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  • Brian McVety

About Your Lesson Plans

Updated: Aug 29, 2022

By Brian McVety

Tuesday – C Block


Dear Mr. Constantine,


I’m only going to report on your World History class because the fact that you teach three blocks of geography in the age of Google Maps is baffling. I blame the system, not you—don’t worry.


I asked the students where you were, but no one answered, let alone looked me in the eye. I silently stared at them for half the block anyways (in grad school, they called this wait time), but they stayed glued to their screens while they exchanged muffled laughter. Not until I confiscated their phones did they finally seem to acknowledge that I was in charge. Jessica Mews volunteered to collect them for me. I was surprised they felt that they could use their phones so freely. Must be kind of a lax classroom. I suppose teaching about the past makes it much easier to ignore the present, though.


Didn’t get to your lesson plans, or even find them among the many copies of Newsweek and ungraded papers covering your desk. Do you know that your chair squeaks every time you lean back in it?


I’m leaving this on the aforementioned chair so you have a shot of finding it tomorrow.


Respectfully,

Mr. Davis

(Brad)


###


Wednesday – C Block


Dear Mr. Constantine,


I totally didn’t expect to be back in for you—but here I am. Whatever is keeping you out must be pretty serious. I asked the students again what might be wrong. No one answered except for Jessica Mews (have you noticed that her nose whistles when she speaks?). She said that you mentioned at some point about needing some type of procedure. That’s great that you feel so comfortable talking about your personal life with the students.


Kind of reminds me of my old math teacher, Mr. Larkin, who I had my sophomore year. He used to tag us in the Facebook pictures he’d post even though we weren’t even in the shots. They wouldn’t even be of people, but of sunsets, or stop signs, or his wife at the beach. There were a lot of pictures of his wife at the beach—they’re divorced now. No one ever accepted his friend requests. I told the others I didn’t either. He still messages me sometimes.

I didn’t bother looking for your plans today. I told the students that it probably makes sense that we go back to the beginning anyway. I lectured on the Eridu Genesis of the Sumerian people and how their gods created perfection only to destroy it via flood. I really played up Ziasudura and his boat and how it was ravaged in that storm. They seemed to be into it until he sacrificed a sheep and an ox. I thought I saw Jacob #2 almost start to cry (apparently a vegan), but he also might have just been high (not on my watch). I asked if this sounded familiar to anyone and was surprised that they couldn’t name any Sumerian gods. When Jessica Mews raised her hand and said she thought that Noah survived the flood, I assigned them a report on creation myths, due tomorrow. Can you believe they thought there was only one flood? I thought this was world history, but maybe I’m mistaken.


I assume that you’ll be back tomorrow. I can come by and get the reports. I wouldn’t want to create any unnecessary work for you when you return. I’m sure you’ll be tired after having two days off.


Sincerely,

Mr. Davis

(Brad)


###



Thursday – C Block


Dear Mr. Constantine,


They tried to assign me to a Spanish class. I told them no comprende español and asked why I couldn’t be assigned to your class again. I feel like I’m building something with these kids. The secretary whispered that she heard students saying that I was trying too hard to be a real teacher. Kids (insert eyeroll emoji here). When I wouldn’t go to Spanish, Mrs. Strauss came out and asked me to come into her office. She reminded me that the best type of substitutes are the ones that no one remembers. That cut deep. When I promised to be forgotten, she let me come back here.


I thought back to the substitutes I had when I was in high school. The only one I could recall was a retired science teacher (Mr. Malsk?) who was hard of hearing. Students would give him fake names and would escape one by one until it was only me and Stephanie Loomis, the class valedictorian (by a fraction of a point), left in the classroom. After school one day, I told Mr. Larkin about the kids sneaking out. He shook his head and said that he would talk to the principal about holding the kids accountable. He then surprised me by pulling out a flask and pouring it into his tea. He offered it to me, and after I sipped it, I spit out what tasted like fire, spewing bourbon across the lesson plans on his desk. He laughed and patted me on the back and let his hand linger a little too long. I don’t think he ever told the principal about the kids sneaking out.


