At 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, my English III students were finding their seats, raising their hands for lunch count, and chattering nervously to one another in their first few minutes as upperclassmen. They asked a myriad of excellent questions about their reading requirements, textbooks, and what types of writing they would be expected to complete. And I’m sure that the rest of that whirlwind half-day was filled with bonding and new experiences for all my juniors, seniors, and theatre students.
However, I can’t be sure that was exactly what happened, because at 8:00 a.m. Thursday, I had just woken up in a hospital bed at HaysMed, where a nurse checked my blood pressure, took my temperature, gave me a Percocet, and told me to get up carefully so I didn’t strain my incisions.
It was my first school day I’d missed in twenty years. And I didn’t think about it the entire day.
The day before at in-services, I coped with shooting pains on my left side in the morning, and by noon, I drove myself to the hospital for testing. In a matter of five hours, I had been scanned, tested, shuffled, diagnosed, and prepped. So much for the classroom prep (My posters aren’t all up!) and copies of syllabi I’d needed to make (How could I have waited so late to make those!). I figured I could wing a half day, and give some simple plans for Friday with a simple crack of my veteran teacher knuckles.
Before my surgery, I went through the pre-op interview with my doctor. When I asked her if I could go back on Monday, she frowned at me.
“No, no, no. You need to rest next week. If you do a good job of resting, you can go back the next Monday. Take it easy. Your classroom will wait for you.”
During the next hour while I awaited the operating room, I worried. I told my husband that my classroom wasn’t ready, that I had unfinished lesson plans, and that my secretary and principal had no idea what was happening to me. Worrying takes some time, though, and while I tried to worry, they wheeled me in for an anesthetic cocktail that the nurse guaranteed would stop any anxiety (or conscious thought).
When I woke up an hour later, it took me a few minutes to remember my own identity, much less that school would start the next day with or without me. When my husband met me in the recovery room, he greeted me with a long stream of words.
“I called your principal and secretary. They have a veteran sub for you tomorrow and Friday. Don’t worry about making plans. She’ll handle it. For next week, your friend Sarah will sub for you and will come by the house to pick up your plans and talk over any issues. Also, I called your parent friend, Kim, and she and the theatre kids are going to clean up your classroom tonight. They know where everything goes, anyway. Your seminar can help put up your posters tomorrow to occupy them. The English teacher next door texted to check up on you, and I told her you might need her to look in on your classroom. And you are going to rest.”
Not that I had much choice. Strong pain meds demand no less than total submission. It was a long, painful night, plagued by several first-day-of-school dreams. But when I woke up at 8:00 a.m. for a vitals check, I adjusted my blankets, sent a quick prayer to my new students, and then went back to sleep.
I had amazing friends, understanding bosses, experienced subs, empathic students, and helpful colleagues. None of those things would change, despite my absence from my classroom. I closed my eyes. It would wait.
Ellis High School
11-12 English, Theatre and Forensics