The Perils of Louella:

Chapter 196: Louella Gets Some Tips

by A.C. Cherbonnier
       THE BELL RANG and third period was over. Louella gathered up her grade book and purse and headed for the faculty lounge.
       God! My feet are killing me! This is the last time I wear heels! And my throat’s sore! How am I ever going to get through this? She pushed past hordes of boisterous students, feet burning at every step.
       How am I ever going to cope with all this? she wondered. It’s like having to manage a waterfall!
       She climbed a steep flight of stairs and hobbled past the office, where about 20 kids were noisily trying to get late passes. “I was late ’cause I had a reason, okay?” one of them called out. A phone was ringing continually but no one answered it.
       The door to the faculty lounge was locked. Louella had to rap hard several times to be admitted.
       “Who are you?” blurted a stylish woman. “Haven’t seen you before! You teaching here?”
       “Trying to,” said Louella ruefully, as she made her way past a motley assortment of chairs to the coffee machine. “I’m long-term subbing in math.”
       “You poor puppy!” said the woman. “That’s got to be one of the toughest gigs we’ve got!”
       “I’m beginning to see that,” said Louella as she stirred ersatz cream into what looked to be coffee and dropped a quarter into a box. She sipped and felt like gagging. Can’t anybody measure coffee, for crying out loud? I mean, how hard is that?
       She settled into a turquoise naugahyde chair without arms and was glad for the sunshine coming through the security-screened dirty windows. Feels like a bunker in here, but at least it’s quiet! she thought.
       The man across from her roused from his reverie. “Hi, I’m Joe Dunn. Teach social studies, seventh grade.” He leaned over to shake hands.
       “And I’m Celia Hammond, special ed,” said the woman who had opened the door. Louella noticed her lipstick was beautifully applied, and her fingernails were long and enameled with jeweled designs. How come she looks so perfect? I feel like I’ve been through the wringer!
       The other two looked at Louella expectantly. “This your first day?” asked Joe sympathetically.
       “Can you tell?”
       “Honey, it’s all over your face!” said Celia. “What’d you do, stand up and teach the whole time?”
       “Well, yes. Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do?”
       “Depends on whether you want to make it or not. You can burn out fast doing that. You have to learn to pace yourself. You know, give ’em seat work, stretch things out a little bit.”
       Joe nodded. “You’ll catch on. We all do. You have to, or you burn out.”
       Louella blurted, “But they’re learning! I know they are! I don’t see how else to do it!”
       “But you’re all wrung out, right?” asked Celia. Louella nodded. “Trust me, you’ve got to calm them down and keep the lid on. ‘Keep those handouts coming,’ that’s what I say.”
       “Is there a lavatory in here?” asked Louella, suddenly feeling an urge to vomit.
       “That door there, honey,” said Celia. Louella saw the door had a big vent at the bottom. “Yeah, we can hear, but we won’t pay attention, okay? You’ll get used to it.”


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This story was published on May 3, 2000.