My First Year of Teaching

I’ll probably have a lot to say about this year. Like, a whole lot, but this was on my mind tonight, 10 school days before summer:

At the beginning of the year, I would have said my favorite part of teaching was talking stories. All day long, reading and rereading and dissecting and gushing and arguing and editing and writing and recommending and comparing and living in fairytale land. Dreams do come true!

I still love that part, but it’s not my favorite part.

My favorite part is watching a kid who usually answers with “I don’t give a dump” say that the Lord of the Flies is a book about everyone wanting to be a leader no matter who they hurt. My favorite part is begging a kid to stay in school with tears in my eyes and finding them in his too. My favorite part is googling some inappropriate name and laughing because I couldn’t figure out “dixon cider” on my own. My favorite part is the girl who tells me she’s got a learning disorder and never liked English class until now. My favorite part is the quiet boy who can barely ask me a question write the most in-depth analysis of Jay Gatsby you’ve ever read. My favorite part is hearing “yes, ma’am” or better “yes, Mom” to a request. It’s seeing the F to C+. It’s hearing the speech. It’s her dissenting voice in front of her friends. It’s the unabashed British accent when he’s reading Shakespeare.

My favorite part is when I’ve done my job and a student is no longer a too-cool, confused, angry, hurt, apathetic teenager; my favorite part is when for a brief flash they become who they always were supposed to be—silly and smart and loving and brave and vulnerable and oh so very kind. My favorite part is not the books. It’s the kids.

It took me a whole year to figure that one out.

An accurate depiction of first-year teaching, thank you.

Day Five: Are We Dead Yet?

blog day 5

TUBE: Gloucester Road to Embankment. Embankment to Waterloo.
TRAIN: Waterloo to Alton.
TAXI: Alton to Chawton. Chawton to Alton.
TRAIN: Alton to Ashford. Ashford to Guildford. Guildford to Gomshall.
TAXI: … nonexistent at Gomshall.
TRAIN: Gomshall to Guildford. Guildford to Waterloo.
UBER: Waterloo to the hotel, as fast as you can, please.

 

A conversation with Rhett upon our return to the USA:

Rhett: So, you went to Jane Austen’s House Museum?
Me: Yes.
Rhett: That was fun?
Me: Yes!
Rhett: You saw a dead lady’s house–a dead lady who probably didn’t have a happy life and it was just the house and that was what you went to see?
Me: Yes! It was a blast, okay? We practiced calligraphy! And made lavender bags! And we SAW HER WRITING DESK!!
(Rhett dies of laughter because he is heartless and doesn’t get it, but you do, right?)

Pub, Alton. Let me say something about the pub across the street from Jane Austen’s House Museum. The place knows what’s up.

We didn’t go to the Jane Austen themed tea room across the road. I read poor reviews online, and besides its name (Cassandra’s Cup), it didn’t really sound like anything was very Jane Austen-y. I don’t need a Darcy impersonator (or do I?), but if you’re going to have a Jane Austen themed tea room, the least you can do is make a bit of an effort, right? Emma’s match of scone and clotted cream. Fanny Price’s spooky tea (weak tasting). Something.

So, we went to the pub instead AND IT WAS AMAZING. Imagine a super old, classic English pub. Got it? Now fill it with female patrons over 50. Add the soundtrack to every Nancy Meyers movie ever, and you have yourself the best pub outside of London.

I guess I should say take this moment to point out that our waiter was almost cute and somewhere in his twenties. (Looking back, I bet he got amazing tips.) It’s important to note that I am not good at talking to people I find mildly attractive. (Exhibit A.) This is exacerbated by the fact that we are across the street from Jane Austen because honestly, was there ever a more perfect meet-cute moment?

Mom: What’s your soup of the day?
Almost-Cute Waiter: It’s roast vegetable.
Mom: What?
I have to take charge. He has to see that I’ll hear him even when my mom doesn’t.
Me: Root vegetable, Mom. He said root.
Waiter: No, roast. I said roast vegetable.
Me: Oh.

Mom and I break into giggles because it’s how we cope when one of us is an idiot. The waiter sort of slinks away, and magically another waiter has been assigned to us for the rest of the meal. I start feeling bad because obviously this dude thought we were super rude and we hurt his feelings. He’s probably trying not to cry. Look at him. He has to bite his lip when he pours the beer–he’s that overcome.

I start thinking about how this boy is probably super embarrassed because the girl he’s falling in love with made fun of him with her mother. The poor kid. I knew I had to do something. Anything!

Me: Hi, there. It’s me.
The one who you can’t stop thinking about.
Me: My mom and I were hoping you could call us a cab to get to the train station.
Waiter: Sure.
Gosh. Worse than I thought. He’s so… broken.
Me: Look, I just wanted to say that I’m sorry.
Cute. He’s pretending not to know what I mean. Bless him and his almost-cute face.
Me: For the whole root/roast thing. I’m so sorry.
Waiter: Oh, well. Roast vegetables are roasted like you’d roast meat.

He pantomimes putting a roast in the oven, and my heart. just. drops.

Not only is the almost-cute boy (who should be lucky I ever LOOKED his way) not hurt by the roast/root saga, but he thinks I’m the kind of dumb person who doesn’t know what a roast vegetable is. That’s, like, beyond Lloyd Christmas dumb. Suddenly, I want to die.

Me: Right. I just couldn’t hear you correctly. I’m sorry. It’s my ears and I’m not used to your accent.
Waiter: Okay?
Come on. At least look like this breakup is hard on you too!
Me: We’ll just, uh, wait for the cab outside.

Mom and I finally get back on the train and go to Gomshall for the sole purpose of heading to nearby Shere to see the town where The Holiday was filmed. (I’m not proud.) We expected to take an Uber to Shere. We got off at Gomshall in the fading afternoon light and… uh, where are we?

In the middle of nowhere is where.

Exactly one other person gets off at Gomshall, a station without a conductor or a real station at all. It’s more like a block of concrete next to the train tracks. The other person is a red-haired teenager who must be laughing his rear off when these two American women frown and say, “I don’t see any Ubers nearby.”

I call the advertised cab company. “We can have someone there in about an hour and a half. Maybe two.” Click.

Me: Well, hey. Shere’s only a mile and a half. I bet we can walk it. Right, Mom? Mom?

We walk into the bustling downtown of Gomshall (two pubs), and I decide that we will not be walking to Shere. Light is fading. We don’t know exactly where we’re going. Oh, and the train back to the train back to our hotel only leaves once per hour. So, we do what we do best and eat.

Then, it’s time to walk back up the hill to the train station, and here’s where our overactive brains take a detour. Mom is worried about it being dark at the station, which makes me worried about it being dark at the train station. We try to time it so we won’t be staying at the creepy, almost abandoned train station in the middle of the woods for very long.

I get so scared of getting mugged that I steal a fork from the restaurant in case I need a weapon. (Current Hilary to past Hilary: Um, really? And also, why not a knife?)

When Mom and I make it to the train station without dying (by some miracle) there are two adult men waiting for the train. Were those our soon-to-be rapists? We were convinced they were. Mom takes short breaths. I grip the fork in my pocket and my eyes dart to follow their movements. If they want to charge, they’ll have to charge me head-on. And then,

the train arrives and we get on and they get on and we have zero problems whatsoever our entire way home.