FROM THE SICK ROOM: The Work Room

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The Work Room.

A veritable catch all for so many people, projects, and occasional trespassing child.

The work room. It is an outward expression of our “unfinished work” in speaking “life” in instruction, and in other ways too, to God’s smallest creations. This breeze way, mud room… tells of industry, organization, information, communication, love, care, release, frustration, and even heartbreak. One sad day, I was even part of a shake down by our resident Lunch Nazi/Custodian. In this, the work room became interrogation room concerning a crime that involved nothing less than…….Boys Urinals!

The work room witnesses things both BIG and small. Some are planned and made great and greater in trial and error. Others result in exactness. Some activities are as unremarkable as a Pizza Order fundraiser. Amid the fast and furious, it is up to us to slow the pace here in order to present our best selves in BEING PRESENT. BEING this is our work. Being who we were MEANT TO BE in this life. LIFE, what is indelibly a gift from God. Being and BECOMING a gift for others. Meant for other Godly gifts: the gift of children. In this we have and hold precariously, the sincere trust of our local school board, the STATE of Utah and the sometimes partnership of parents.

I mostly perform these work room workings, and ordinances before and after school hours in the eyes of the Lord……when no one is around. This is a more holy time for me. More productive, with fewer distractions and breathable time and space. I am grateful that I have the keys for this.

From the looks of this industrious common space, and the amount of produced and stored material, one would think we are a much larger entity. We are truly larger than we think we are possible of. Still, how can so much school STUFF and supplies exist? We are a far cry from schools boasting enrollments of 1,000 or 1,500 students. Can you imagine what those work rooms look like? We are small potatoes compared to these others. Small potatoes capable of world class potato salad. 🙂

No. We are not BIG time. This is a good thing. We are a small, intimate, personal, family-style place. We are a rural school in Utah, hovering somewhere around 400 registered students, k-4. We feature a staff of about twenty certified teachers, a dozen uncertified specialists and paraprofessionals, and half a dozen non-classifieds.We are led by an amazing, inspired Principal, touched by an angel. We are supported by a fully invested community council. And we have an enthusiastic, hard working PTA. And while at times they seem transient, the presence of these moms have been powerfully visible and at work these last two weeks. This has been a time of Parent Teacher Conferencing, Scholastic Book Fair, and Read Across America and Seussical Dads and Doughnuts. Yesterday our school even welcomed an exciting, exotic infant red kangaroo. This tour was a great hit. Reading and animals are both great therapy.

Sometimes we feel spread thin, like the sprinkles on exasperated Crispy Cream doughnuts waiting for little hands to make selection. Today and every day, I do not touch these things, but their sweet, greasy heavenly scent sends me thinking toward December gingerbread houses, and delicious wishes of having four teachers instructing in every grade level. I remember a time in which we used to have this……before financial cliffs. I think anything can happen. I think my boss can make something miraculous happen. She is a master problem solver.

At 8:00 in the morning, doughnuts are a nice way to take the edge off “no school breakfast served.” It is a way of super boosting reading on a crazy ANIMAL arc of dads and hyper children. What is better in the long term for student learning is lower class sizes. At the same time, what is best for teaching is hiring MORE TEACHERS at the elementary. Growing instructional waist lines in offering additional teaching contracts is pretty PHAT! In expanded form I think I am thankful for math, and specifically Addition of a permanent fourth grade colleague. I smile because…. Math is everywhere, not just in terms of budgets, but in terms of learning returns. Additional teachers multiplies so many times over, better outcomes for all.

Retirement of teachers without replacement with new ones creates growing pains, long term learning loss, lower test scores, behavior issues, gray hair, burn out. This combined with the atmosphere of high stakes testing makes teaching as high stress as law enforcement and EMS careers. I have attempted to dissuade my own children from seeking education careers for this reason, aside from the money, or lack of it. Still, my son, the Italian missionary, who is an idealist like me, wants to be a high school English teacher and track coach. Wow. Go figure. I think I have failed him maybe. I though I had this snubbed out. Wrong again.

The face of teaching is changing so quickly. I don’t know how new teachers CAN survive without mentors. Somehow I did…..am. Mental illness is a real threat. I barely hang on some days wishing I had a life coach or someone to confide in. Instead, I sadly suck it up, internalize, or let it go momentarily. Don’t want to complain…..but I think I do. Sorry.

