BY 9:45 A.M. I have refereed a battle over a coffee cake, read a chapter of computer science, dressed two kids and sent them out to play, started four loaves of inflation-fighting rye bread and put them on the stove to rise. While my eyes rest on a page of 19th century poetry, my ears listen for Caroline to wake up.
Susie is off putting in a few hours at the word processor and I am juggling three roles this morning: daddy, teacher and student. Trying to break out of the mold of liberal arts graduate and bearded, tweedy England teacher, I am learning computer programming.
The running joke among friends is that I am probably the only person in Washington utilizing both sides of my brain: one to teach British literature and composition to high school seniors, the other to master the fundamentals of Fortran and assembly language programming. I say that I can almost feel the "verbal" sector go to flab while the "numerical" sector becomes firm with exercise.
When Susie returns at noon, I head for Montgomery College and an afternoon of keypunching and waiting. The turnaround time will be three hours if the computer doesn't stage a job action, so I punch the program, drop it off and start for home before I start to feel guilty about another Sunday afternoon away from the family.
After dinner and after the girls are bathed and put to bed, I grade some vocabulary exercises, record the grades and dive back into Chapter 4: "machine language instructions." Monday
The alarm clock goes off a 5 a.m. I reset it to 6 and return to bed. I'm not that much of a morning person. I tell myself; besides, I can study tonight. My midterm exams are scheduled for Tuesday night.
School goes smoothly. I hand back some tests whose grades have a sedating effect on the kids. I then show a filmstrip about William Wordsworth, and scenes of England's Lake District make me nostalgic for my year as an exchange teacher. I promise my students that I'll show some slides before the week is out, then kick myself as I wonder where I'll find the time to sort them.
Half my planning period is spent on hall duty, leaving a few minutes to type a letter of recommendation for a student and run off copies of a quiz for later in the week.
Home briefly, then a quick trip to check on my Fortran program and keypunch a short assembly program. I put the latter in to run and the former in my briefcase so I can figure out what went wrong with it when I get home.
Susie has prepared dinner before leaving for work. Ships in the night. All is peaceful by 9:30. As I begin studying I remember I am teaching a poem tomorrow that I don't yet understand. Again I am sitting on the couch with a literature anthology on my lap and my computer text next to me. My thoughts flash back to the episode of "The White Shadow" of an hour earlier, a story about a disillusioned teacher whose last name is the same as mine. I shudder. Tuesday
I lecture all morning on the merits of Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" and leave school at noon. I have a dentist appointment scheduled that necessitates taking a half day's sick leave. It is fortuitous, though, because I'll get a few minutes to study and miss the afternoon "human relations" workshop for teachers. The Board of Education's efforts to make us human are usually an appalling waste of time. Besides, I've got "computer relations" on my mind.
At 6 o'clock, our class is told that the instructor will not be coming. Most are elated. I'm not. This gives me two empty hours to worry about the 8 o'clock test. I try to study and again come within inches of filling in a "change to audit" form I've been carrying for weeks. I'm in shock when the test has only one question which stumps me completely and only a few others requiring guesses.
Before heading home, I doctor my Fortran program that is due Thursday and put it in again. The touchups are minor and I vow that I will wait until Thursday to look at the next edition. Tomorrow, curiosity notwithstanding, I'll take the day off from data. Wednesday
If you bomb out in a classroom of 25 high school seniors, you can't ignore the fact. Today is a day when everything goes according to plan and yet the results are just not there. A room full of bored people couldn't hide it if they wanted to, and seniors rarely want to. They are polite enough, but there's the telltale stampede for the door at the bell that leaves little room for doubt. After seven years, I don't put my ego on the line in the classroom. It's a good thing.
At dinner, Linea tells funny stories about school. Then Susie goes to work. The evening is a combination of home-work-monitoring, fight-intervening and attention-giving. How anyone handles more kids than this, I don't know. My parents had seven and I wonder how they stayed sane. Surprisingly, tonight runs very smoothly, and I don't feel I need to go to bed at the same time as the girls. Thursday
A few kids mention "senior slump" to explain their lack of interest. With college acceptances trickling in and the rest due imminently, most seniors have shifted into neutral. One of my borderline students tells me he was offered a full athletic scholarship. I assume the athletic department will hire tutors for him. He's a nice kid, and I find myself wishing the best for him -- even if he can't scan a line of poetry.
At 6, my Fortran exam is handed out. It is a well made test, challenging but fair. I leave feeling good. Assembly language is comprehensible owing to a guest lecturer who knows how to make difficult concepts easy and how to involve the class in the learning process. Because I am a teacher I am considerably more critical of those who teach me than are my classmates. It's good for me to have to work at this, however, as it keeps me aware of the predicament of some of the kids I teach.
After class, I chat with a classmate who also teaches and has applied for the teacher exchange to England. I tell her about my experiences and extend an invitation to an "advice" session if she gets the position. Home at 10 and Susie and I talk about the kids for a while and go to bed. Friday
I show all my classes my slides of Britain. Since we have just read works set in Scotland, Bath and the Lake District, the kids are able to put the pictures in some sort of context. I am pleasantly surprised to see, after a week of yawns, alert and interested faces. The slides are as unsorted as they were on Monday, but it doesn't seem to matter as we hop all over and double back on locations again and again.
After school, I telephone a response to a newspaper ad for technical writers. I have thought that, besides training, technical writing would be a good place to meld my writing skills with my new-found commitment to the computer field. For what is probably the hundredth time since the summer, I am told that I lack the necessay experience. As I endorse my paycheck for Susie's trip to the bank, I consider briefly that it's not all that bad. Once more, I tell myself not to let narrowminded personnel people discourage me.
After the kids are in bed, I sit down to meditate on my next Fortran program. The last finally worked, so I am buoyed. Saturday
Susie and I catch up on sleep in shifts. This morning she is up early and goes back to bed when I rise about 8. Linea spent the night with a friend from school; Emilia has a cold and is a bit listless. The result is a quiet morning. I think through the next program and make some notes. After lunch, I code it, then run over to the college to discover the keypunch room virtually deserted. My batch of cards is into the card reader within 45 minutes, but, before the printout is ready, the whole system gasps and dies. By now I expect this and know that waiting and hoping will only drive me crazy. I go home.
I take a nap and sleep soundly until dinner time. We've been invited to a St. Patrick's Day party but we don't yet have a baby sitter we would trust with an infant. The party is given by a former colleague from my days teaching in a junior high, so Susie offers to stay with the kids. I usually hate Washington parties and all the talk about jobs, but this one is better than most. I drink a little too much beer and stay a little too late. It's good to forget the week for now.
When I finally go to bed I savor the fact that the coming week is semester break. I'll wear one less hat for seven whole days.