Sunday, August 30, 2015

The 300 Days: Part 11 - Pure Michigan and The Voicemail

Previously: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10
"And I feel them drown my name
So easy to know and forget with this kiss
I'm not afraid to go, but it goes so slow..."
- Jeff Buckley, Grace
As the warm sunlight penetrated through the blinds of Will’s former classroom, he counted the hours until he could take his boxes containing his possessions, throw them in his car, and start life anew.  Before departing for the summer, however, he needed to collect the necessary signatures on the required "check out" form to ensure that Will had fulfilled his final duties.  Once last time, a conversation with Mr. Evans was needed, who seemed almost timid when he was asked for his initials.  “Thank you,” Will said politely as he departed from the office, the door clicking shut behind him becoming a symbol of absolute closure.  Mr. Evans never said “goodbye” or even a “good luck.”
Will never would wish any ill will on anyone, but the largest issue that rattled his soul the most in this whole debacle was that Mr. Evans would never learn or understand of the lives he destroyed over the years, cold and calculated like so many before.  Will was not the only one saying goodbye.  There were about 3-4 other teachers, some of them finishing just their first year, who would now begin their summers like the summer before:  looking for employment in an already saturated teaching market.  These teachers were let go after just one year of employment, and without the knowledge or input of their first-year-teacher mentor who, needless to say, was not happy at that fact.
The only way that Mr. Evans could ever be relieved of his duties would be if he were to commit some sort of illegal act, or if the building assessment scores would drop so low, he would likely be let go.  However, in order for the latter to occur, many former colleagues would suffer through it, and heads would surely roll.  Even worse, then, would that the kids would suffer as well.  Ultimately, there was nothing Will could do.
Summer 2k14 began, and Will awoke daily knowing that in less than three months, he would no longer get a steady paycheck.  Still, he felt lighter, as the stress from his entire ordeal was no longer bearing down.  Indeed, the stress had taken a physical toll on Will.  While shorter in stature, Will always had a compact, muscular/athletic frame.  His weight typically operated between 165-175 pounds, depending on the season.  Will stepped on the scale one June morning, and it read “154.”  The last time Will saw that number on the scale was prior to 8th grade.  In the span of less than a year, he had gone from teaching 8th graders, to acquiring the mass of one.  Indeed, Will had left, but not entirely.  The memories, both good and bad, would stay with him for weeks, then months, eventually leading to forever.

Ask anyone what their greatest fears are, and you will surely get a plethora of responses, ranging from spiders, to snakes, to heights, to death.  But one underlying fear likely can captivate us all, and that is the fear of the unknown.  A child that fears the dark doesn’t fear the lack of light, he or she hates what it represents.  Unable to identify the scene before them, they are left with nothing but conjectures, their own worst fears, inside their mind.  Will’s entire future was an unknown, a sea of pitch black.  His mind was his greatest enemy.
As he and his fiance drove up to Northern Michigan, Will felt at least some comfort knowing he would find serenity, even in the smallest of doses.  For over two decades, Will had gone to the upper portions of Michigan for family vacation.  It always seemed to grant him the smallest amounts of tranquility.  
As Will’s aunts and uncles sat down for dinner and caught up on eachother’s lives, Will’s was a main topic of conversation.  When asked how his job was, he did not mince words:  “terrible,” he would say as he gave the Cliff Note version.  Needless to say, many were concerned.  They saw how will was psychologically beaten down.  Some even asked if he was healthy, as they noted his less-than-typically-plump state.  It wasn’t panic mode time, at least not yet.  Will buried his anxiety deep. Hoping that it would not need to surface.  He didn’t want to imagine laying on a beach in Mexico, his wife at his side, afraid for his future.

After a quick visit with his adorable niece and nephew, Will returned to his cabin to grab some lunch.  Typically, Will left his phone in his cabin all day, as he truly wanted to detach from the world.  He checked it for a moment, and saw that there was a missed call not two minutes earlier.  Before he could cross check the number, his phone buzzed as the “Voicemail” icon flickered.  He pressed the “play” button with his thumb and put the receiver up to his ear…
An 8th grade position became available a week or so prior, and the principal was contacting Will to see if he would like to interview.  The district was quite small, on the rural periphery of Columbus.  
Will felt he could judge people and their character rather quickly.  As he dialed the number listed in the message, he considered what this could all amount to.  The principal answered.
“Hey,” the principal said, “we were wondering whether you’d like to come in to interview for our science position.”
“I would love to!” Will replied excitedly.  “I’m actually on vacation right now up in Michigan, so if we could set up sometime early next week that would be great.  But if you’re looking to get these interviews setup as soon as possible, I would happily cut it short up here and head back a little early.”
“Oh no no no!”  the principal chuckled as he responded, “we won’t ask you to do that.  You’re with family; life happens.  We’ll get it done.  Let me check with our Director of Teaching and Learning and see her schedule next week and I’ll get back to you.”
A few days later, Will was driving home Friday afternoon, and his phone rang once more from the principal.  They agreed on a mutual time Tuesday morning, just days after Will was to attend an out-of-town wedding, and hours after moving both he and his fiance to a new apartment.  His preparation time was minimal;  Will skimmed through his “interview notes,” printed off a few portfolios, and picked out his handsome blue shirt to wear.

The tone of the interview seemed to have been set back from the phone-call Will had the week prior.  The principal seemed professional, yet kind.  The phrase “we will get it done” seemed to stick to Will.  It served as a means to, more or less, take a deep breath and relax.  This district seemed to be willing to wait to see what they had in Will.  Whereas most districts would simply say “here are the times, take it or leave it,” they were willing to extend their process for the sake of one man.
As Will dialogued back and forth with the principal and Director of Teaching and Learning, he felt comfortable.  He noticed that the format was fluid; the conversation seemed to roll as it needed to, and nothing was forced.  Will was positive, but not overly enthusiastic, as perhaps this would be a sign of a lack of legitimacy.  He felt like he was a professional again.  Will shook the hands of both, thanked them for their time, and their willingness to “wait” for him, and saw himself out.
Once again, as custom, Will pulled into his gym parking lot, turned off his phone, turned on his music, and detached from the world for 60 minutes.  When he was finished, Will’s sweaty hand reached into his bag and turned on his phone.  The Apple icon illuminated the screen as he walked toward his car.  A final moment of serenity before returning to the world…

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