My main therapy comes not in the trust of another adult really. It comes from blogging. It comes from leaving at 3 p.m. to go to swim team practice and loud, awkward teens. Yes I am assistant swim coach. I release frustration to the healing waters. This can be a true baptismal experience. Other times I just spray everyone with a cold hose or say, “Do pushups…….please!” with a smile. Mostly we are a happy family. On most days we arrive early, and when practice is over……we don’t want to go home. Hm. Ohana means swim team family. It is a beautiful thing.

While our school is small, and the work room even smaller, preparation frequently feels much larger under the burden of testing and teacher accountability. The stressors require one to be increasingly grounded, focused, and clear in thinking. The career asks a lot of someone like me who is a spaz, easily distracted, abstract, and more the mover than a lighthouse. I too often seek smiles and laughter where serious and silent should dominate. Teaching while multi tasking among continual interruption and conflicts is not an easy balancing act to perform with or without a high wire, or direct line to God.

All the while work piles up in this place. Spot fires flare up that can’t be made better with a bandaid or ice pack, call home. Not even a talk with the Principal can make or fix some things. Problems present continually in needing solving and ongoing attention. The WORK ROOM is sometimes a place for design or over haul. Some days I think I need a demolition and recovery team to respond, or a search and rescue helicopter to hover and recover me to GET THE HECK OUT OF HERE! Prepping becomes a freaking CAREER!!!

Some days, in pausing in the work room, I think I am living a hoarders reality show as reflected in the sheer amount of stuff that can pile up on the work room counter. On a daily basis are kindergarten and other grade level projects under way in cuts, collates, and stacks. Items crowd, and push the rest of us to aisle seats on a fast moving jet plane. Also daily is mail flowing in and out of small boxes. We become an advertising center of sorts.

Then there are also special life events and circumstances. When one of us retires from teaching, there begins the increasing weekly installments of throw away donations. There is a major influx of books, binders, manipulative and MORE. AHHHH! Ha ha….Some stuff has never even been touched or used, and in recycling still may never be touched or used. Wow. The thrill of scoring the killer deal! The counter becomes a kiosk, or road side sign and stopping point for: FREE STUFF.

This week a single serve coffee pot appeared. I have recently taken up the habit of an occassional cup of coffee (luscious MISTO, with 2-3 pumps of mocha, extra cream and double the whip cream topping.) Yum yum to relaxation and breathability. This would come as a surprise to many a judgmental Molly Mormon, if they knew this secret thing about me.

Truth is, I am greatly into healthy eating when I’m not being lazy at packing a home lunch. I am also greatly into exercising. Coffee perks me up, but does not necessarily fit the profile of wellness. It is incongruent for sure. But once a month, in dialing up hormonal, it helps me. SERIOUSLY THOUGH! I can’t for the life of me understand who IN OUR SCHOOL FAMILY would put a coffee pot on the counter next to the PTA fish tank. This is BAFFLING! Confusing in a dominant MORMON culture of NON COFFEE DRINKERS. Or is it?

I wonder if the small coffee making machine is a message to me, for me, to “TAKE ME.” Yes, this coffee pot makes single servings of the black lucre, but also does so much more. It talks. I would like someone or something I could trust to speak to me from the heart. This THING…It speaks of metaphors. It can sing, I’m a Little Tea Pot Short and Stout in fifteen languages other than English, except for ITALIAN! Maybe the “I Ready” people left it behind after their presentation, along with Doves milk chocolate and popcorn. I couldn’t touch the milk chocolate. I am strictly a DARK chocolate girl. Mmmm.

While I wonder if this coffee pot is meant for me to take, I also wonder, rather, if it is there for me to SEE ONLY, for me to be tempted by. Perhaps I am MEANT TO PASS IT BY in recognizing it a MAJOR TEMPTATION. Perhaps I am meant to forsake it! OMG! Maybe it is a TEST! I have been passing it by all week…..wondering if someone else will take it before I cave to the thing I kind of secretly want.

Maybe I will fill it with water and start brewing healing…..yes HEALING, here in the work room each morning to see what others will say or do. Shock treatment for sure if I brew coffee in front of the world and the pious staff of my school. Ha ha. This is liable to blow someone’s mind. Mine included. I have been exclusively a watered down oatmeal girl breakfaster each and every day these last seven years. I wonder….what would change offer me?

