Remember back in the day when your teacher would wheel the TV into your classroom, and the class would erupt? I used to think that was just the teacher deciding to play the role of hero for the day; A reward for my class putting forth such splendid behaviour. But then I became a teacher a realized the true reason for movie days- hangovers. As a university student, I’d go out any day of the week and not care what the next day had in store. Even if I had class the next day, it was so easy to skip and feel absolutely no remorse and face no repercussions. Adulthood, though, meant a real job and no more Tequila Tuesdays or Jagerbomb Thursdays.
The good thing about teaching is that you start as a substitute. That meant essentially choosing my own schedule. At that point, job offers would come in via text- text yes to accept, or don’t reply to decline. It was so incredibly easy to say nah, I’m getting messy tonight. No thanks to teaching that group of asshole grade 2s tomorrow, it’s time to get plastered.
Everything changes as a full-time teacher. It’s different than an office job, too. You can have that office job where you show up hungover and get away with it- Keep your head down, stay at your own desk, speak in quick spurts, and head home an hour early. Teaching young children, though, means you have to talk to a full room of kids, giving direction, unable to sneak out early, dealing with all the tattle tailing and questions and complaints, and on and on and on. The job is hard enough when you don’t get a good night’s sleep, let alone after a night of rum and cokes.
With that setup, I’m sure you know where this story is going. Without further ado, here is my shining hangover moment as a teacher:
I was young, in one of my first long term jobs, just a few months in. I had started this job in January. The first few months were hectic but I ended up finding my groove so by April, things were going rather smoothly. I sort of felt like an old pro, walking around with my coffee mug in the staff room, asking Barb about her weekend, discussing the weather with Tonya as prayed the rain would hold off so those crazy kids could have outdoor recess, smiling away as Shelby told another of her great and totally not repetitive stories about her new puppy. The main topic of conversation in the staff room was of course, complaining about classroom shenanigans. It’s a real rite of passage for a teacher. Whenever something wacky happened out in my portable, I couldn’t wait to share it in the staffroom.
Oh yeah, I was in a portable. I actually loved it out there, far away from the principal, no worries about how loud my class was and the ability to easily push the kids outside for an early recess when I’d had enough of them. It was a grade 6 job with a morning and an afternoon class. Both classes had about 30 kids so it was a tight fit in the portable, but the classes were well-behaved for the most part. I taught both groups math and language, so the subject material was somewhat heavy. I often taught the same lesson 3 times- first to myself, then to my morning class, and then to the afternoon class. The afternoon class benefited greatly from this as I had cleaned up my act by the time they rolled in.
Anyway, it was early April when Spring Fever slapped me right in the face. No more avoiding the outside world, no more immediately curling up into a ball in my bed after work. I was so peppy I decided to take a walk after dinner with my girlfriend. Our walks always went one of three ways-
1. Walk in a circle back to our apartment (Lame).
2. Walk to the convenience store and pick out some snacks (Decent).
3. Walk to the bar near our place (Cue the Kool-Aid Man saying “Oh Yeah”).
This of course, was my favourite of the three walks. But this particular day was a Wednesday. We’d be up before 7 the next morning. We couldn’t head to the bar on this walk, could we? It was probably 5 degrees outside, but 5 degrees hits different in April then it does in October. After a long, cold winter, this was shorts weather. I was in such a delightful mood that I may have even worn flip flops. As we approached the bar/convenience store area, we had a choice to make. Sometimes my girlfriend and I have these weird moments where we don’t even have to speak; we both know that we want the exact same thing. This is usually how we end up going for a sushi lunch. I’ve come to realize we might both be constantly thinking about having sushi for lunch, so when the other person mentions sushi, we both go crazy about how we both had the exact same thought, even though we’re probably both just always thinking about sushi. I know I am.
Anyway, we were both filled with joy on this April evening and a simple look into each other’s eyes allowed us both to realize that we wanted the same thing- alcohol. Our feet took us where we wanted to go from there, and with that, two grown adults with big boy/girl jobs were doing the unthinkable-drinking at a bar on a work night!
A pitcher of Kronenburg Blanc was at our table before we could even sit down to start the night right. The first time we ever went to this bar, we ordered Kronenburg Blanc, so naturally the waitress thought this was the one and only beer we would ever want and always had it at our table upon our arrival. Who am I to complain about quick service, though.
