It’s early Friday morning as the alarm shouts into my ear with it’s irritating cacophony of vibrations. The clock on my nightstand is imploring me to start my day and begin my trek towards teaching excellence. But this is the third snooze in the last 27 minutes and – apparently – my body fervently disagrees.
BODY: I’m running on fumes here, man. I need at least 3 more hours of sleep.
Ha! 3 MORE hours of sleep. That would be 7 total hours of rest.
My body is hilarious sometimes.
BODY: Seriously, have you looked at me lately? I’m disgusting.
Okay, Body isn’t wrong. Gray hairs are sprouting everywhere like bamboo stalks. Bags have formed under my eyes and act like weights pulling down on my eye sockets. And that New Year’s resolution I made to start going to the gym on a daily basis? Maybe I was a little overly optimistic.
BODY: I would settle for once a month!
My body’s upset. But what my body doesn’t know is that I want to be a Tremendous Teacher. And to be a Tremendous Teacher you have to make some sacrifices, not the least of which is your personal well-being.
ME: Sorry, Body.
When I finally surrender to the clamor of my alarm, I roll over to the other side of the bed across a layer of Geometry papers I was grading until 2 A.M. the night before. I frantically browse through the mess of 90 exams scattered about the bed and try to find where I left off. When I started, the tests were arranged in alphabetical order because, at the time, I thought that was a good idea. Now they’re shuffled like a deck of cards at a Vegas blackjack table.
I know I began with “Anderson” and had hoped to grade all the way through “Winston,” so I start pulling out the tests in alphabetical order. Afflalo, Austin, Birch, Benson, Ciesek, Cello, Dunkin, Elliot, Epstein…
ME: C’mon, there has to be an F in here somewhere…
CONSCIENCE: Oh, there are plenty of F’s.
ME: Shut up, Conscience.
I yell at my Conscience, but he’s right. How can a tremendous teacher have so many F’s?
CONSCIENCE: Maybe you should do more.
ME: Do MORE? More than what I’m already doing?
BODY: Shut your face, Conscience! He needs to do LESS for you! Much less.
Ugh, these two are constantly fighting, and it’s endlessly annoying.
When I finish cycling through the exams, I am disappointed to find out I only made it to “Epstein.”
Shit, I promised these kids I’d have their papers graded by today.
CONSCIENCE: And you promised them that on Monday, and on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, and on Thursday…
Ugh, I hate when Conscience is right.
Just then, my thoughts are interrupted by a loud ringing on my nightstand. It’s not my clock alarm though; it’s my phone.
ME: The backup alarm!
Yes, the backup alarm. Every teacher has one. Mine is set automatically to ring every morning at 6:30 AM – the absolute latest possible time I can wake up and still have time to make it to school before 7:00.
It takes me 20 minutes to get to work, so that leaves me 10 minutes to get ready this particular morning. This is where my tremendous Conscience and dilapidated Body usually start fighting…
What do I do with this limited time?
CONSCIENCE: Grade the exams! The students have been waiting for three days!
BODY: Eat something besides a Hot Pocket! I’ve been waiting for SEVEN days!
CONSCIENCE: Make a lesson plan! You don’t have ANY!
BODY: Lose some weight! I have PLENTY!
BODY: Or, at the least, take a shower!
CONSCIENCE: Okay, yeah, I agree with Body. Definitely take a shower.
So, with that, I rush to the tub, get on my knees, and rinse my hair and face under the spout. I don’t have time for an actual shower, so this is the best I can do.
I reach for the bottle of soap but there’s nothing there.
ME: Where’s the F-ing soap??
BODY: Dude, you haven’t gone shopping in a month, and you’ve been out of body wash for a week. You cleaned me yesterday with hand soap.
Hand soap it is!
ME: Ok, THERE. That rinsing was for you, Body.
BODY: Gee. Thanks.
ME: Conscience, your turn. I’m going to grab those papers. Hopefully, I can grade the rest of them during my prep period.
