An argument for hazard pay, and a poem

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At a workshop I attended this morning, I sat next to a high school teacher I taught with a few years ago before I jumped ship. He told me an interesting story about proctoring an ACT test during which one young lady became horribly, projectile-ill. All over the sacred testing materials and admission ticket. All over everything, it seems, mid-test.

I guess it was time for a break at that point in the testing. That kind of thing tends to start an unstoppable puking chain reaction. And the clean up…there’s that.

A quick phone call to the testing service found them all without protocol for vomit-covered testing materials. The answer, they said, was to put the answer sheet, booklet, and admission ticket into a plastic bag and mail it back to ACT.
That’s right. That test had to be accounted for. So into the ziplock bag it went.

Somewhere soon, an unsuspecting ACT employee will open a box containing a plastic bag…

There are days occasionally stretching into weeks that I’m wracked with guilt over leaving public school teaching. Those students were my light and my life, despite the fact that most of the time I felt like the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe.

In all the time I taught high school English, no one ever put me in a position requiring me to stuff a baggie with puke-covered test booklets. For that, I’m thankful. I’m also thankful for the former colleague who sat beside me today who did, in fact, have to stuff the ziplock. On a Saturday, no less.

Bless his heart.

The whole thing makes me a little misty, so I’m throwing in (at no additional cost) a poem I wrote for my students back then. All of them.
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,

my night flowers, my
charming rascals.

We, the geezers who teach and mother you
want you to know
we delight in you absolutely:
the last-five-minute rising buzz and cackle of
your unwasted youth,
the parlay, dip, and spin of
your endless afternoon,
burst-blooming from your time-lapse
adolescence,
unfurling into women, men.

The thing is, I want to say
you must come back on Monday.
let me count the fingers and toes of you.
Let me convince you poetry can exponentially alter
the mathematics of the universe.
Gravity is not a trick.

You are not just another number.
This is not just another day.