The sirens wail. The wind whips into the windows and they shudder, shaking with the force of falling trees. Desks scrape against the floor as students shove themselves from their seats in unison; feet pound like pelting raindrops on the floor.
On the stairs.
As we make our way to the basement. They scurry to find a place beside the walls; they crouch and duck and cover. The lights flicker off. We’re buried in darkness.
Being the official unofficial librarian has its perks. Last semester, I got to help decide which books to purchase with the $8000 or so allocated to new book purchases each year. And it was exhilarating. I also got to propose a new literary initiative to promote students’ love of reading–complete with school-provided incentives!
But being the official unofficial librarian also has its downsides. Like extra hours after school that are essentially unpaid. And also organizing our bookshelves.
Back in the earliest days of my college career, I knew I wanted to be a teacher, but I also knew I never wanted to be a creative writing teacher: Don’t get me wrong, creative writing is one of my passions, but by that time I’d spent years participating in online writers communities, reading others’ stories and providing very detailed feedback.
And, if I may, I was damn good at it. People I’d never met before knew my name because of the quality constructive criticism I gave, and sometimes writers would ask me out of the blue to read their rough drafts or proofread their final copies. I was even invited to judge not one but two different short story competitions!
So why didn’t I want to become a creative writing teacher? And now that I’ve finished teaching a four-week creative writing elective, why will I never teach it again?
I have a student who speaks badly about women, swears when he shouldn’t, and reacts poorly to perceived criticism and the consequences of his actions.
I ask him casually in the hall how his day is going and he keeps walking without even looking in my direction. I sit down next to him in class to check in and I have to say his name half a dozen times before he begrudgingly acknowledges me. I try to have productive, relationship-building conversations, and he actively shuts me out.
Then he grabs some chalk and writes insulting messages on the chalk boards.
And then he gets pissed off and storms out when he gets in trouble.
By which I mean it’s the beginning of the year. I’ve moved to a new city–with all the hassles that come from being the good tenant who follows those disastrous ones you see on HGTV who left the place a god-forsaken wreck–and I’ve begun a new job.
So elections were yesterday and despite distractions galore, I still managed to reach my daily word count goal for NaNoWriMo. Through antihistamines and philosophers, economic speakers and communication workshops, I thought the day would end on a solemn note. And when I saw some of the election results, certainly it seemed solidly solemn enough, but somehow there is clarity in these wins and losses–clarity that my vote didn’t count.
But don’t mistake me for apathy. There’s more to it than that.
When I was younger (and by all regards, I’m still young–don’t get me wrong–but bear with me please), Hebrew school was the cornerstone of my life. “Wait,” you say, “this is Pokemon Wednesday. What’s Hebrew school got to do with it?” I’ll get there. I repeat: Bear with me please. My mother, kitchen manager of my synagogue, and my sister, attending college ten minutes across town, simultaneously set the stage for me to spend most of my days (at least, as memory serves; fact itself may differ accordingly) trapped in my synagogue’s social hall doing schoolwork, reading, wandering around aimlessly as I fantasised about worlds I’ve still yet to commit to paper, and–here it comes–playing Pokemon. Although many great things I’ve accredited to this confinement, the one in particular I choose to recall today is the only one of relevance here: The conjunction between Pokemon and Hebrew school.