Walking Around House Naked

This framed card hangs right by my school desk.



It’s a reminder that I once would rather scrub toilets for a living than teach unruly teenagers.

My fourth year. Around late September. On a Friday, end of school day. Principal’s office.

Me: I’m not coming back. I’m done.

Principal: What’s wrong?

M: I can’t teach these kids. I hate it here.

P: You just need some time off.

M: Like the next nine months off. I’m sorry. I’m a lousy teacher. I don’t know how to do this.

P: Fawn, I’m not letting you leave. Take a week off. We’ll get you a sub. No worries.

M: You don’t understand. My mind is made up.

P: I understand that you’re really stressed. I see it all the time. You’re working too hard.

M: You don’t know that I cry every Sunday night because I dread the upcoming week. And when I’m driving to school Monday morning, I actually wish to hear news that the school had burned down over the weekend.

P: I’m sorry.

M: Me too. What kind of sick teacher wishes that, right?

P: Is this about a particular kid or group of kids? A parent?

M: No. I just hate them all.

P: I’m still not letting you just quit. Do I have to remind you your husband is still in medical school? You can’t afford to quit, Fawn.

M: I’ll scrub toilets. At least I’ll feel accomplished when I’m done with them. I love the smell of bleach. We’ll manage somehow.

P: Take a week off. Call me next Friday.

M: Fine. I’ll do that. But next Friday I’ll call to remind you to hire someone for the rest of the year.

The following Friday. I waited until school was out to call. I had the whole scene played out in my head: one of our two school secretaries would pick up the phone, I’d ask to speak with the principal, then I’d tell my principal exactly this: Thank you for the week off. Now, I quit.

Me: Hi! This is Fawn. May I speak with [principal] please?

Counselor: Hi Fawn. She was just here. Let me try to find her.

(A good 5 minutes went by.)

C: Sorry, I can’t find her. Can I take a message? Were you absent today?

M: I was absent all week. I really need to talk with her. Can I just wait or call back?

C: I didn’t know you weren’t here last week! Is everything okay?

M: Yeah.

C: Sure, you can wait for her. Oh, hey, I almost forgot. I actually need to talk with you anyway.

M: Yeah?

C: We have to let [a math/science teacher] go at the end of next week. Budget cuts.

M: That sucks!

C: I know. So I had to re-do our whole schedule. Your classes will change quite a bit. Want me to tell you what they are while we wait?

The whole chain of events still befuddles me:

  • Where were our two school secretaries that Friday afternoon that made our counselor pick up the phone instead? (Her office was across the hallway.)
  • Where was my principal?
  • We had to lay off that nice new teacher? After the school year had already started?
  • Any other staff member could have answered the phone — so why the counselor who apparently had to talk with me anyway because of all the changes to my schedule?

I didn’t have fewer kids, actually had more due to losing one teacher. I didn’t have a different set of kids, they just got shuffled around in my schedule.

Counselor: So, Fawn, sorry for all the changes.

Me: I know. Sad to lose the new teacher. Great guy.

C: Do you just want to leave a message for [principal]?

M: Yes, please. Just tell her thank you and I’ll see her Monday.

I bought the card during that one-week hiatus. It’s more funnier now. I once gave up. This teaching thing was once too hard for me. I sucked that badly at it.

If you ever think that you suck at something, like teaching, then it’s quite likely that you do suck at it. But if your heart is in it, like 100% in it, then you’ll suck less as time goes on. Kindly let your “sense of humor” and “pride in work” and “ability to explain” expand and occupy larger spaces in your teacher brain. Don’t completely do away with “walking around house naked” though — just keep the curtains drawn.

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