Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Early Days at IS 49

I arrived Intermediate School 49 the day that school began. I went to the prinicipal's office. No one had hear of me, no one knew who I was, and no one had heard of the 8plus program. I waited. I waited all that day, All the next day. And all the next day. I sat in a chair reading a book, collecting a paycheck for three days. Finally, someone from 8plus arrived. They still only vaguely acknowledged that I was supposed to be there. Also, we got another literacy teacher, a really funny science teacher, a counselor, two paras, a math teacher, and an administrator, We had six class rooms at the end of a hall where the eight graders had their classes. We had no books, no phone, no fax, no paper, and so on. We also had not students. All of the logistics were up to the teachers. We were supposed to help arrange the students schedules, as well as our own. We even had to name the school. I ended up suggesting the final idea - Cesar Chavez - since much of student population would be Hispanic.

It was a little fun getting to organize everything. But, it was so far from what I expected. I thought that I would walk into a school and be handed a schedule, a class, and start teaching. Beginning this way was very daunting to me. The administrator was trouble from the beginning, but the teachers and secretaries were okay. I had a particular fondness for O. She was a little younger than me. She was startingly beautiful. She came from a large Catholic family, many of whom were nuns. She was really a good teacher, though only a fellow in her second year. Her first year had been spent in an infamous Brookyln high school were she reported that students pushed pornography in her face and threatened her. Teachers were caught having sex in the stairway, and students attempted to throw a teacher out the window.

Now, that I had a position, as disfunctional as it was, I had vowed to help my friend in the Fellows get a job. I went to the school lobby to call him. The pay phone was dead. I asked to use a phone in the office. This was also dead. I went upstairs to our planning room. The science teacher said "A plane hit the world trade center." I thought (literally) "Boy, that's odd." And we all went back to work. A few minutes later the entire situation came to light. The IS 49 teachers had to remain at the school. Luckily, we had no students, so we were released. When I went outside, I had a clear view of the burning towers. Luckily, I was on a bus route and the buses were running. I got home quickly. I could go on and on about these events: the hysteria, the panic, the slowness, even the comedy of it. For example, my dad in New Mexico convinced me that ATMs might close so we got 300 out of the bank. He also said we needed water and supplies so we bought water, wine, and potato chips. School was canceled for 2 days and we stayed in the house that time. Finally, I went back and we continued where we left off with our organizing.

I think it was early to mid October that we finally got students.

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