Monday, August 17, 2009

The Return of the Keychain

I have a keychain again. The two keys for my classroom and apartment make a familiar jingle in my pocket. But there’s very little that’s familiar after that.

To begin with, neither key works very well. At first I would stand outside my apartment door for a full seven minutes, jiggling the key in the lock until it finally connected to let me in. The salty, humid air here makes things creaky over time. A few drops of lubricating oil borrowed from a neighbor has cut the key fumbling time to only 45 - 90 seconds before I can enter my apartment. The apartment itself is feeling less strange and foreign, and more and more like home. (Today’s enhancement: a skirt discarded by the previous occupant becomes a kitchen curtain, pinned to the wooden window frame with thumbtacks.)

The other key on my keychain – my classroom key – is another matter. The lock in the doorknob itself has long ago corroded into uselessness. The rusty padlock on the hasp is a little better. The padlock yields to the assistant principal’s experienced hand, and I enter my classroom.

The first thing I notice is the musty smell of sea air trapped inside since May. The assistant principal and I open all the metal slats on the screened windows to air out the room. I find the fan switch, the overhead fan blades springing to life to help brush away the stale air.

I look around. Thirty-five desks with tablet arms, most in fairly good shape, neatly arranged in seven rows, five chairs in each row. A substantial teacher’s desk and chair at the front of the classroom, with the former teacher’s comfortable clutter on top. Last year’s student artwork adds color to the white walls. The chalk tray is filled with the dust of last year’s learning. A bookcase in the back of the room, stuffed with science books I don’t need – a little disorganized, the pages a little sticky to the touch from the months and years in the salt air, all lightly sprinkled with lizard and mouse dung.

Hmm . . . needs a good sweeping, and I need to find out where to put the six bags of spring semester trash neatly lined up under the chalkboard, and let’s get these science textbooks into the hands of the right teachers – but this definitely has promise.

My classroom.

I trade the rusty padlock on the classroom door for a slick little suitcase lock I brought from Boston. I switch out the key on my keychain and drop it in my pocket.

I’m ready.

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