Saturday, August 17, 2013

The March of the Portables

They have no idea...

Everyone has walked into a social event, maybe a party hosted by a friend or a little kid's birthday party, and immediately noticed that the host has put some amazing effort into getting the living room ready for company. I once attended a Halloween party where someone had dug a six foot grave in the backyard and filled it with steaming blocks of dry ice. People go to incredible lengths to impress their friends for a singular event. And why not? Every storefront, taco stand and corner bar clutters from corner to corner their walls filled with shock jock memorabilia, baja palm fronds and trendy tatterings with the purpose of drawing in the customers and creating an atmosphere conducive to coming back again some time. 

This summer our district squeezed a few extra portables up against the back fence of a couple of our expanding schools. By the time the first bell rang, and the students stumbled up the ramps to their freshly carpeted learning laboratories,  each room was meticulously crafted into a welcoming and warm second home to school aged children. What these students and their parents will never know is that just 72 hours prior to the opening bell, these well lit walls were homes to the sweatshop labors of teachers scrambling for their lives to get ready for the curtain to rise. 

My father always told me, and please excuse my saying so on the internet, that, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." This phrase was usually muttered at the teenage me when I was excusing myself for not finishing up something started or dropping the ball on a promise made. So, when our Maintenance and Operations department said that they would have these portables done in plenty of time for the teachers to move in before school started, I thought I could hear the faint sound of a paving stone settling into a long gravel road leading nowhere good.

Imagine, its 72 hours from the opening day of the NFL, and the players haven't been allowed on the field, can you imagine the quarterback getting out there to chalk the field lines? What if a new Starbucks was opening on the corner of Walk and Don't Walk in your town but 3 days before the shop opens, there is nothing: not a stick of furniture, no electrical, no air, nothing, do you think they'd be serving fresh brew by Monday morning? This was the case for our portable promised teachers just last week.

Three days before the children arrived, their was no power, no water, no air, no furniture, no...well, you get the picture. Then, just when it looked like all hope had been lost, the construction crew flipped on the power, handed out the keys and in marched an army of determined faces and tightly knit brows. Hell hath no fury...

Society credits teachers for their hard work, compassion and dedication to the further leaders of tomorrow, but I think the average citizen has no idea. I rolled up my sleeves to help my favorite 3rd Grade teacher, my wife, assemble her classroom. Six trips to the Learning Store, countless rolls of flame retardant paper, matching chevron border trim, IKEA shelves, IKEA curtain rods, IKEA cinnamon roll (that was for me), flame retardant spray over home made curtains, people have no idea, back pack hooks at just the right height, book boxes filled, organized, rearranged, refilled and reorganized. 

The clock was ticking: tic, tic tic. Up went the bulletin boards, not straight enough, down they came, and then up again. The lamination machine in the front office pulled the wagon of trail blazing primary educators across the frontier of name tag creation, door placard designs and wall displayed work stations. A pedometer strapped to any of these hips would have worn out by the end of day two. Mothers and fathers, friends and neighbors  all stopping by classrooms to pitch in. It was like watching a home makeover show and just as the students are moments from arriving, like a collective of satisfied bees having created a brilliant hive, the teachers buzz from room to room to admire the work of the collective.

Each room themed and colored to match, each unique and creative personality. One room brightly lit, another personal and homy, the next themed with prints and each brought to life by the woman standing at the center of it all. What they'll never know is that it is not the wall decorum nor the perfectly placed circle time carpet that eases the pain of the end of summer for the kids or comforts the hearts of the mothers delivering their perfect packages to their first day of school: it is them, the heroes, the women and men who would never think twice when sacrificing their lives, their time, and their energy to make perfect the first impression on those who will never notice the effort but will be forever changed because of it.