Every morning Susan Pettigrew would sit on the floor beside her little coffee maker, surrounded by her dirty tupperware, random rice cakes, messy bed, yarn and needles and laundry that was both dirty and clean. She’d pour herself a cup of coffee with a sprinkle of Coffeemate and stevia. Sometimes, she’d read the daily verse and pray for help.
Help me do the right thing. Help me make this mistake right again… Help me get through today. Give me strength. Help me stay awake. Help me not lose my temper. Help me be kind and gentle. Firm but kind. Forgive me for my selfishness. Help me remember my lesson plans. Help me manage my class. Thank you for helping me sleep last night. Thank you for coffee. Thank you for my bus pass. Thank you for a warm bed. Thank you for my job at the Globe Theatre. Thank you for my student loan. Thank you for Seven Stones School. For the admin and staff. For my coworkers and co-operating teacher. For the kids. I love them so much. Thank you. Thank you for my lunch. Thank you for my roommate, Bella and her two boys. Forgive me for my crankiness. I’m so tired, Jesus. Help me get through today and do the right thing.
She puts on her makeup, grabs her lunch and runs out the door to catch her bus. Her first transfer is in front of The Bay where the 60-something bus driver of the 3 to Sherwood Estates says hello to everyone and chit-chats with people close to the front. With a gritty voice, he greets Susan, “Hi sunshine! Where were you yesterday?”
“I don’t remember,” she laughs, “It was so long ago. I think I made a quick pitstop at Starbucks.”
“I waited for you.”
“Oh you’re sweet. Thanks for doing that. I’ll try to make it next time.”
“Just bring me coffee next time,” he’d say.
She smiles and sits at the back of the bus, turning up her iPod Shuffle. The bus driver drops people off one stop at a time and turns down 5th Avenue. Susan can’t help but feel a great sense of home every time the bus driver makes the left turn. Past Elphinstone, she pulls the string and the bus driver drops her off at McTavish but personalizes it by dropping her off closer to the corner. He wishes her a great day. She does the same and waves. As she exits and makes her way to the corner, she watches a man in a manual wheelchair push his way through the snow. The bus driver waves at him, too, and the man waves back.
Susan rings the doorbell at the front doors of Seven Stones Community School. The vice principal opens the door, says good morning and Susan reciprocates. She knocks the snow off her boots before squeaking down the hallway that Ed, the property manager and his team, keep impeccably clean. She opens the door of the Cultural Arts room. There are risers for a choir that doesn’t exist and a bunch of drums for a drummer circle on Mondays at lunch time. The three desks along the side wall belong to the Cultural Arts team. Flower, a fellow Cultural arts teacher and Indigenous advocate, is covered with documents, books, kids art, Indigenous art and Cree words, and pictures of her two kids. Hollywood Cowboy’s, the other Indigenous advocate, desk is fairly sparse. Some colouring sheets, art folders, red cups, and little frog pictures that say things, like, “Above”, “Below”, and “Beside.” Kartoffel’s, Susan’s co-operating teacher, desk is full of papers, Dungeon and Dragons playbooks, dice, laminated card pieces, puppets, cups of coffee, collections of pop cans, duotangs, art folders, kids’ drawings, his drawings, and something that looks like a medium sized tub. There is a small flat spot that Susan assumes is for his laptop. Under his desk are a reusable Walmart bags that have been pressed along each side of his desk and wall.
Susan’s desk is close to the window. There are folders for each of the classes she teaches. She doesn’t know what PLC stands for but she knows the grades they include.
PLC 3 = Grades 6, 7, & 8. There are exit slips in this folder about their inquiry unit on social issues and patterns for Pixel art with graph paper.
PLC 2 = Grades 3, 4, & 5. This folder has more graph paper, DIY “I Spy”, Cup Song choreography and oodles and oodles of maps.
PLC 1 = Grades 1 & 2. Cube patterns, a movement cube as an example, weaving with paper, weaving with bowls, colouring sheets and colouring patterns and colour wheels.
On her desk, there’s her agenda that she only keeps passwords which sits on the side, dirty dishes, coffee mugs, spoons, a rock she painted years ago and a tattooed hand with red nail polish sit on the corner. Candy, oil pastels, Pixar short film DVD, and a cart full of art supplies, books and donated items from teachers all over the school. Susan covers her chair with her winter jacket and switches into her indoor shoes. She wakes her sleeping laptop from its slumber and tabs she’s left up permanently on “Saskatchewan Curriculum | Arts Education 1” and the 67 page Google doc she’s building named “Daily Lesson Plan.”
She takes her lunch to the Staff Room, says hello to the educational assistants who’ve driven in from out of town. People whisper to themselves something about Monday, trying to hype themselves up for the day of mayhem that awaits them. Susan goes back to the Cultural Arts room to prep for the day.
To be continued…