Dragging his feet, the teacher clambered aboard the bus and shuffled his way into a seat, collapsing like a loosely packed rubbish sack. What a nightmare of a day. He stared with glazed eyes out the window, not entirely paying attention to anything that passed by. It all seemed a blur; pubs, grocers, students, stores, trees, apartments… none of it stuck out and none of it really seemed to matter. To the teacher, it was all noise to the thoughts tumbling about his head like numbers in a raffle, only to be picked out like some terrible lottery where none of the tickets won.
Counting down was about as serious a commitment to discipline as he could muster.
“5… 4… 3… 2… 1…”
“Sir’s counting, shut up!” chorused several students, their hearts in the right place but their execution somewhere between a match and an actively burning fire next to a dry tinder. The teacher sighed as the pupils proceeded to begin an open discourse on the benefits of telling one another to shut up at the top of their lungs. Mostly by telling everyone else to shut up, or that they started it, and that they should consequently shut up first.
“I’m waiting.” Hand raised, the lone adult in the room glanced at the clock. It had taken 15 minutes to complete the register. Just to make sure that every child had, in fact, attended school and had not been misplaced en route, it had taken a quarter of the hour. School proper hadn’t even started yet.
Some students, to their everlasting credit, raised their hands and waited patiently. How nice, thought the teacher. But then he thought about how they were mostly expecting to receive a bronze or something for behaviour that the teacher simply expected students to exhibit, and slumped into the chair behind him as he waited for order that would not come.
In fact, over the course of the day, he would spend approximately an hour waiting for his charges to listen to him and learn… something, he supposed. Anything, he hoped.
The teacher stumbled off the bus, clutching a grocery bag he had absentmindedly paid for and somehow had the presence of mind to not leave at his seat. Cars passed by as he waited for an opportunity to cross the street.
Waiting. He had done so much of it. He had been so patient, so prepared to simply let bygones be bygones, move forward in his lessons… well, not his lessons, but it was his task to teach them. He was a supply. No planning, no report cards, no parents, no expectations, no real respect. Supply? Stop-gap teacher made more sense.
“I’m not even a real teacher,” he moped inwardly. A passing magpie squorked indignantly at him before flying off.
The classroom was silent as the last of the teacher’s words echoed in the class,. Moments passed where student and teacher alike just stared at each other, a dare to see who would break first in this game of chicken; the teacher, who had just waited 15 minutes and then had enough of waiting and had shouted in anger, or the students, who clearly could see the teacher was not capable of handling them.
Moments after the children would apologize, the talking, throwing of erasers, and sword fighting of rulers would start again. This time, the teacher would not move. He would spend the rest of the day hoping the time would go by faster.
Later, he sat at the desk filling out a report for the class teacher, a woman who must have been far more capable or steadfast in her determination as a teacher. Everyone in the profession, especially those who held full time positions, had the teacher’s undying and unilateral respect. He had tried that once; after a month and a half, he was fired for not being able to control his class.
Great topic knowledge, he’d been told, but behaviour management was an issue. In fact, this had fired him from another full time teaching position about 5 months prior. It had also cost him most of his sanity, as his mounting anxiety levels could attest to.
The teacher stared upwards, his eyes unwilling to stay shut and let his brain go to blasted sleep. 2 more weeks until summer holidays, and then another year of the same routine in order to deal with debt that, if one wanted to be precise and verbose, could be best described as another really long and stressful year of kind-of-teaching to help make sure the debt vanished. If he didn’t collapse in a nervous pile first, he sagely added.
He had a confession to make to himself. After another year of this, he thought, it might be best if he distanced himself from being a teacher and just stick to being… something. He wasn’t sure what. After spending well over 7 years to get the accreditation he needed to teach in schools without being considered a security risk, it was with great reluctance that the sort-of-teacher admitted he didn’t have any other immediately marketable skills.
With great discomfort, he resigned himself to teaching tomorrow. One day. One day he’d figure out what he wanted to do. That could wait for another night.