January 12 – One Rainy Day in the Life of a California School Teacher

by Lisa Rizzo

Standing in the doorway, I watch the rain pour down. The gutter has come loose again, and a waterfall gushes right outside my classroom door. If it weren’t for the eave overhead, I would be drenched now, completely at the mercy of the water forming puddles on the uneven concrete. I stand outside in the rain because 60 years ago when this school was built in Northern California, someone had the bright idea of long banks of classrooms joined by covered walkways exposed to the elements.

The door to my classroom has recently begun to stick a little when opening, and I know that this means the screws at the bottom of the door are coming loose. I am an expert because this has happened two times in the past. Soon the door will either refuse to open or close–whichever action comes at the moment when the screws give way. Then I will be forced to call the district maintenance guys again, and they will put wood putty in the holes and re-screw the door. This will solve the problem for a couple more years before the whole process will have to be repeated. Just like the gutter that streams waterfalls outside my door.

Last year the maintenance guys spent days welding the gutter seams together as if their puny efforts could hold against the pressure of water pushing against the steel. The welds held last winter when we got only 37% of our normal rainfall, but this year the rains have already fallen long and hard. Nature is winning.

Standing in the doorway, I can see that the enormous puddle in the middle of the courtyard is growing. In the 22 years I have taught at this school, after each storm the water pools. Long ago the drains filled with roots from the bottlebrush tree that grows there. Every year when the water rises, unwary students slosh through it–sometimes above their ankles–until they learn to find a detour around it. I tell them we call this Lake Rizzo.

This year the leaks in the walkway roof are getting worse and it is harder to pass from one hallway to another without getting wet–without a stray drop down the back of my neck or in my eye.

And it is all this that makes this day seem almost unbearable. I might find the pressures of trying to teach in a beleaguered public school system more tolerable if I could walk down the hallway or stand at the door to greet my students and stay dry.

Lisa Rizzo is the author of In the Poem the Ocean (Big Table Publishing). Her work has appeared in such journals as 13th Moon, Earth’s Daughters, Bellowing Ark and Calyx, as well as her blog Poet Teacher Seeks World. She won 1st prize in the 2012 BAPC Poetry Contest. By day she teaches middle school in Northern California.

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10 responses to “January 12 – One Rainy Day in the Life of a California School Teacher

  1. Hi Lisa-I wish you could wish your excess rain to TEXAS!!!

  2. Perfectly described, Riz. It is amazing that you are able to teach our students so successfully in the face of such situations…and the one you described is only one of the challenges in the facilities in which we work.

  3. I work in a new school but even it has a lot of problems, e.g. for a while when we first moved in, it appeared to be sinking. In spite of Texas being one of the lowest funded public school systems in the country and my teaching at one of the poorer ones, I love teaching high school. This is about my third or fourth career, but it seems I have found my true calling or at least a large portion of it. I am grateful.

    • Juliana – Most schools around this country suffer from either being very old or poorly built. As for teaching, I wouldn’t do anything else. That’s why I’ve stayed in my crumbling school so long. I knew it was my true calling as soon as I faced the first students. Thank you for reading.

  4. Lisa, I can so relate, though this spring my students will be virtual as will my hallways and rain. I love your sense of humor…naming that wicked little puddle Lake Rizzo takes the edge off, I hope. Maybe a new umbrella? Something with lines of poetry across it, if such a thing exists. If it doesn’t, maybe we should be the first to make and market such a thing to raise the spirits of poet teachers.

  5. Carolyn Jaramillo

    Lisa,
    I so remember those scenes and times. How many requests do you have to fill out now to have the repairs made? And when was “Lake Rizzo” dedicated? Keep up the good work and your sense of humor!
    I don’t miss those puddles!
    Si, se puede,
    Carolyn

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