All day long, kids have been walking into my room and exclaiming, "It's cold in here!" At first I wanted to be accommodating by trying to explain. The windows are closed, I'd say. It's an old building, and sometimes the heat doesn't get to all the rooms. The library across the hall is hot, they've got the windows open; I prefer this. No, you can't put on your sweatshirt, it's not in dress code.
But after 20 or so exchanges, I'm tired. So I stand at the door and bark at them as they walk in: "Yes, I know!"
"What do you know?" they ask, enter my room, and say, "Wow, it's cold in here!"
"I already told you, I know!"
A girl heads my way, I know she's not going to like the temperature, so I say, "I know! I know!"
"You do?" she asks, pausing in the doorway. "How do you know?"
"I just do," I respond. "I've been here all day."
She almost starts crying. "I can't believe they'd do that!" she says.
"Oh, you know!" she says. "You said you know about it."
Of course I don't know anything about it. I just know that it's cold in my classroom. She takes out a copy of the student newspaper that just came out, flips open to the "personals" section and points at a little love note written to her boyfriend ... by someone else. Then, she points to another. There are two separate messages to this boy, and neither are from her, the girlfriend. I want to laugh. But this is a serious situation, this is the most important thing in the world to her, a crisis.
"Ah, yes, everyone wants him," I say. "But who is he dating?"
"Yeah," she smiles. "Did you see the message he wrote me? Look!" I read a declaration of true love. "I bet they feel salty now," she says and walks in the room with confidence.
It's another typical day. Some students won't be able to concentrate because they're cold. Others will be upset about something their boyfriends did ... or didn't even do. And the list goes on and on. They're hungry. Someone threatened them. They worked all night, didn't get any sleep. They got kicked out of the house. It'll be amazing if any of them will hear a word I say.
But what am I supposed to do about any of it? I can't magically make the room comfortable for everyone. I can't tell this girl the truth, that she isn't really in love, that eventually, the boy will dump her or cheat on her, but she will move on, find someone else and forget about this boy and all his secret admirers.
But as the next few students walk in, I don't say "I know" anymore. Because, really, I don't know what's going on in their lives or who they really are. All I know is that when that bell rings, I've got 46 minutes to educate and entertain, to make them forget about all their worries and realize this is the most important thing in the world, that if they just pay attention and do what I say they will get smart and go to college and get good jobs and live happily ever after.
Um ... one thing at a time. Maybe I'll just focus on the cold today: "Chicken Dance anyone?"