Kitchen Facts & Fictional Living: Feeding Starving Minds at a Buffet of Questionably Prepared Food for Thought
There is no job description for a teacher. Seriously. There are expectations, sure. And there are lessons learned as we have all gone to some version of school. But that is rather where it all ends. Herman and I were sitting, having lunch, following my third day at the circus. Valerie joined us to do the litmus test to see if I was going to hang around for a little while. As we were wrapping up lunch, Val’s walkie-talkie erupts: “We need help by the buses! We need help!” I jump up and bolt out the door, only to realize I haven’t a clue as to where the buses were. Val and Herman break out into a dash down the hallway through the cafeteria so I run along. As we emerge into the cattle-holding area/bus waiting zone, there is a melee of rumbling fists, feet and pulled weaves. Were there ten people involved? A hundred? All of the 1532 students? It appeared to be an all-encompassing clash of over-sized tee-shirt wearing girls against another group of tight-fisted girls. There were other members of the War Room contingent already on the scene. I lunged at one of the brawlers as she was about to take a swing. I really have not been much of a fighter, so I used my considerable size advantage to hold her a la choke hold under my arm, with her chin and neck firmly planted in the crook of my elbow. After a moment or two, she said she was done, no more fighting. I loosened my clamp on her jugular and she turned to swing at me! One of the War Roomers was near by and knocked her down, with a quick lunge. Splat! Right to the grown. Another rioter was swinging in random fashion at another hapless warrior, so I set my focus on her and immediately pushed her to the ground. Not to be outdone again by the promise of a peaceful ending, I buried my knee directly under her chin as she lay flat out. Begging to be let up, I refused. Aha! I had gleaned experience from my first head-on attacker, so there was no going back. Barking at the crowd behind me and the rest of the peace officers, I ordered whomever was behind me to move back; I was imagining a pile-on this new cooking teacher with a dire outcome. No sooner had I done so, the buses awaiting departure did just that; their air brakes hissed and the onlookers knew the familiar release of compressed air signaled an eminent departure, so off they scurried. Police from building and the area near the buses arrived. Part terrified, part relieved, when an officer told me to relinquish my death kneel on the Xena Warrior Princess, it took just a bit of coaxing as to not allow her to come back on me. With those handy zip-tie style handcuffs, she was bound and dragged off. As the few adults in the area regrouped and the War Room contingent surveyed the carnage, we found one female instructor on the ground sobbing over her torn pants that also resulted in her torn flesh.
There are some crystal clear details that remain vivid. There are certainly relationships that were built in that first year that still remain intact. And let me clarify, those relationships are with students long since graduated and not colleagues.
The challenges, struggles and bouts with loathing were grounded in battles to fill time between bells, learn the names of these raucous heathens and make my way through the maze of trivial infrastructure of public education. This is what I had chosen. Or it chose me. Either way, wherever you go, there you are. How did this cook happen to be in a classroom? Really! How did I position myself, after years of harmonizing with the kitchen symphony, I was now shuttering at the rap and country cacophony that flooded the classroom.
***I panned that first stretch in my capacity, I stayed on at the overly priced Hyphenated Kitchen store at the mall for a while until students saw me in my green apron hawking mulled cider seasoning packets and plug-in tea pots. I was embarrassed. Teachers weren’t supposed to be seen in public. There is an air of mystery around teachers, or so I thought from my own days as a private school darling. We were kept in a dark closet and let out between bells that welcomed and closed the day. I quickly learned that the mall is sacred refuge for teenagers to covet their free time, rave about overly priced clothes and ogle the too-exposed ample cleavage of the hyper-sexed girls in tight jeans. Free time after school was becoming and anomaly. It was becoming immediately apparent that if I was going to be any good in class, lighting the torch of these smoldering minds and not make an ass of myself, I had my own homework to do. There is no 7:30 to 3:00, Monday through Friday for me.
Most who call themselves teachers are lazy jackasses, I learned early on. From kindergarten, through elementary school, middle school, high school and college, they return to academia as teachers to demonstrate and otherwise counsel vacuous minds about the world of work, yet they have never left the academic realm. That’s some tough teaching there! Bitching about class size, bitching about not having enough time in the day, bitching about having to come to school in August, bitching about having to grade papers after 3pm, bitching about salary, bitching about always bitching. Shut the hell up! Nights are basically free. Weekends are free. A chunk of June, all of July and most of August are free. And if there is nary a flake of snow, the day is free. As are the weeks surrounding Christmas, Easter and all the long weekends you can count. I say again, shut the hell up. But the students, well, they are a different story.