The Hardest Answer: First Daybycawastedyouth©
Six-thirty blinked on Lauren's digital clock on the windowsill. For nearly ten bleary minutes, she'd been staring at the clock.
-I start teaching school today.- It felt like an odd statement. Teaching had always come naturally to Lauren; deciphering information in multiple formats was easy. Though not an expert at the five-minute 'regurgitation' that was generally preferred by public schools, her retention was remarkable. Lectures, reading, or activities, Lauren was quite remarkable in that respect.
The alarm on her clock tripped and started pulsating its demand. Lauren sat up and shut it off. As she got dressed from the clothes she picked out the night before, she began to feel more confident. A firmly starched collar always did that for her. She belted her chinos and then went to the bathroom to check her hair and brush her teeth. Methodically, she went through a mini-checklist in her head.
-Lunch: sandwich, soda. Breakfast: bowl, oatmeal, cup of milk.-
Her briefcase was sitting on her computer chair and there was a new notebook from work inside for note taking, another coin splurge. All of her preparations made for a smooth sailing, something she dearly needed.
-I am not going to tell anyone how nervous I am right now.-
At seven-twenty in the morning, Lauren pulled up to the bike racks on her bike and locked her bike. The morning air was cool; dew dotted the fine blades of grass that would soon be trampled upon by students trying to make the school their own. The first class would start soon, but she had to pick up a key and other things with administration. The campus was covered in parents running around trying to make an impressive first day at a new school. She went into the office where wires were running around as the staff tried to figure out how to connect the phones.
The frazzled principal looked up from signing papers to the contractor and saw Lauren.
"Ready for a good year?" he asked.
Lauren stammered, "Yes sir." She shook his hand all too aware that her hand was clammy.
"We have your key right here. For your classroom, all staff rooms..."Lauren stopped listening to him and looked at the small mountain of paperwork that was thrust upon her to get the key. She began nodding.
"Paul has your class lists."
"I memorized the schedule of the students. I'll be greeting the first one at the hour." Lauren stopped realizing she was contradicting her boss.
"Well that's nice. Have a good year!" He didn't seem to notice. She sighed thankfully. The principal was sucked away by parents trying to do something they had planned for weeks.
Meeting the students was important especially on the first day. Most of the students were sixth graders, and this was their first move to a new school. She had memorized each of the eight faces of her students, their individual schedules and their teacher's names, roughly fourteen different combinations to introduce. In a few cases according to their files, the students weren't able to verbalize their names though they were encourages to speak whenever they could for themselves.
Lauren had to admit as she handed the clipboard with eight signed papers back to the secretary who handed her a key that she was definitely feeling as unorganized as the office was, but it would change as soon as school started.
Lauren seemed to settle as she ran into her first student of the day, a very polite and self-sufficient autistic boy who smiled when he saw her. Her schedule had her swapping out over three class sessions in PE. From her experience, PE did not involve much the first few days anyway, so the collared shirts she had prepared for the week would be sufficient. Lauren ducked around without her briefcase, having left it in a safe place in one of her classrooms and looked at one of her other students as he wiped snot on his sleeve of what most likely was a brand new shirt for the first day of school.
She groaned internally. I'm going to need a kit of stuff for each of these kids. Lauren signed to the student asking him if he needed to go to the restroom to use Kleenex. The student zoned in and out as the teacher spoke to the class.
Embarrassed that she had mixed up the disabilities of her students, she softly asked her student if he needed to use the restroom to wash his hands. He looked back at her blankly and Lauren just let it go.
Jo came in an hour later. All day they would switch off between students and exchange useful notes about the students.
After the hectic first day of school, Julia sought out Lauren and found her in her classroom sorting through papers and binders. It was strange; Paul and the other aides had already left. But she already was a workaholic when I first met her anyway. Julia reasoned.
"Hi Lauren." She was bubbly.
Lauren looked up from the papers and carefully stacked them stuttering "Hi."
"How was your first day?" Lauren asked. Julia was a little taken aback, the child she had known would have never asked the first question. Julia took a seat across from Lauren at the table she was working at.
"It was good. I think I have an inquisitive bunch this year. How about your charges?"
Lauren looked at the short list over. "I think it's going to be okay. I met two of them last year while covering for someone who was chronically ill."
Julia couldn't keep her amazement to herself anymore. "I'm really impressed that you've made such progress."
"It's pretty amazing to me, I can talk now eh?" Lauren grinned and Ms. Lasting had to laugh. "I work at it. I'm okay with the students: I know what they need when they need. But general conversations I have to really work at it, but worse comes to worse, I have a notepad I can get through if I'm really anxious."
Anxiety had nearly crippled Lauren in middle school and high school. Unlike her peers' desire to be like the others, Lauren was more existential. At twelve when Julia first met her, Lauren was already questioning and rationalizing her personal existence. She comprehended multitudes of gray answers and would get lost in those shades miring her life into a heavy depression. To cope back then, she had done whatever was expected of her.
-And it nearly cost you your life Lauren Hartfield.-
"What about dating? Men? Women?" Dude, why don't you just make this harder on me. Lauren looked away briefly and shrugged.
"Dating hasn't happen really. Of either gender." Lauren had never admitted this to any of her close friends.