On another level, I FEAR this coffee pot attraction could be mistaken for a weapon or torture device, rivaling Matilda’s “chokey.” Breach of Safe Schools Policies far worse than my cowgirl boots that sport six shooters. What if I BURNED myself? Then again….what if I did not. Maybe I read a lot more into things than what really exists. Maybe I am delusional. Maybe. YES.

Could this device be a Safety inspection violation. We do have resident DIE CUTTERS! BINDERS! PUNCHERS!, and large machete paper CUTTERS! Ahhh! Sounds like a gauntlet or video game that some of my students would love to play. Ahhh!

Teachers come and go to a down sized guillotine paper cutter. I try not to lose my head in finding someone elses mess. Some clean up after themselves, and others think they are above the law. The scrapped paper leaves a trail to “no one knows who.”

What’s more…laminants roll out like a long defiant tongue. Sometimes I just get stuck. I re-FUSE to be sucked into something not my business. Too, teachers have been know to get a bit HEATED over this machine. They cuss when the job comes undone in the barrel not being hot enough, or when the tongue gets stuck in undesirable mode. It has been know to chew up and spit out jobs. This applies to conversation here at times as well. I have become skilled in quickly reading whether there is a safe scene in the work room, and to respond appropriately in either proceeding forward, or rerouting away. Sometimes detour in avoiding negative is the best course. 🙂

Also weekly, and on tour, is the Summit County Newspaper spread out in all its glory on the counter. It’s fun to see how North Summit and South Summit students are shining, who’s child is getting married, or homecoming or going, or transferred to some remote part of the proselyting Mormon corner of the world. Imperialism. Manifest religious destiny. Ugh! Photos, mugshots confirm that it is good to see who is in trouble and who should be looked out for. And then there are obituaries. Good to know who has died and how you can support the family and child who you are most closely connected to at school.

Daily, weekly, I weakly make the long walk toward sanity in passing through the work room, in checking in with office personnel, a once favorite and enjoyable past time. This is a nice divergence toward adult happy, and gets me out of my stale, cluttered classroom. I am grateful for this “other” happy space and for other wise adults, and rooms including the sick room and the upgrade, deluxe bathroom with disinfectant spray. This latrine lacks the uni-sex sign and you can actually sprawl out in here. Still, no Eleanor Roosevelt Tampon Dispenser or words of wisdom on packaging. I have to create my own understanding.

Once in a while in the work room, an insurance group or investor promotes a teacher drawing that promises prizes. This is fun. I won a kindle once in this, and then turned around and sold it to the swimming pool manager for her son’s Christmas. In this I made a profit of fifty dollars. I was proud I could turn a dollar. This is not my normal illiterate with money matters self. Once a decade, I am proud of my calm and collected business head. I think…Wow! I am capable of a doing business. I CAN do so much more than I give myself credit for.

So business is what teaching is all about. Instruction and NO monkeying around. I better get focused and back to work. This writing is becoming a distraction toward the sick room, but truth is today the work room is visiting the sick room and helping me to heal. Nurse Linda is saying I am okay after all. Guess we won’t be calling my mother. She is in heaven. No point in communicating. All of my email have come back.

I wonder if my mom knows this thing that just popped up on my computer: How to Take My Butt From Flat to Full in Ten Moves. Not sure Nurse Linda would want to discuss this thing. Not sure I would want to either. Might cause me to throw up. Instead, we could maybe talk about how flossing will extend my teaching career by four years. This while waiting for a warm rice pack to heat in the teachers’ lounge microwave. This is going down hill fast.

So, until next time…..this is the Mermaid singing scales from the Sick Room. 🙂

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About hrobertson2013

“Each man ( and mermaid) will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land”. Isa 32:2 NIV Warning: The author of this blog is not an ordinary individual. Even Mermaids need a rest from all that's real and grown up. Welcome to the wonder of blog. Come be audience to all that's wet and wild in her stories, poems and thoughts. Instructor by day, super hero by night, and mystical mermaid by summer. Whenever she has the fortune of diving into a pond, reservoir, or mountain waterfall, you'll find her there swimming, and singing songs of life.
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