Years ago, I was a history teacher at a medium-sized middle school in the Maryland suburbs, about halfway between Baltimore and DC. I had been a student teacher at the same school and was fortunate enough to be offered a job there. Of course, I got the offer a few months after I graduated and moved all of my things back to Connecticut where I grew up.
As anyone who has moved twice in the same year will tell you, the second time is an even larger pain in the ass. I remember still having a few boxes to unpack only a month before I decided to start packing them all up again. At any rate, I was extremely fortunate and grateful to have a full-time teaching position so soon after graduating, especially at a school where I really liked working.
Making the transition from a recently graduated former student teacher to a full-time teacher was a shock to me. After an anxiety-filled acclimation period, though, I found myself getting more and more used to the demands of the teaching life and its distinctive ups and downs.
Many of my non-teacher friends would ask, “How are those kids treating you? They aren’t being too hard on the new teacher because she’s new, are they?” The thing is, usually the most challenging part of teaching has nothing to do with the students directly. A lot of my energy is spent on the other side of the job, dealing with the other teachers and students’ parents.
The faculty meeting is one of the places where we, ideally, figure out things related to grading, school supplies, behavior issues, and other day-to-day concerns of teachers and faculty. These meetings were not too bad overall. In fact, there was always coffee with donuts, bagels, danish, croissants, or other baked goods provided.
My strategy at these meetings was to listen a whole lot more than I spoke. This approach, great for anyone involved in any sort of meeting or negotiation, is made easier when you are busy working on a slice of apple cake. Sometimes janitors, maintenance people, other school employees not involved in the meeting would drop in and help themselves to a cup of coffee and perhaps a donut or so. This was certainly not a problem or disturbance; some teachers would smile at the pastry-seeking co-worker and quietly chuckle as the meeting wore on. During one meeting, however, someone we will never forget showed up.
It was halfway through the meeting and we were just starting to discuss whatever happened to the popular item of distraction for students at the time. I had just returned to my seat after pouring my third or fourth cup of coffee that morning when I saw someone new come in the room and walk over to the coffee and pastry area. The man wasted no time as he started to pile up scones, Boston cream donuts, and ambitiously large hunks of lemon poppy seed cake onto a few plates.
Although I didn’t get a good look at him before he turned away from us, he seemed familiar in an odd kind of way. Before long, the room fell silent and everyone was staring at this person who, inexplicably, appeared to be taking all of our baked goods. After a few awkward seconds, the biology teacher sitting closest to the table blurted out “Oh shit, it’s Bill Murray!” as he turned around and aped the expression of a “deer in the headlights”.
“Heeey every-body!” he said through a mischievous grin, “How are we all doing today?”
“Oh my. What brings you to our school today, Mister Murray” our principal asked, not quite at ease.
“I was in the neighborhood, thought I’d drop in.”
Balancing the stacked plates of food in one hand, he poured himself a cup of coffee with the other. For a moment, the only sound in the room was the quiet splattering of coffee filling up a 14-ounce Styrofoam cup.
“Well, it was good meeting you. I should probably be going.”
He calmly walked to the door, which was being held open by a confused-looking teacher just returning from the bathroom.
“You know” he added as he stopped briefly before exiting the room, “No one will ever believe you.”