We are now at T-minus one day until school starts. This means that all of my fellow teachers and I have been putting in grueling hours at school trying to get our rooms looking fabulous and our first-day mixers planned out while also trying to decide what the heck to teach all the kids who will be inhabiting our rooms this year.
There are all sorts of dynamics involved in workdays, many of which are too teacher-specific to make good blogging. There is one glaringly awkward situation that I think is common to most of us, so that is what I am going to talk about today. It’s the “do we have to make small talk every time we pass in the hallway?” dynamic.
The school is small, and everyone has a million reasons to be in the supply closet, the office, the copy room, or the computer lab. The result is that I bump into my colleagues at least thirty times a day. I’m running out of things to say.
All of the useless comments that I might make up to fill the silence are either embarrassingly cliche, or even worse, open up the door to further conversation. Jerry Seinfeld suggested one time that it should become office etiquette just to say “acknowledge, acknowledge” every time you see a colleague to spare everyone the mental trial of clever hallway talk. That’s all you are really saying…”I see you, I recognize you, I still like you even though I don’t have anything to say to you at this moment.” I’ve started carrying papers around that I can pretend to be reading to avoid eye contact in the first place.
Tonight I experienced yet another level of the awkward social small talk: Meet the Teacher night. This is where I get my room sparkling clean and dress up in hose in order to shake hands with students who are not ready to go back to school and lay the building blocks of a mutually supportive relationship with their enthusiastic parents. The problem is, I have not had these kids in class yet, and I don’t know some of them at all, so I really have nothing to say to the parents that hasn’t already been said in my parent introduction letter. So we smile and shake hands, and exchange special coded phrases. I will translate some of them here:
Teacher: “So, is X excited to come back to school?”
(trans: Of course the answer to this question is no, but I want to be positive and I don’t know of anything else to ask you.)
Parent: “Well, X hates to see the summer end, but I think he’ll be glad to be back.”
(trans: Of course he doesn’t want to come back to school. But I sure will be glad to get him out of the house for 8 hours a day)
Teacher: “So, X, what is your favorite subject?” OR “Have you been reading this summer?”
(trans: Throw me a line, kid. I am having as hard of a time with this conversation as you are.)
Teacher: “So nice to meet you. Come on inside and look around.”
(trans: Please walk on past me without forcing more conversation.)
Parent: “We think [school] is a great fit for X. He is really right-brained.”
(trans: Our kid is bouncing off of the walls at home. We hope you can channel the energy into something productive.)
Speaking of forced cleverness, I have a hard time with closing lines for blogs. The end.