The rest of the night was a bit of a blur. I think at one point we talked about how we should start going for morning runs. We might have also planned a road trip to Western Canada, and likely discussed buying a second cat. What I do know, is that one pitcher turned to two, some wings were involved, and we even felt it to be a good idea to have a few shots.
The next clear memory I have is my alarm clock going off at 6:45 am. I scrambled around, trying to make sense of everything going on- okay; I am in my normal bed, that’s a good start. My girlfriend is beside me, also good. My mouth is as dry as the Sahara desert, though- not ideal. And my head is absolutely pounding- also not ideal. I poked my girlfriend to indicate it was time to start getting ready. She had that look of someone who didn’t even know what year it was. “I think I’m going to work from home today.”
That was as nice a response as I could deliver to her at this time. In part because I had no ability to speak more than one word while feeling like I might die at any second, but also, for her to have the audacity, and I mean the AUDACITY to make me suffer through this day at work while she could just stay home was, simply put, absurd. My mind started racing with the theory that she had planned this all along. She had known about this work from home day for weeks, maybe months. Was it even my idea to go to the bar last night? Who suggested those shots? I felt betrayed, but I had to keep moving. I managed to get out of the bed which was a victory in itself. I quickly packed a lunch- I think it was an apple and a frozen Jamaican patty, and then made sure to sit down as I brushed my teeth. I threw some gel in my hair, knowing full well I could have a professional stylist come in to get me ready and I’d still look like complete garage. I was as a pale as an albino and my eyes were bloodshot as I headed to my car. I had made a cup of coffee but my brain and stomach were having a conflict about whether or not I should put anything into my body at this point in time.
School started at 8:30. I arrived just before 8, giving me half an hour to get myself in order. My try-hard period as a young teacher had been over for a few weeks, meaning I wasn’t coming to school with my day fully planned at this point. I usually did my planning upon my arrival, but on this particular morning, I was in no condition to plan a lesson, let alone teach one. I quickly found some math sheets online and printed them off. The problem was that the printer was inside the school. I tried to take the quickest path from the portable to the printer, avoiding eye contact with everyone I passed. Sorry Janet, I don’t care about how Billy did at hockey last night, I’m just trying not to die right now.
I picked up my worksheets and quickly headed back out to the portable. Boom, problem solved right? Not so fast. My stomach has taken a turn for the worse. It was maybe 8:15 at this point, right when the students arrived on the school yard. I kept telling myself that I’d be okay but I knew the truth- I had to puke, to blow chunks, to throw up, to spew, disgorge, or let loose, so to speak.
There were two options: Option 1. Head to the staff bathroom. Problem: the staff bathroom is in the staff room, right by the printer in fact. If only I had been overcome with this need to heave just a few minutes earlier. I was right there! Now, I’d have to walk past all the students on the yard, then maneuver my way through the hallway, hoping to make it to the bathroom in time. And even if I did make it there before I vomited, I’d need the bathroom to be unoccupied or else be forced to wait in line and potentially humiliate myself in front of Linda and Martha and the whole staffroom teacher crew.
Option 2- Puke in the class. Problem: Where would I puke, and how could I quickly get rid of the smell? As I was considering my options, I was overcome with the need to hurl and realized option 2 was happening right then and there. I quickly dumped my lunch out of my plastic grocery bag and used it to upchuck all that beer and wings and bad decisions from the night before. I then tied up the bag, threw it in the garbage, ate a few mints and welcomed the students into my class at the sound of the bell. Fortunately for me, kids at that age stink in their own way so my class always sort of had a funny smell. No one seemed to notice the smell coming from the bag of puke in the trash. It didn’t end there, though. Now, it was time to teach.
“Some of you have been coming to school sick recently. If you’re not feeling well, do everyone a favour and stay home. We’re all jammed into this little portable so germs are easily spread around. I think I might be catching something from one of you so I don’t have a ton of energy. You’re all going to work on these math sheets. If you have a question, ask your friend beside you. If they don’t get it, move on to the next question. If you can have a good first block, we’ll watch a movie next block.”
This will forever and always be one of my all-time great teacher speeches. I even amazed myself. The students genuinely looked remorseful for coming to school with a common cold. They also looked determined to earn that movie.
Simply put, the speech was spectacular. I managed to make it through the day alive with just the one spit-up incident.
When I arrived back home, there was my girlfriend, in bed, cuddling the cat as she watched Netflix. I nearly killed her.