CONSCIENCE: If I had a dollar for every time you promised to accomplish something during prep period…
I round up all of the papers and toss them in my bag. Like, literally, I tossed them.
CONSCIENCE: Dude, you just put those back in alphabetical order.
ME: Quiet Conscience! There’s no time for common sense right now! Ok, Body. Your turn. How much time do I have left?
BODY: 6 minutes.
ME: Good, I’ll brush my teeth. I only need like 30 seconds for that.
BODY: 9 out of 10 dentists recommend that you brush for at least 2 minutes.
ME: Well, maybe the 10th dentist was on to something.
I go to grab my brush but can’t find it.
ME: Where the hell’s my toothbrush???
CONSCIENCE: Um, you threw it out yesterday after you dropped it into the toilet while brushing your teeth while peeing.
ME: What!? Brushing while peeing?? Why the hell would I do that??
CONSCIENCE: Because you were in this exact same situation, and you thought it would save you 20 seconds.
Alright. Mouthwash will have to do.
BODY: Hey! That’s what you said yesterday!
I check the clock to see how much time is left.
CONSCIENCE: You have to respond to Mrs. Harper’s email. It’s been sitting in your inbox all week.
Crap. Ok. Fine. I open the mail app on my phone, while vigorously swishing mouthwash that burns so intensely I want to spit it everywhere.
BODY: Don’t even think about it!
I read the email from Mrs. Harper:
Dear Mr. Dagnus…
ME: Um, that’s not how you spell my name.
I couldn’t help but notice Gracey’s grade in your class has been dropping for several weeks. She is nearly at an F and I’m wondering what you can do to help bring it up. Please advise. Thank you.
Now I actually spit out my mouthwash.
ME: What I can do?? She wants to know what I can do?? How about Gracey starts showing up to class and doing her homework!?!
CONSCIENCE: You’re not actually going to write that, are you?
ME: I should!
I should, but I don’t. Or I want to, but I won’t. Instead I write:
Dear Mrs. Harper,
Thank you for reaching out…
CONSCIENCE: You’re not thankful.
I too am concerned about Gracey’s progress…
CONSCIENCE: And you’re definitely not concerned.
Please call me later today and we can talk about it in further detail.
CONSCIENCE: Oldest trick in the book…
ME: What do you mean??
CONSCIENCE: Respond to the email by putting all of the responsibility back on the parent. You know Mrs. Harper works and probably won’t have time to call you; otherwise, she would have called you in the first place.
ME: Okay, you got me. I’m hoping she doesn’t have time to call.
Next I run to my closet which now has fewer clean clothes than dirty ones. My options are limited. The remaining pants include a pair of wrinkled khakis, gray slacks with permanent marker stains, and jeans that I no longer fit into because now… I’m… athletically stocky.
BODY: Athletically stocky? It’s called being fat!
ME: Now’s not the time to argue semantics!
I choose the gray pants and hope nobody will notice the marker stains. I throw on a wrinkled dress shirt and start buttoning at a tumultuous speed, unsure if I’m matching the correct button with the correct hole. Then I quickly slip into a pair of dress shoes and stuff a crumpled tie into my pocket. As I head for the door, my phone chimes. It’s an email notification. Mrs. Harper couldn’t have responded already, could she??
The email is from the Principal, my supervisor and boss – the person who ultimately determines if I have a job every year.
What the hell does he want?
I read the subject heading: Friday Observation.
ME: Whaaaat!? A Friday observation!? Who does observations on a Friday?? Friday is fun day, unplanned day, casual jean day…
Shit! Why do I have dress clothes on??
I am going to pop-in on your 3rd period Geometry class. I just wanted to give you a heads up.
A heads-up? That’s your heads-up? I have nothing planned for 3rd period.
So much for being Tremendous.
THE LIFE OF A TREMENDOUS TEACHER: “Is It Time For Happy Hour Yet?”