Monday, December 13, 2010

Butterflies and Balloons: First Bus Commute to My New Job

Last week I started a new, very part time teaching job teaching writing classes at a small rural elementary school.  When I taught here a few years ago, I drove.  Even with something interesting on the radio, and beautiful scenery on the way, it was a kind of a dull commute.  I remember thinking that I would have rather been doing almost anything else while I had childcare for Bigger (who was only a year old at the time) than feeling stuck in my car.

As I was planning my first bus commute last week, I was curious about how the trip would turn out.  Would it still feel like I was squandering those precious minutes of childcare?  I was also concerned about the cargo I was planning to bring: 14 helium-filled balloons along with a heavy bag.  Would it be too awkward to carry these things on the bus?  Would the bus commute hamper my creativity as a teacher by limiting what I could bring to school with me?

As it turned out, I was too nervous to really enjoy my commute there, or to notice much about it.  Most teachers get a case of butterflies in the stomach on the first day of school.  For me on this particular first day, those first day jitters were pretty intense, since it's been two years since I last taught in a classroom.  Witness my self-portrait on the bus ride there, below:

You probably can't tell that I'm trying to smile.  My crazy hair isn't helping, either.  Okay, here's shot number two, trying harder.

Not really much more genuine, right?  I just gave up after that.

Aside from my nerves, though, the morning bus ride was just fine.  It was no problem to bring the balloons with me, and in fact, no one even mentioned them during my trip.  My bags were not all that heavy.  I made it to the school about ten minutes earlier than I had expected to, giving me some extra time to catch up with the school's office manager (an incredible woman, I think that school secretaries should run the world) and catch my breath before setting up for my lessons and collecting students.

And the students?  They are wonderful!  I already love them.  We used the balloons as a prop for our first lesson, about finding inspiration for writing in ordinary life.  Then each child composed something very short, taped it to a balloon, cut the ribbon, and let it fly away.  I wish I could post the photos here! 

After I finished teaching, I had some time at school to do some prep work for my next lesson and help out a little in the classroom of a friend from grad school.  I arrived at the bus stop with plenty of time to read before my bus arrived.  Reading for pleasure in the middle of the day?  That's this busy mother's definition of heaven.

On the bus, I had a chance to do some knitting.  I have this beautiful ivory baby alpaca yarn that I've been trying to make a cowl from since my birthday in October.  I've ripped it out several times because the width of the cowl or the type of stitch I chose just didn't feel right.  It was good to finally make some progress on it.

The bus was fairly quiet and mellow.  It was raining, and there were beautiful birds and trees outside.  A mother boarded the bus with her daughter, and they read a children's novel aloud in soft voices.  An older man asked me what I was knitting.  It was a pleasant trip.

So far, I really like my bus commute.  It's nice to have my hands and my mind free, and to be able to focus on whatever relaxing activity (or, um, gripping anxiety) I've brought with me.  I'm looking forward to my commute again this week.  And in the new year, I'm excited to try cycling some or all of it.  For you seasoned rural cyclists, biking 16 miles on country roads must be no big deal.  To me, though, it is a whole new world.  What better way, though, to practice what I preach as a teacher?  Children need to know that adults are sometimes beginners, too.


  1. Oh big sister, you released balloons? Have I taught you nothing? Balloons in the atmosphere seem to find the ocean and choke sea turtles to death.
    Littlest Sister

  2. Oh no! I actually did some reading online, and found that the issue was the ribbons (which get wrapped around the necks of animals), not the latex, which was deemed "biodegradable". Aack! I guess I should have done more research, or asked you, Auntie R.

    Sorry, sea turtles. I hope that my nine balloons do not reach you.