pell-mell out my door to the cafeteria. Today Allison is a straggler. I did like my former job at the private school, since they adhered to rules with lines everywhere. But, Quincy Prep shut its doors after an endowment embezzlement scandal. I am fortunate that Adler Elementary hired me, and so I contend with rambunctious breaks.  

My anxiety builds daily in the middle of afternoon math class. Hands raise and I must acknowledge each child. Terri, Jennifer, Ellen, Matt, and then Abby.  

“Ms.Cook? Bathroom pass please.”  

Too many liquids. One hour after lunch is a nightmare.  

First published: August, 2009
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