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  • I’m ten minutes early. This is the first day I’ve been remotely close to on time due to the traffic in the city and I’m early. Much as I loathe most mornings, I can’t deny the grin of accomplishment on my face. I resolve to be a delight to everyone I speak to today. I feel like it’s my responsibility after being granted such swift passage.

    “Good morning!” I chirp at the receptionist in the front office. “How are you today?”

    “A bit rough,” she tells me slowly.

    “Aw! Well, I hope your day improves!” I respond, signing in, adding, “at least it’s Friday!”

    “That it is, thank god,” she sighs, dismissing me. “You have a good day, now.”

    I smile and wave. “You, too!” As I back out the office door, I wonder how loud I’d been speaking in the office. Everyone had looked up at me. Was I yelling? Maybe the receptionist had a headache and that’s why she was “rough.” I know my voice can be a bit strident – had I made her day worse?

    I come out of my reverie and realize I’ve been frowning into the middle-distance toward two students walking down the hall hand in hand. The boy nudges the girl and they part as I pass, muttering apologies. Was that because of me? How long had I been glaring at them? Was there another teacher behind me in the hall? I throw a cursory glance back down the hall as I sidle into the media center.

    “Good morning!” the voice is right behind me and I gasp and jump. All eyes are once again on me. “How goes it?” asks Mr. Peatbog, my coordinating teacher. He’s a quirky Englishman with a perpetually mischievous grin.

    “Good grief!” I manage. “You about scared the living daylights outta me!”

    “‘Living daylights,’” he repeats, by way of apology, I’m assuming. “How does one possess a daylight, I wonder.”

    “I don’t know,” I confess, still shaken, but regaining my composure. “It’s just a Southern colloquialism.” I typically try to avoid sounding too Southern, but this one slipped out.

    “Mm. Right then. Let’s sit down and have a chat about the day, then, shall we?”

    I follow him to a table toward the back of the library – he has a very purposeful gait, direct and no-nonsense - and he gets out his planner, scrawled with purple ink. “We’ll start off with vocabulary. Are you prepared to run that yourself today?”

    “Absolutely!” I try to revert back to my air of confidence and preparedness from earlier.

    “Lovely-jubbly. I rather like hearing you do the vocab. I learn new things with your Latin connections each time. I think it’s refreshing for them as well.” He rarely calls the students “students.” To them, he says “citizens,” to me, they are “them.”

    “Glad to help! I just like bringing my Latin background up whenever I can.” I’m nerdy and I know it.

    He continues on with the outline for the day. “We’ll introduce The Knight’s Tale today,” he tells me. “I’m going to start it for them – I’ll read for about ten minutes. Then I’ll have them read independently for the rest of the period. How do you feel about mirroring that for the next period?”

    “Sounds great!”

    “Good then.” He squints at the clock. “We have approximately eight minutes until the bell. I’m going off in search of cakes! You’re welcome to follow.”

    So I did.

    I ran through vocab in third period just like I always did. I thought it went smoothly, and Peatbog commented that he thought it went "quite well." Next, I watched him read to the class. “Read” may not be the best term. He would read, but he would stop and point out words, imagery, and call on students to act out scenes. I took extensive notes – each thing he pointed out, I underlined, and each scene he wanted students to act out, I noted. Next period, I would be him.

    Fourth period came. I was not Peatbog. I tried. But I couldn’t replicate the smooth transitions he had mastered. I couldn’t imitate his style, couldn’t keep the class on their toes. It was, overall, a complete bust.

    “How do you feel that went?” Peatbog asked me over lunch.

    “It was okay,” I said hesitantly. “It definitely could have gone a bit better.”

    “Something to ponder,” he said around a mouthful of meatless pasta. “You don’t have to ask every question that I do.”

    I nodded, a line from a movie popping into my head. You do you, Scotty P.

    When the students came back in for fifth period, I read slower. I stopped where I wanted to stop, tentatively pointing them to various words and phrases and hoping they’d see what I did. “What do you think Theseus is going to do about the mourning women?” I asked the class.

    Tatum, a student who was not paying attention, announced, “Kill them!” just hoping that he would be right so I’d move on.
    I feigned shock. “Kill them? What?! Why on earth would he do that? Like, they’re begging for his aid, for clemency, and he’s just all, ‘Get off my horse’s bridle, girl!’” I said the last bit as if I were a "gangsta" in a rap video, and the whole class sat up straighter, half of them laughing out loud. I had them. And all I had to do was stop thinking and do me.
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