A Day in the Life (Summer School Edition)

5:50 a.m.  I try to wake up and start my run before I realize what I’m doing. Sean stays in bed, letting the sun pink the walls slowly as he eases into the day. Usually by the time I wake up fully, the sun is just breaking over the trees and I’m smiling, halfway down the road. I try to push my distance a little every day, to run the length of that sorghum field, to circle that pole barn, to turn around at that road cut. This morning, I startled a young possum in the ditch and was myself startled by a rattlesnake, as big around as my bicep, curled dead in the road.
I come home, shower, and get dressed in my teacher uniform: usually a skirt, a t-shirt, flats, and earrings. Sean packs my laptop, a waterbottle and a banana in my bag and pops in a bagel for me. At 7:00, we’re out the door.

7:45 a.m.  Papers laid out, pencils sharpened, we’re in the cafeteria, watching the kids eat breakfast, breathless from the whirlwind of copying and tidying before class. At 8:00 we walk our groups to our respective classrooms, and teach for two 90 minute blocks with a thirty minute recess in the middle where we supervise the kids on the patio. The first few minutes of class is always a push to get kids settled and working on their do now/bellwork/entry task. The bells don’t ring during summer school, so there’s no distinct start to class, and kids take advantage of that blurred line. Someone is usually singing or building a paper airplane or pretending they can’t find a pencil or paper (I provide them: they’re right in front of you, dingbat), or squabbling about a seat. After bellwork, we get rolling with a discussion or experiment and I get them going on a problem or a problem set within ten minutes. At Lee, I’ve found I can count on about a three-minute class-wide attention span. I’ve got ten at Palestine, but I have more relationships, authority, and reputation up there. I break up the work-time accordingly, so we review problems frequently and I give plenty of opportunities for kids to talk math. It looks like mayhem, but it works pretty well. I did a bangup job of captaining my team to victory over function notation today. The most fabulous disruption of the day was this:

I’m assisting a student on one side of the classroom.
A student asks permission and then gets up to sharpen his pencil.
There’s a commotion on the other side of the classroom from me, near the pencil sharpener.
K: Whoah! he’s getting sexual over here!
R: did you see – he – he – he tried to kiss me!
J: (from across the room) BWAKAHAHAHAHA  — HE’S GETTING SEXUAL!
I glare at J and she turns down the volume
M: I didn’t try to kiss him! I was just making kissy noises! (Makes kissy noises)
J: (from across the room) OMG (Makes unreasonably loud kissy noises)
R: He tried to kiss my EAR!

12:00  It’s hot at noon in Marianna. It’s really, really hot. I get headaches and I sweat like pigs would sweat if they could (they can’t). We wait outside on a covered walkway for the buses to come after lunch, and keep kids from hurting each other or sneaking away to do who-knows-what behind the building. It’s a steam-mirage of sneakers smacking the concrete, yellow buses, sticky blacktop, yelling voices, sweat. At 12:30 we get to leave, and it’s a horrible relief to sink into the soft passenger’s seat of the Nissan: a relief because I’ve been on my feet for six hours already, horrible because our car is black and the inside at noon is hot enough to explode cans of soda (true) and melt rubber bands (true). Sean starts the car and we crank the A/C. It roars and sputters and blows hot air like a salon for the first few minutes, then blessed cold. By the time we’re halfway home, we can turn it down to half-power.

1:00 p.m.  It’s too hot to work outside. Sean fixes us lunch and I spend a few hours in the afternoon each day working on indoor projects: canning, tanning, lesson planning. I do some dishes, dick around on the internet, read a little, tidy something somewhere, check on the chickens, and suddenly it’s sunset, and well past time to think about dinner. Sometimes, we manage to work in the garden for a while, but lately it has not cooled off until just before dawn, and gardening in the afternoon in these conditions is out of the question.

8:30 p.m. Dinner is usually something wonderful: we rarely visit the store these days, so our meals are almost all Arkansas-grown. Tonight, it’s braised cabbage with green apples and caramelized onions, our cherry and tarragon turkey sausage, and cucumber, basil and mint salad with slivers of red onion. Not from here: red onion, green apple. We eat on the futon under the clicking ceiling fan and watch a movie or an episode of something (Freaks and Geeks, tonight) with the volume up to drown out the window unit that growls in the background.

900 p.m. It’s storming and, inevitably, there’s a crisis. Sean goes down to check on the pigs and I hear him hollering over the thunder. I rush to the porch door and peer out through the curtain of rain, looking for the flashlight.
“are you there, Sean?”
a flicker of light through the six-foot tall jungle of wet grass
“yes but the pigs aren’t. I can’t find them anywhere.”
Sean slumps up to the steps, exhausted at the prospect of the wet, muddy search ahead, and I’m ready to head in and grab my coat when there’s an unmistakable grunt from under the porch, then a chorus of snurfles. The pigs are under the porch, sheltering from the storm.

10:00 p.m. late, cold dinner. Turns out, there’s not a damn thing you can do to move a 150 lb pig that doesn’t want to go out in the rain. Damn. They’ll be there in the morning, the impudent swine.

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Pterodactyls

In Arkansas, birds in chevrons unzip the winter sky, always on their way to some finer place. Maybe they’re going someplace with topography. From time to time, on my way home, I’ve seen whole fields carpeted with white acres of snow geese, invariably melted by morning. One day this winter there were hundreds of seagulls fishing in the lake. On Thursday, there were a handful of handsome white pelicans, drifting like dignified marshmallows in the fog over the water.
I had a praxis in Helena this morning, so I took the low road and drove slow with the radio up and the windows down. I’ve come to love country music since I came to live here: I like songs about badass ladies, loving men, bare feet, dirt roads, skinny dipping, hard work, and campfires. I also like bad puns. There are still no leaves on the trees, but today had the feel of a spring Saturday, and with Sean on a field trip, I had the world to myself. After my test, I picked up snacks in town and had a picnic at the rookery. The rookery is miles of pitted dirt from anything, and the sun was shining on Carro’s roof like the bat signal. I heeded the message and hopped up, snacking on chips, basking in the sunshine, reading, gazing up at the blue sky framed by the bare cypress and water tupelo, and tuning in to the barred owls, the absence of human noise, and the occasional cry of a prehistoric monster from the treetops.
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We think they’re wood storks, but we haven’t gotten close enough to be sure. They nest in the bald cypress and they are magnificent. They’ve been gone all winter, and I’ll take it as a sign of spring that they’re here again. One of my summer ambitions is to paddle out to their trees and collect a feather. I want to feel the panic and the cool shade on my shoulders as a pterodactyl shadow flows over me, muting the sun for seconds as a time.

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P.S. Sean found a dead possum in our garbage can yesterday, and neither of us put it there! It’s a mystery: did it crawl in there before the ice storm and then die of exposure? Did it choke on some particularly nasty bit of refuse?