I pulled up in front of my co-worker Amanda’s house and took a sip of coffee. Despite the ability to wake up half an hour later than usual this morning, I was as exhausted as ever. At least today was a PD Day, and we wouldn’t have to teach. Today would consist of a routine staff meeting, a professional development workshop and a catered lunch. After lunch we would be free to clean up our desks and catch up on marking.
Amanda finally exited her house wearing yoga pants and a hoodie. She looked like she was ready to go jogging rather than to work. I loved being able to dress down on these days. I wore blue jeans with a tear on each knee and a patterned hooded cardigan with tassels dangling from the bottom.
The biggest mistake we made that morning was failing to realize that starting work half an hour later didn’t actually translate to leaving our homes half an hour later. Not in Leafton, with the crazy rush hour commute. As it turned out, the time we were leaving earlier was just at the beginning of the craziness. When we left half an hour later, we drove right into the belly of the beast.
I sped through the residential streets around the school. I parked quickly, and we ran across the parking lot and into our building. We still ended up being half an hour late for the meeting. Our boss Percy was already lecturing our coworkers about something when we sheepishly entered the meeting, plastic chairs tucked under our arms. The only spot available was at the front and center of the room.
The meeting went on as usual, until Percy picked up a bottle of champagne with a blue bow strung around its neck. It had caught my eye earlier, sitting next to his chair. He held it up and explained that it was time to announce the teacher of the year.
“This year, the award is going to a teacher who has been here for about two years now.” Percy began, an air of mystery in his voice. I glanced around the room, trying to pinpoint the teachers who had started around the same time as I had. “This teacher has worked hard and is a favourite among students.”
That sounded a bit like me. I slid uncomfortably lower in my chair.
“She has taken on several new classes, ranging throughout all levels. She always has a positive demeanor and no matter what is asked of her, she always replies with, ‘okay’ or ‘sure!'”
A light chuckle spread through the room. I tried to melt into the floor. To disappear. I knew he was doing an impression of me. I was certain now. Dread radiated from my heart to my head as Percy announced, “and that teacher is, Alexis!”
Oh god. I had been late to a meeting where they had planned to give me an award. People started to clap. Someone cheered. I swallowed hard and forced myself to stand and take the bottle from Percy. It shook between my hands. I forced a smile. I worked hard not to let my embarrassment reach my face.
I thanked Percy with slouched shoulders. I wondered if they would realize they’d made a mistake. I wasn’t that special. I just went in every day and did the best I could. He was right that I always kept my cool because there was nothing to really get upset about. I still couldn’t believe I got paid to do something I loved so much. But now standing in front of everyone, I felt like a misfit teenager, dressed in clothes my mother would hate. I was a fraud.
In a minute it was over. The meeting was adjourned, and people started leaving the room. I’m sure my cheeks were flushed bright pink. Throughout the day people continued to offer their congratulations, which I bashfully accepted. It all seemed so surreal. They liked me. They really liked me. I was the teacher of the year.