Monday, January 02, 2006

closing the door

On the 19th Douglass teachers were "allowed" into the school to retrieve our things. I'd been to school in October, when I found the door busted open. A week after that visit I went back and found the door was boarded up. On the 19th the door was busted open again and the school was trashed. When I arrived there was only one other person there, the school nurse. No police, no administrators, no other teachers. No electricity. It was eerie. The nurse and I agreed to check on each other periodically because besides being eerie, it was scary. And it was sad.
I didn't handle it very well. My resolve went by the wayside. I had to call a friend to help me. The last two times I'd been to Douglass the fate of the teachers and the schools was still in the air so there was, you know, foolish as it might have been, a little hope. But by the 19th we'd been told that on 31 January the teachers were all to be officially fired, so this was really it, and time to empty myself out of Room 219 and out of Frederick Douglass High School.
I took my encyclopedias, my poetry books, my few little supplies, my 16 years worth of files on writing and teaching. Some books. All the journals and notebooks my students had left before the storm. Some journals and writings that students had left last year. I don't know what I'm going to do with all those journals, but I knew I couldn't leave them there. I couldn't find my box I'd collected with stuff for teaching Shakespeare's plays, or the box of essays that I'd been cutting out of newspapers for twenty years, or my box of poems and recordings of students reading poems. The room was still neat and "For My Young Friends Who Are Afraid" was still on the board. Eventually a few other teachers arrived and one of them, who had been there before today also, told me he thinks the school got trashed on purpose to make the possibility of Douglass re-opening even more unlikely. If so, somebody's despicable, because that beautiful old school was desecrated. Not overwhelmingly so. Not axed or torched or anything like that. Just trashed. Things strewn around. Doors busted out. Classrooms looted. Maps and wall hangings torn down. Windows broken. Feces on the floor. Mold crawling up the walls. The green terrazzo stairs chipped and layered with some kind of filthy dust. Stink. Cough-inducing air. I should have worn a face mask.
While I was putting things in my truck a police officer arrived to monitor who went in and out of the building and we had to sign our names on a sheet.
I don't feel finished with Douglass.


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