"Did you miss me?"
"Miss you? Summer went by so fast, I hardly had time to miss you. But geeze... Come here... Stand next to me... Did you grow six inches in three months? I almost didn't recognize you walking down the hallway."
Devone's wide grin grew even wider. "I was wearing shorts the whole summer. I grew out of all my jeans. I needed to get new pants last week to come to school."
I unlocked the door to my classroom, and we walked into the room I'd been preparing since last Thursday. The furniture was dusted, new bulletin board displays were up, and books were placed back on the bookshelves.
Some things were still the same though. The windows still had the same bullet holes, broken Plexiglas was patched with the same duct tape, the same tiles were still missing from the floor and the ceiling, the speakers for the PA system were still broken, and the message "Stan sucks d--k" was still legible, scrawled in permanent marker repeatedly on several of the old oak tables and chairs.
The rest of the class slowly wandered into the room.
"You rearrainged the tables."
"Yeah. How do you like it?"
"It's okay...I don't like it when things change."
"It's easier for me to see what everybody is doing this way. You'll get used to it."
Of the twenty-nine students on my roster, only sixteen were in class. No surprise. For some reason I've never understood, a large percentage of Cleveland kids will not come to school before Labor Day, no matter when school officially starts.
Rather than review the syllabus, like teachers in suburban districts would on the first day of classes, I talked about the new programs we would be participating in this year; the extra curricular glass blowing classes, this year's new artist residencies, the new sculpture at the Soapbox Derby Park, and the Max Hayes/CIA video documentary project. Class rules, expectations, and the supply list will be covered when I have a majority of the class in attendance.
I hardly started talking when heads began flopping down on the table. Teenagers used to staying up until the wee hours of the morning and sleeping until mid-afternoon all summer, were having difficulty keeping their eyes open for an 8:00 AM class. When the bell rang to signal the end of the class period, fifteen students got up to leave. One freshly-shorn head remained, eyes closed, face squished against Formica. I tapped him on the shoulder.
"Bell rang. Time to go."
His eyes popped open. The boy stood up, and looked around in temporary confusion.
"Do you know where your second period class is?"
He pulled the crumpled schedule from his pocket, stared for a moment and hurried out the door. I set my hand down on the table where he had been sitting. An audible little shriek escaped from my mouth.
I ran to the sink, pumped a palmful of antibacterial soap, and began to scrub. I grabbed a spray bottle of disinfectant and a paper towel and walked across the room to clean up a six inch puddle of drool from the table top while the next group of students walked through the door.
"Did you miss me?"
"Miss you? Summer went by so fast, I hardly had time to miss you."