I was at work today….really at work, not teaching from a chair in my extra bedroom. And for all the significance that should have in this yet unresolved pandemic era, it wasn’t that remarkable at all. Instead it was something simpler, yet far more illustrative. I call it Today’s Perfect Moment, but that is perhaps a bit ironic.
As you might have read in past installments of this blog, the teachers usually hang out at work in the Teacher’s Room. I don’t know what really characterizes that room, or set of rooms really, in the best way. I will try my best to let you see it through my eyes and breath it through my lexicon.
It is, in fact, chaos. It is anxiety. It is eerie calm. It is diversity in so much more than the obvious. In everything from thoughts to actions, from music to poetry, from languages to nonverbal grunts, from humour to cruelty it assaults and comforts you. It is a sanctuary and an oppressive force. It is loved by many and hated by some.
It is all these things, but neat and tidy it is not. Yes, some teachers are organized and hygienically superior, but they are not the majority. The desks, really more like tables since the company doesn’t believe that anyone would want drawers, are covered with books, pens, textbooks, souvenir knickknacks, and old photocopies that may be needed some day. There are coffee cups, half-read, dog-eared novels. There are travels guides–few of which are up to date. There are trivia cards from a multitude of games because although the games are not fun, the questions certainly are. The boundaries of what space you might actually occupy are blurry for most. Chairs are not tucked in and computer screens are not closed. USB sticks and half eaten lunches litter the computers.
As a deep cleaning will soon be undertaken, teacher’s were asked to come and clean up their spaces at separate times to allow for both physical and temporal distance. In the past two weeks, my every other day trips to work have seen me encounter suddenly clean and junk free desks. Things are gone. It is odd how empty the place looks.
Many of these people will be back whenever the ESL industry recovers. This will require an easing of border restrictions, more flights, economic fortune, and a willingness to fly in an enclosed flying tin can with a bunch of strangers. So probably next summer.
The truth is, though, many will not be back.