"So are you bi, lesbian, straight? Oh what am I saying, of course you haven't dealt with this!" she laughed. "I'm a lesbian. I came out after I left my husband."
-Why does this laughter hurt?- Lauren wondered, but laughed uneasily anyway. She did register Julia's confidence in her sexual outing. It was a forefront thought.
"Okay give me a hug, I have a meeting to get to." And in that hug, Ms. Lasting hung onto Lauren just long enough to make Lauren wonder. Her head was carefully crooked into Lauren's broad shoulders. Lauren locked her eyes forward and blinked wishing she knew what to do.
A whisper came as Ms. Lasting pulled away. "Do you drink?"
"Good I need someone to go out drinking with. I'm buying." Lauren tipped her head to the side as she headed out the door.
Lauren watched Ms. Lasting leave and felt her heart fall into her stomach. She calmed her breathing. Lauren looked around and packed up her things, putting away the students' files.
'Do you drink? I'm buying?' The conversation replayed itself in Lauren's head. It unnerved her. 'What about dating? Men? Women? Oh, what am I saying, of course you haven't dealt with this!' Lauren unlocked her bike, ignoring the fact that her hands were trembling.
Never in her wildest dreams could Lauren have believed that fate would re-cross her path with Ms. Lasting. Her heart skipped beats when she was in the same room with her. Having English class with their eight graders and her was going to trample her ability to actually focus. Every day, right before lunch, she would get to have fifty-five minutes with her. Hanging on her every word, working closely with her in ways she could have only imagined of as a child. She couldn't lay her finger on why she responded as she did to her. Lauren nearly skidded off her bike in shock at the first stop sign.
-I can't have feelings for Ms. Lasting!- Lauren re-adjusted her briefcase strap and proceeded through the intersection. -Can I?-
Lauren was puzzled by the realization. Her admission felt like a slap in the face. Just because there were gestures in a friendly nature did not mean that there was any intent at all. Lauren squashed the thought as quickly as she created it.
It was not all right to have these feelings for a co-worker.
Julia's first day had started at five-thirty with a warm shower, and then came the arduous task of waking her son who was curled up in a little ball on his bed. After fifteen minutes of coaxing, Jeremy sat up, rubbing his eyes and padded off to the bathroom.
She packed his lunch and put an apple in her briefcase with a bottle of water.
"Mom, my shirt doesn't fit!" hollered her son.
"Come on out and let me see." She replied. He came out of the bathroom, trying to put his t-shirt on with his head through an armhole. With a smirk, Julia adjusted her son's attempt and then sent him back to his bedroom to finish getting dressed.
Julia's car was the third staff car into the lot. Her son was with the sitter who would pick him up after work. The dusty yellow light of early morning bathed the buildings. It was going to be an amazing first day of school.
Every seat in her classroom was filled for her first class. Immediately she began shifting students. Julia was flexible as long as her students demonstrated maturity and a work ethic. Some combinations she knew would not work at all, having had many of the students from another campus across town. At the door, a slightly frazzled Lauren came in late with one of her physically disabled students.
"Kristy, can you take another seat and we'll let Ginny have the seat closer to the door." Kristy obliged without any form of comment though several of her classmates stared at Ginny uncomfortably. Students with permanent physical disabilities were still rare in the school district. Often, it was just more convenient that the student was enrolled in a separate program like home schooling to deal with their frequent doctor's appointments. The result was all too often uneducated peers who were generally kind or dismissive of physically disabled students. Ginny was undeniably alone most of her free time. No one really spoke to her unless they absolutely had to. Certainly most students had been taught by someone in their life not to stare or not to ask questions of the disabled.
Ginny was generally capable, she could speak, read and write. She needed very little help outside needing to gain speed in pushing herself around. Her truest disability was her over protective parents who felt that her disability meant she needed to be protected. But to Lauren, Ginny did have one advantage; she had to deal with her disability sooner in her life. She could never hide her disability. The simple need of a wheel chair made it that obvious.
Ginny was firmly strapped into her wheel chair and with some quick modifications; she was settled in the classroom and able to use a desk. Lauren gently patted Ginny on the back and left quickly without a wave or any word to Julia.
-And why am I disappointed?- Julia wondered briefly and she began to hand out papers to her students.
The usual rhetoric: introduce all the students, encourage good study habits, and inspire the students who were capable of thinking outside of the box while not turning off those that needed the box. Julia was known in the school for having a core of boisterous thinkers, but they were brilliant students.
All day, whenever there was a quiet moment, Julia would look up and there was Lauren either running to a class to be with a student or helping a student to get to the right class. Julia smiled. She loved seeing Lauren on campus. It some how was just in Lauren's persona that she would be great at this job.
Classes ran quickly, it was lunch and then suddenly, the end of the school day. Having been partially slighted and mostly curious, Julia sought out Lauren.
Watching Lauren examine every page and the material in the binder. She didn't want to interrupt, there was something about Lauren at that very moment, but Julia spoke up. Julia watched Lauren's blank expressions as she shared herself. Lauren was so very good at keeping her quelling feelings down for someone whose emotions stayed on her sleeve. It had been disappointing, wishing that she could have seen more of Lauren.
-Hopefully in time.- she told herself and went off to pick up her son.