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On Your Mark

I press the pen hard between my fingers as I note this next to Rivky’s name. How do they all know everything about everyone?

Mrs. Fertig has a mug with the words Your Principal Is Your Pal sitting on her desk. I remember staring at it back when I sat here for my interview last spring, wondering if she meant it to refer to the students or the teachers. Right now, Mrs. Lipshitz and Mrs. Engel, the other second grade mechanchos, certainly appear at ease with the principal, making small talk about their families’ Succos experiences. I pull on a strand of hair and cross my ankles awkwardly.

“Chavi.” Mrs. Fertig turns to me, and I give a little jump. I see Mrs. Lipshitz hide a smile, and I want to melt in shame.

“Why don’t we start with you? Let’s get an update on your students. How have they been adjusting to the new school year, now that we’re post-Yamim Tovim?”

I uncross my ankles and pull out a notepad. Mrs. Lipshitz throws Mrs. Engel a tiny smirk, and I stiffen. What? Does writing down my notes scream “new kid on the block”?

“Sima Beigelson,” I begin. “A sweetie. She’s having some trouble with kriah, but I’ve been in touch with her mother about it. They said they’re getting her tutoring. I don’t know if they started yet, I’ll have to follow up.”

“Oh, trust me, they started,” Mrs. Engel says knowingly. “Esther Beigelson is very on top of her kids’ academics.”

I make a note next to Sima’s name. “Oh… okay.” I wonder what I’m supposed to do with that comment. Take Mrs. Engel’s word for it? Would that paint me as a team player, or as totally unprofessional?

“I, uh, think I’ll follow up anyway.” I glance at Mrs. Fertig, who gives me a little nod of approval, and let out my breath.

“Next… Rivky Binder. She’s been having some trouble concentrating in class recently.”

“Well, no wonder, with her grandmother in the hospital,” Mrs. Lipshitz says. “Her mother’s barely been home.”

I press the pen hard between my fingers as I note this next to Rivky’s name. How do they all know everything about everyone?

“I’m glad you told me,” I say stiffly, “considering I’m her teacher.”

I must sound miffed (well, I am, a little — and a whole lot insecure), because Mrs. Fertig, who was checking something on her phone, now says, “Oh, absolutely. It’s good you mentioned it, Henya.” It takes me a few seconds to remember that Henya is Mrs. Lipshitz. I still have trouble thinking of the older teachers by their first names.

I look at my list again, and my heart sinks. Rookie-teacher alert, here we come. It’s time to talk about— “Mashy Davidowitz. Um… she’s been having serious behavior issues, ever since the beginning of the year, and I haven’t been able to figure out a good system to help her.”

Mrs. Lipshitz snorts. “A Davidowitz? No surprise there.”

“The whole family has ADHD,” says Mrs. Engel.

“And then some!” adds Mrs. Lipschitz.

(Excerpted from Calligraphy, Issue 781)

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