Back in school I wrote a short piece about a teacher I had in elementary school. Actually the teacher in the story is a mashup of two or three teachers I have especially respected. One day maybe I will be the inspiration for a student like they were for me. Thank you to all the teachers out there.
Earlier today, I thought I saw something. From the corner of my eye, some furtive movement while the class silently reflected on the math lesson. Then it happened again, just after literature circle. I couldn't believe my eyes! Our teacher, Mr. Stowe, is not what he seems. I think he may be magic: a wizard! I was finishing my writing journal and I looked up just in time to catch him. He was closing a closet behind his desk. I had never noticed that door before. I dropped my eyes to my journal just as he scanned the room to see if anyone was looking at him. I don’t think he saw me looking. But now I know. And I must find the truth.
This morning was a perfect example of why I am suspicious. The back of my neck prickles as I recall the lost morning, I think back to other days. It always seemed something wasn't quite right. We come in everyday; breathing the smell of pennies and pine needles. There are always the complaints that we don’t want to be here. One morning, I told my best friend I had a headache. “I’ll ask Mr. Stowe if I can go to the nurse. She’ll call my mom and I’ll go home and sleep.” My friend nodded with a smirk; we both believed it would happen just that way.
And somewhere between Mr. Stowe’s: “Good Morning, Everyone!” (his booming, deep voice quiets the buzz in the room), and the first pieces of his lesson on the wallboard, (that all too familiar squeaky marker…) I no longer see the sunlight lancing warmly into the room. Instead I notice the posters lining the walls. “Living Charts,” Mr. Stowe calls them. We made them together as a class; they remind us of the things we are supposed to do--our rules of the room. We add to them now and again using colored pens: directed splashes of color. Lunch is upon us before I remember my imagined headache. Where did the morning go? Did it go into that closet of his? Or did he pull something out that made us forget our own priorities? Every time I have seen him access that doorway, we have been at his mercy. Whatever is in there, I must discover it. At lunch I plan.
Silent reading begins after lunch, and that’s when my friend distracts Mr. Stowe. I am standing near the sink when he moves away from the area behind his desk and grants me my opportunity. I glide noiselessly up to the darkly grained wood and grip its silvery handle, slipping the mysterious panel open as softly as I can. Just a crack is all I can manage before I feel premonitions of impending creaky hinges. I gaze in eagerly. SCREAK!!! Someone’s chair scrapes the floor! I shut the door, spin around, and drop behind the teacher desk as Mr. Stowe looms upward from among the student desks. I catch my breath and regain my desk just as he stops at the front of the room and surveys us predatorily. Pretending to search my own desk, I quickly stash my prize and wipe the back of my neck.
Notebooks! I almost lost my head at the sight: row upon row of spirals, folders, and black composition books. Not at all what I expected, but maybe they contain his secrets, scrawled in spidery runes from ages past. Fighting a chill of anxiety creeping up my spine and a furnace of guilt boiling in my belly, I crack open my teacher’s book, unprepared for what I would find…
To Be Continued.