In my panic in realizing that it is indeed August, and that school starts in roughly three weeks, I received a text from a colleague. It read: “Have you seen the newest job posting on the school website?”
I clicked away from my most recent Pinterest search and went to our school’s site for job openings. There it was: “VP Position at Ms. Mocha’s School.”
I swear I orgasmed on the spot.
See, I had had my computer open and had been avoiding drafting an email requesting a meeting with Uber Vanilla and our equity coordinator, and our HR director. I felt that it was necessary after Uber Vanilla had intentionally left me off an interview panel, even though I was one of the first to volunteer. They asked a sixth grade teacher to represent the seventh grade because “she had taught it before.”
I just didn’t feel like starting the year with the dial turned up all the way to “Maximum Bullshit.”
Anyway, now I could avoid that Xanax-required activity and bask in what this all means. It means I can feel safe to be myself at school again. It means that I can ask about making our school more equitable without hearing, “but our parents might not like that activity…” aka, “our white, wealthy parents might think that is too ethnic and weird.”
I smiled like a released prisoner that whole afternoon. In a way, I kind of had felt trapped at my school ever since the “Ms. Mocha is scary and too aggressive” fiasco.
I texted my coworkers furiously, who either reacted with shock (“Now what will we do?!”) to downright euphoria (“It’s too damn hot to be Christmas!” one wrote me).
The next school year rolled out like a red carpet in front of me, and I started to imagine the possibilities. With a completely new admin team, we could really make some awesome changes.
Then I remembered my whiteboard. That was going to be the first change.
You see, I was moved rooms. My “new” room is in the farthest corner from my VP’s office (coincidence? I think not) and it came with a slew of issues. Some of them being:
- Half the room’s lights flicker, giving my room a migraine-inducing, strobe-light effect. I’m sure it’ll make reading really fun.
- There is a perfect, handle-shaped hole in my wall because the doorstop disappeared at some point in the last year.
- Random wires are dangling from the ceiling.
- The previous teacher had a hamster named Bear. Bear smelled. Therefore, my classroom smells like the rodent section at Petco.
- And last, but not least, I had a nonmagnetic whiteboard (like, what is the point? That’s like nonalcoholic beer) that had a crack running through it. I had asked for it to be replaced, and Uber Vanilla had put the kibosh on that one, saying that if one person asked for a white board, then “everyone will want one.”
“But mine’s broken,” I said, gesturing to the crack you could see from across the room.
“Well,” Uber Vanilla said, “I can put in a work order, but I can tell you right now: your chances aren’t good.” She shrugged and walked away.
“Thanks for being so helpful,” I remember muttering.
Now, Uber Vanilla was leaving. And there were two empty classrooms with beautiful, magnetic whiteboards.
I armed myself with a drill and got to work. My shitty whiteboard came off easy enough. It was mainly made of plastic and held in the wall with a few screws.
It was the new whiteboard that would prove difficult. As I entered the room it was in, already stuffed with broken desks and dented file cabinets, I realized that I could see my VP’s office from the window.
And my VP was in that office.
I stood there with the drill in my hand. And then I thought, fuck it.
I left the lights off and the door closed to mute as much noise as possible, but drills are loud and this one apparently has the brightest effin’ light on it to help you see the screws.
Each time I drilled out a screw, and this particular whiteboard had a million, I winced and looked toward the door. But either her hearing is awful, or she really just doesn’t care anymore, because I saw zero movement in her office.
By the time I finally got the whiteboard off the wall, I was drenched in sweat. It poured off my nose and forehead, but as I stared at this perfect whiteboard (I am fully aware that I sound crazy, but if you’re a teacher, you know the importance of having decent classroom supplies) I felt like I was finally, finally, taking control of my classroom and myself again. I had let Uber Vanilla dictate my feelings about school for far too long. She had made me question my effectiveness as a teacher, colleague, and person.
I dragged the new whiteboard into my hamster-stench room, and dragged the broken one back into the empty classroom. I picked up my drill and the hardware I’d need to put the new one up in my new room, and as I walked out of the classroom, Uber Vanilla rounded the corner.
We both stopped. Since I was wearing yoga pants and a tank top, I couldn’t exactly stuff the bright orange drill anywhere, and I was holding a giant shoe box full of screws and washers.
We locked eyes, and I didn’t look away. I hoped that she could see my utter and complete disappointment in her as a leader. As a colleague. As a fellow educator. As a person. I hoped that she could see that I had grown stronger in the time it took me to take a whiteboard off a wall, and most of all, I hoped she could see the “GOOD RIDDANCE” spelled out nice and clear in the dark brown of my irises.
She ducked her head and walked into her office. And she closed the door.
I walked back to my room, set the box of hardware next to my new whiteboard, turned off the lights before they gave me a headache, and closed the door. I know that better things will be waiting for me when I open it again in a few weeks.