The Roll Call Of Sorrow

When I first walk-in around 6:30 AM, I’m always struck by that institutional smell. It’s not a bad smell; it’s just, well, a school smell.

I like to get to work early. But this is not out of any ambition, any work ethic. My day is long; my work is hard. I like to begin with silence.

A silence which ends at 7:10 AM, when the school awakens.

It’s easy to fall in love with my students. I love their innocence, their energy, the way they flitter from one locker to the next, one friend to the next, a constant whirl of motion, noise, in the hallway just outside my room, Room 213.

They are agitated, hungry, frightened, tense, disorganized, confused, in need of more light. Like me. Just like me.

First bell, homeroom, 7:20. Dawn.

I call the roll. Danny, this hyper kid, is out of his seat again. He is always compliant, but it usually takes telling him three times to get him into his seat. He should be in special ed., that’s obvious, but, because of the bureau¬cracy, I’m told this is unlikely to happen, this despite the fact that his needs are transparent.

Someone tells me Josh is in juvenile detention. I want to ask, but don’t have the time in the swirl of motion that is homeroom. Besides, I’ll see him this afternoon, or I won’t.

Still, I pause for a moment at this news. I like Josh, and he likes me. But his eyes are dead. How do I bring hope to a kid I’ll never turn my back on?

Then announcements over the PA. My PA doesn’t work well, it never has, so there’s always a lot of, “What did they say? Was that my name? What time is the field trip? They say music, or was that math, that’s cancelled?”

Someone lost a lunch card. Out of my twenty-five kids, all but one qualify for free lunch. To qualify, a family must make less than $20,000 or so.

Dolan, who plans to play fullback for the N. F. L., is proud that he scored the winning touchdown last Saturday. He demonstrates his triumphant catch to all who will listen. Few do.

Someone says they talked to the sixth grader who went into labor during fifth period yesterday.

Another kid asks who did the homework. No answer.

The bell rings again.

My first class begins at 7:30.


Filed under: Prose, Publius