I’m sorry to say that most of the creation myth reports were garbage. I’ve reassessed my plan (in grad school they called this reflective practice) and divided the students into groups based on who seemed to be the smartest. It’s basically Jessica Mews versus the rest. Still, I’m having them act out different creation myths as skits. One group has started to prepare weapons for the great battle between Marduk and Tiamat as described in the Enūma Eliš from the Babylonians. Spoiler alert: not going to go so well for Tiamat. They’re still figuring out a way to convey his corpse being turned into earth and sky, but they’re making progress. I don’t want to brag, but I think it might be my greatest teaching accomplishment to date.


I hope you are healing up well. I’ve cleaned your desk for you. You’re welcome.


Best,

Mr. Davis

(Brad)


###


Friday – C Block


Gone almost the whole week, huh? Must have been some type of procedure. After what I’ve seen from most of them, though, who wouldn’t want to get away. Still, I think I might be finally getting somewhere with these kids.


When they came in today, I had a surprise. I pasted their portraits onto little cut-outs of Aztec and Indus and other mythical beings to help them remember who’s who for their skits. They couldn’t believe that I had taken the time to print out all their school pictures from the class directory on Edline. They really couldn’t believe that I stayed up half the night creating miniatures of the god or goddess I felt they most closely aligned with. They didn’t say thank you, except for Jessica Mews, whose cheeks reddened when she saw her face on top of a dragon’s body giving birth to the heavens and the earth. I told her that her god was responsible for us even being here, and I thought I saw her smile when I reminded her that it was always the best that had to sacrifice for the rest.


When I got to school this morning, I invited Tonya to come to watch the students’ performances. She said that she preferred that I call her Mrs. Strauss, but she did acknowledge that it would be a good idea for her to stop by. I told her we were starting with ancient Eastern myths because, like with just about everything else, they had their shit together before any of us.


Just as Pangu emerged from its 18,000-year-old egg, Tonya walked in. Talk about timing.

To represent the symbolic awakening of yin and yang, I brought in a couple dozen eggs that I had painted half black to represent that we all come from darkness and spend our lives searching for light. The students decided that the best way to celebrate life was by making a mess of it, so they started chucking the eggs at one another. Opening the door without knocking, Tonya stepped directly into the crossfire. She took one right to the forehead. I don’t know if she was more surprised at the egg hitting her or for Jessica Mews being the one chucking it.


With the gelatinous goo of creation dripping down her face, Tonya looked like she might cry. It reminded me of the time that I found Mr. Larkin alone in his Buick. They had fired him a year earlier, but he couldn’t bring himself to stop showing up. He thought that maybe they would need him back as a substitute or something. It was sad, seeing all the empty bags of Cheetos on his front seat. I hesitated when he asked me to sit with him. When I got in, he kept touching my knee as he told me that he didn’t understand why they fired him, that he hadn’t told his wife yet, that he still had so much more to give. He started to cry when he thought of what people must be saying about him at school. It was kind of like seeing a god fall, except the death of this god only resulted in loss of respect and a pension. I told him that nobody really talked about him much at all. It only made him cry harder. Pulling my knee from his dusted orange fingertips, I grabbed a handful of Cheetos bags to throw away as I got out of the car. I didn’t look back but knew in that moment that I would be the teacher that Mr. Larkin could only dream of being.


Tonya wiped away egg from her eyes instead of letting tears fall. She marched out of class. Together, we burst with laughter once door slammed shut.


I don’t think I’ll be invited back here on Monday, but I’ve learned a lot.


I hope you are feeling better soon, Mr. Constantine. The kids still want to perform for you, though, when you get back. They said they want to show what they learned about creation. I told them maybe just to do it without all the gore.


You’ve been beaten up enough already by not being able to see them. I know I’ll feel that way since I won’t be able to work with them anymore. I take solace, though, knowing there will be others elsewhere who will need my help navigating the ancient gods of Babylonia or Sumer. Even if they don’t know it yet.


With Gratitude

Mr. Davis

(Brad)





 

Brian McVety is a teacher who lives in Longmeadow, Massachusetts with his wife and three daughters. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Flash Fiction Magazine, Tiny Molecules, Feed, Sinking City, and elsewhere. He can be followed on Twitter @bmcvety.



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