I Am a Teacher…or How a 40 Minute Errand Becomes a Two-Hour Journey

grocery list

Today I left the house with a list–exchange a propane tank, procure paper goods, and get groceries. I figured about 40 minutes (at most an hour) for all three. You’d think I would know better by now, since I have been a teacher for 20 years (16 years in our current small town).

Errand 1: Exchanging the propane tank. Everything went smoothly here. I was able to quickly move to the front of the line; the clerk was not a former student, so no extra conversation. As I was backing out of my parking stall, I waved merrily to B., a former student who is in town working on wedding plans to another former student (J.). How do I know they were working on wedding plans from just a wave….wait for it.

No time lost.

Errand 2: Procuring paper goods from Shopko. I found everything I needed, plus an item I didn’t, quickly. However, as I was heading for the check out, I ran into a friend, D., who looked distressed and called me over. She was looking for white card stock to print out wedding details (yes, the above-mentioned J. is her daughter), but could not find it. We searched three different aisles; during this time, a different former student J. tracked me down and wanted to talk (he has been out of the state –and for a while the country–with the military, but we have kept up via social media). Unfortunately, neither of us had time for the talk we desired, so he left D. and I to find the elusive card stock. We were finally successful.

Some time lost.

Errand 3: Getting groceries from a local grocery store. I had a fairly extensive but well-organized list. I moved through produce with my head down, focused on my quest. It was not until I left aisle 3 that I ran into K., a former student who is finishing her nursing degree. We had a lovely talk about her upcoming graduation and wedding plans (she, too, is marrying a former student, A.). We discussed his possible desire to become a high school English teacher after a good experience student teaching and how encouraged I was to hear this due to my concern that we have fewer male role models as teachers at all levels of education, but particularly the high school level. As I moved through the cereal aisle, I tried to refocus on the task at hand: getting home in a timely fashion. However, as I zeroed in on yogurt, I had a quick discussion with a current student, C., and nearly wiped out another current student, J., with my shopping cart as I entered the home stretch. Finally, I stopped at the video department because one of my seniors, A., was working and I hadn’t seen her at school for several days. The rumor mill had her dropping out, and another teacher and I had sent emails begging her to reconsider, but I had longed to speak with her in person. Fortunately she had no customers in line, and we talked about her future. She plans to get her GED through a cosmetology school in a neighboring community and then her cosmetology degree. She seems hopeful but was concerned I would think less of her for quitting high school. I assured her this was not the case; I just wanted to know that she was moving forward with a plan because she is too smart to do otherwise. I also offered to help in any way. We parted on good terms.

After picking up some carry-out chicken for dinner (I had run out of time to cook), I joked with J. (the one I had nearly taken out a few minutes before) as he took my groceries to the car.

Needless to say, a lot of time was lost in this final stop.

On the short drive home, I reflected on the trip. It is Sunday afternoon, not even remotely class hours, but this is so typical for me (and every other teacher I know). We do not work 40 hour weeks because we are never off duty. And frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I just wish sometimes that those in political power could experience this. If nothing else, maybe they would find themselves too busy to propose and pass laws that damage education, not to mention too busy to make dinner.

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