The Big Finish

Training Day Four: The final day (Part 1).....and it definitely went out on an incredibly embarrassing  high note.   This is kind of a longer post - but I'm hoping the hilarity of the story is worth it!

The day started off at our own individual schools (instead of the high school.... pictures to come), where we talked about the physical logistics of actually setting up your classroom for Writer's & Reader's Workshop (leveling your library, organizing it properly for efficient usage, setting up procedures and systems so that there isn't a 20-student pile up when they go to get their Writer's notebook, etc.).   But the real fun came when I found out in front of all of my fellow elementary school new hires that my principal had taken several school administrators on a tour of my room without my knowledge.  So, my skin turned into a shade of redness I didn't know I could achieve when our district literacy coach looked at me and said outloud to my principal in a jovial manner "He's MINE!!".  To which my AMAZING principal (I *LOVE* her!) jokingly said in return "No! He's Mine!" ...which then prompted an open discussion about what I had done to my room, which my fellow new fourth grade Africa traveler joined because she had seen it last week and loved it.  I anxiously dove face first into my Dunkin' Donuts Mocha Coolatta (with skim milk of course) and hoped we could just move on to the minutia of which book is a level 'P' and which is a level 'O'.  Little did I know, the embarrassment would reach epic proportions just a few hours from that.

What was absolutely amazing, is that during a break at my school, we went out back to check out the student-run gardens.... and they were stunning.  A butterfly garden (yes, teeming with butterflies), a vegetable garden (pumpkins progressing heartily), and a salad garden run by the fourth graders which supplies the ingredients for our big spring community "salad party" where parents join the teachers and students to enjoy the fresh lettuce, carrots and onions that were harvested.  But the pièce de résistance was the outdoor reader's theater mini-amphitheater.  I promise I will bring my camera next time now that I know it's there.  It's adorable.  It's a well manicured and landscaped little area with beautiful little benches and a concrete stage, surrounded by one of those little architectural walls designed to focus the sound forward.  Unbelievable....what money, parent volunteerism and a love of public education can do.

All of the new hires united for our final lunch at the beautiful historic hotel downtown where we were hosted by the local chamber of commerce (which, you guessed it - FIRMLY supports our public schools). We were joined by several administrators, including, the head honcho himself, our quietly  intimidating superintendent.  We dined in the beautiful front atrium room (which thanks to photoshop, is highlighted in the photo), and enjoyed a chicken francaise lunch which sadly did not live up to the stunning facade of the building.  Happy to be reunited with my new friends, we were looking forward to gossiping about our experiences thus far when.... Mr. Superintendent himself looks at me, grabs the chair next to me and says "Is this taken?".  "Nope!" I say with feigned ease.  "Join us!" I say with more mustered up courage and excitement.  Awkward silence....  crickets...   ... more crickets....  "This salad is delicious!" I say as I die a little with each passing moment of silence.  

Apropos of nothing, he suddenly says in his short-and-sweet-I-can't-tell-if-you-love-me-or-hate-me-style,  "Ken took me on a tour of your room today."  (Ken is the amazing head of HR).  More silence.  Trying desperately to gauge his reaction...or at the very least, anticipate his next minimal conversational contribution, I said "Oh! Wonderful!".  I didn't want to speak too much because I'm hyper as it is, and babble way too much on a regular basis....often incoherently....ESPECIALLY when I'm really nervous...like flop sweat nervous.  You know the feeling... three words: sudden back sweat (ew).  So, I was hoping he would just offer up the next piece of dialogue.  ....Not to mention, my already embarrassing experience with him.... You see, when I first interviewed with him, (at a SUDDEN impromptu interview, no less) I talked VERY excitedly about education and my abilities.  I said I was "very energetic and ready to bring my enthusiasm into the classroom."  He just looked at me and said in a very 'holy-crap-chill-the-eff-out-manner', "Yeah - I can tell you have a lot of energy."  Burn.  I can't remember the last time I dialed it down so quickly.  

So, anyway, here we are, back at our table...and yes, I'm STILL waiting for his reaction to not only HIS bringing up of the fact that he saw my room, but MY conversation prompt of "Oh! Wonderful!".  ...Finally, I cave....with very controlled energy,  I said "Well, what did you think?  I hope it wasn't too loud...I tried to make it really inviting and kid friendly...and yet colorful at the same time ...and...." Oh crap... it was happening again.  Nervous word vomit.  I think I just stopped somewhere in the middle of the word "engaging" while awkwardly smiling.  It was so nerve-wrecking because Ken and my principal had previously raved to me about how wonderful it looks....so I knew I had administrative support for my creativity.  But, obviously, the buck stopped with him.  Finally....FINALLY...after more awkward silence, he offers up a simple.. "It was nice."  Done.  SOLD!  I'll take it.  If you'll excuse me, I need to go throw up that delicious salad now....or at the very least, swallow it back down. 

It was wonderful realizing after that exchange, that the majority of lunch still had to play out in all of its glorious vomit-inducing uncertainty.  Luckily, my awesome fellow fourth grade new hire and I started up a conversation about Africa to which he was happy to contribute (he and his wife went all over the south of Africa for two weeks in the 70's). Little did I know the real embarrassment was just minutes away.  After the president of the local chamber of commerce bragged about the school system and how each of her three kids went through our schools (one went to Georgetown undergrad and now Harvard Law, one is now in South America in the Peace Corps and the other is...I forgot...who knows...probably organizing another international Global Warming summit in Vienna somewhere)....she gave away prizes from local business via raffle.  And they were random (including mini-harmonicas from a local music store).  

But the "grand prize" was a 1/2 hour full body massage... Drawn from the bag of names, somehow my HR director pulled MINE just as my stomach was finally regaining control over all of the food it had just eaten.  I've never had a full body massage - but I've secretly always wanted one.  Happy (but slightly embarrassed because of the stigma attached to women vs. men getting massages), I quickly grabbed my envelope out of his hands and sat right back down. (Thankfully, he was right next to me, so the walk of fame....shame...wasn't too far.)  Ecstatic that any imaginable future embarrassment MUST be over with, I sit back down and regain my composure. AND THEN, he opens his mouth. In front of the entire luncheon, he says "You know, if anyone deserves this massage, it's him!  Has anyone seen his room!?  Do you know what he did?"  He proceeds to tell the entire story... "He came to his principal and asked if he could paint.  Teachers ask all the time if they could paint...but they usually just paint the moldings...or the trim.... This guy painted the ENTIRE ROOM.  Floor to ceiling.  You really gotta get over to his school and see it.  It looks incredible."  After which, the happy murmurs begin amongst the attendees... I hear a combination of " Wow's " and " I didn't know you could do that's "  ...and "I wanna see it!". 

I longed for the time when the worst of my embarrassment came this morning where I was able to retreat into my DD Coolatta.  I felt the food coming up again.  This time, it was Francaise and not salad.  And FLOP SWEAT!?  Let's just say I had to wipe my brow with my cloth napkin while disguising it to make it look like I accidentally brushed my napkin against my face as I leaned over to "grab something" on the ground.  

Flattered?  Yes.  Secretly thrilled to find out people I respected (and worked for) loved the final product?  Absolutely.  Wishing my body was incapable of producing sweat?  Ummmmmm...whattayou think?  I dialed J.K. Rowling right then and there to ask if I could borrow Harry's invisibility cloak.

So many more stories from yesterday - including more embarrassment and more hilarity.  Except this time, not entirely at my expense.  But I gotta call it quits... this post has reached War And Peace magnitude.  

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