I am early. The first students won’t arrive at the school for almost an hour and the office won’t open till then, but I am here, as usual, right after the janitor unlocks the front doors.
It’s winter now – January ninth, a Tuesday – and dark as midnight. I walked this morning to avoid taking the car onto the snowy roads. The school is not a mile from my house and when one is rightly dressed and the walk not too long, well, the weather is actually a pleasant thing, wind and snow and all. The roads are so empty on mornings like this one I find myself imagining that I have gone back in time and almost expect to see a horse and cart behind the moving light in the distance.
I love the bundling up. The gloves and scarves and the proper coat and hat; the overshoes. One feels secure and complete in them. My hangers are in the corner of my classroom and next to the old radiator and for the first few moments after I hang my overclothes I can catch the clean scent of the snow melting from the woolen coat.
In the business of the day I will hear complaints from my fellow teachers about our conditions here. They will talk of our low pay and of students and parents of students and our own administrators who, they will say, “make our jobs impossible to do.” I smile and offer no rejoinders, but this job is heaven for me.
I come early every day for the purpose, I tell myself, of getting organized; for thinking through the day ahead. But when I am here alone, I find myself almost rapt in an attention to what I have been given; what I am allowed to do. I look at the books stacked on the shelves below the windows and think of the treasures they contain. Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, Twain, Poe, Hemingway. I think of the wall of windows itself. The men who put them there and the money that paid for it all and I dust off a desk top here or there and hope silently that this place will never change, that it will last forever, and that one hundred years from now young students will sit in these desks, absorbing the wisdom of the ages, learning of love and honor, as the winter sun climbs in the east and sends its rays through these tall windows.