Tuesday, September 7, 2010

When power naps go wrong . . .

Ah Labor Day! The day that we celebrate . . . ummmmm . . . well, we celebrate . . . I think it's the . . . wait - what DO we celebrate?

I think that Labor Day was originally intended as a day to celebrate trade and labor unions. But I'm not part of one so that doesn't work for me. I think it's also meant as a day to celebrate the American worker and I do qualify as one of those, I guess. So I'm just supposed to celebrate work . . . I think. So, in honor of Labor Day, I thought I'd tell you my favorite work-related story.

After I graduated from A&M, I had a year off before law school started. Since I had graduated with a degree in Psychology and Spanish, there weren't a lot of options available for me - you can't do much in either of those fields without at least a Masters degree. But, in the middle of my job search, I was told that a local high school was in need of a Spanish teacher. I wasn't certified and was pretty sure that I wouldn't get the job but I decided to apply anyway. I went for my interview and was so excited when they offered me the job. I would be officially classified as a "long-term substitute," which meant that I wouldn't get paid as much as a teacher, but that was okay with me - I was going to do something with my degree and I was thrilled. Plus, I had always wanted to be a teacher - mainly so that I could write on chalkboards and overhead projectors. So teaching was a dream come true for me. And, of course, I wrote on the overhead every single day. And I mean EVERY day - warm-ups, conjugations, vocabulary words, quizzes, homework assignments . . . I wrote it all up there. And I LOVED it.

My main challenge when I was teaching was that I was only four years older than some of my students so it was hard at first to get them to listen to me and respect me. And I looked a lot younger than I was so I got stopped a lot in the hallway by other teachers who wanted to know if I had a hall pass. But eventually my students started listening to me (well, most of them did) and other teachers stopped thinking I was a student roaming the hallways. I went to my students' football games, basketball games, drill team competitions, and band concerts and I loved it. I started really FEELING like a teacher - like I was making a difference in their lives. And I was kind of proud of myself because I was finally an adult with a real job . . . mature, responsible, and all grown-up.

BUT . . . one day, I had a bit of a set-back. I had stayed up really late the night before and I was REALLY struggling at work. I mean, I could barely keep my eyes open . . . even when I was conjugating verbs on the overhead. I knew that the mature, grown-up thing to do would be to just power through it and remain professional about it. But I just couldn't. So during my off-period, I did the unthinkable: I decided that I would take a power nap.

Don't judge me.

Now my off-period was 4th period - the lunch period. So it was a nice LONG break during the day. My desk was positioned in the back corner of the room, along the same wall as the door to my classroom so you couldn't see it from the window in the door, which was very helpful to me on this day. So I walked over to the door and locked it - just so that no one could come in and bust me. Then I went back to my desk and I made a deal with myself that I would just close my eyes for 20 minutes. I set my alarm on my watch and then I put my head down and gave in to the fatigue.

Uuuuuuuuuunfortunately, I fell asleep for a lot longer than 20 minutes. In fact, I slept right through my alarm and through the whole of 4th period. Every last minute of it. What woke me up in the end was the bell ringing for kids to change classes. And that was a MAJOR problem because that meant that students would be walking into my room any minute and I had to get the door unlocked before they did. And then to my horror, I discovered two things: 1) I had fallen asleep with my head on my arm. That's no big deal, right? Well, it is when you're wearing a bumpy sweater. My right cheek was an exact replica of the pattern on my sweater - and it wasn't going to come out anytime soon; and 2) Both of my legs had fallen asleep . . .

Now this was not my first run-in with my legs falling asleep. When I was in college, my best friend came to A&M for the weekend and we had fallen asleep in the living room while watching a movie. Since she was my guest, I had given her the couch and I had slept on the floor. I must have slept in a weird position because, when I woke up the next morning to the sound of my telephone ringing, my leg was asleep. That was no big deal to me - I would just use my other leg to stand up so that I could walk over to the phone to answer it. It sounded like a good idea to me. So I stood up using my other leg aaaaaaaaand then made the mistake of trying to walk over to the phone. As soon as I put any weight on the asleep leg, I went down like a sack of potatoes - complete dead weight. I mean, my leg might as well have been made of marshmallow. I went down with such a thud that I'm surprised I didn't fall through the floor and into the apartment below. The earthquake that I caused startled Jill awake and she sat up quickly to see what was happening. By that time I was a giggling pile in the middle of the living room . . . and the answering machine was answering the call.

So when BOTH of my legs were asleep that day at my desk, I knew I couldn't stand up on them. That's when I became desperate and had no idea what I was going to do. I started to picture a line of students forming at my classroom door and the principal pounding on the door, demanding that I open it. I pictured them breaking down the door, only to find me an invalid with two dead legs and a strange-looking right cheek. It was a horrifying predicament for me. But then an idea came to me: teacher's chairs have wheels on them so I can just wheel myself to the door! Luckily, I had a counter top that stretched along the same wall that the door and my desk were on, so I just used my arms to push off of my desk and then pull myself along the wall using the counter top. But while I was doing THAT, I was also trying to rub the sweater impression out of my right cheek. So I would pull myself a couple of feet then rub my face frantically, pull myself a couple of feet then rub my face frantically . . . over and over and over. I finally got to the door, unlocked it, and then wheeled myself back to my desk so that I could sit there and pretend that nothing had happened.

As students filed into the classroom, I just sat at my desk and pretended to be hard at work. I thought about changing the translation warm-up to include sentences like "My legs feel strange." or "Holy crap - did I just hear the bell?" but I thought that might give me away. By the time the tardy bell rang, the feeling was coming back into my legs and I was in the "pins and needles" phase. The last thing I wanted to do was to get up and walk on pins and needles legs but SOMEONE had to go put the warm-up on the overhead. I had to act naturally. So I got up and tried to walk as normally as I could but that was an impossible task. Have you ever tried to walk on a pins and needles leg? It's so uncomfortable and yet, somehow, it's so ticklish. So you end up walking slowly and flinching every time you move the pins and needles leg. And, in my case, it was BOTH of my legs - my class just watched me as I took a step, flinched, took another step, and flinched all the way to the overhead while trying to nonchalantly keep a piece of paper up by my right cheek. I was so embarrassed. As I wrote the warm-up on the overhead, I silently vowed to never sleep at work again. Well, at least not with a bumpy sweater on . . .

I'm a lawyer now and I love my job. But I must admit that my time as a Spanish teacher really made me think seriously about being a teacher forever and forgetting the whole law school thing - I loved it that much. But, since I'd wanted to be a lawyer since I was in the 4th grade, I decided to at least try it. And I'm glad I did because I knew in the first week of law school that I was meant to be there - there was no question in my my mind. And even though I would have loved a career as a teacher, I know that I'm meant to be in the job I have right now. So I wouldn't change a thing.

But I DO miss my overhead . . .


Phyllis Eddings said...

If you had not told us how young you were when this even occurred, I could have guessed. Older teachers would not have cared if anyone knew they took a nap during their off-period. They'd make jokes about the impressions on their faces and the tingling.

In fact, I'm betting the Catherine of today would just entertain the students with her story. :-)

Jill said...

O...M...G! Big surprise, but I totally forgot about that story from college! I was just laughing so hard reading that I was crying!!! Of course, that story made me think of when I collapsed in Ireland and also when you slammed into the screen door. Good times, good times. Can. Not. Stop. Laughing.

Victorian Lady said...

You need to have a warning on your blog that goes something like this:

Do NOT attempt to read this blog while a newborn sleeps on your chest! The shaking from all that laughter might wake the baby!