Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Chasing the Dawn

On a normal Tuesday during the last week of February, I carried a case of water to my classroom then hustled back to my car to get the rest of the supplies for my classes. 

This whole “bring food to my students” thing escalated quickly.

It started with Vinny from last semester. You remember him? You would if he was in your class.

Anyway, as part of his service project he collected donations from Planet Fitness members, and we packed the canned goods and snacks into brown bags that we distributed at Veterans Village. 

Vinny brought me so many donations that I had a few odds and ends left over in my office, so I decided to make a tray of granola bars and cheese crackers to bring to my class the first week of classes.

 All the food disappeared quickly, so I bought more, and added bananas Alicia’s mom sent two huge boxes of granola bars.  Tia brought Little Debbies.  Every single day in every single class I had enough food for everyone to take something.

Of course I had no rules for my students about the food. They didn’t have to earn a special grade or come to class early. They could take two, take three, take one for their friend who was always hungry. No one took too much, and students rarely took anything before class and instead grabbed a snack on their way out of the class and said goodbye and thank you.  A very nice way to end class.

During the first exam – back in January -- there was a little situation where a Starbucks cup filled with ice water that had been precariously balancing on the edge of the desk fell down in a minor explosion of ice and water and embarrassment.  My student’s face turned red so I blurted out from across the room, “I’m sorry for knocking your water off! My super powers go crazy some times.” She giggled. I offered that I had a water bottle in my lunch bag in my office, and if she was really thirsty she could run upstairs and get it. 

She said no and the room went back exam-day-quiet.

I arrived to my next class early, set up all the food and got ready for exam day. 

Once everyone was settled but before I passed out exams, Tyler raised his hand. Yes? “I heard you were giving out water bottles in your earlier class….?”  I told him that was fake news, but then asked my class if they were thirsty. Heads nodded.  So throughout February I brought both water bottles and brunch, often arriving on campus before dawn to set my class up before 7:15 and head upstairs to eat breakfast with colleagues. 

Back to this particularly normal Tuesday in February I was discussing earlier.  As I was walking under the inky sky that was turning just a bit pink and orange my mind flashed back to Spring 2000, the only other semester I brought food for my students. It was different but the same; I was an adjunct teaching 5 classes on 3 campuses around Tallahassee, and I would spend about $20 every Wednesday to get enough ingredients to make one tray of cookies for each of my classes.

 I take three more steps before the gravity of it all hits.

20 years ago I was bringing cookies and having a normal semester until something happened that changed everything – Marvin Scott, one of my favorite students, died in a car accident.  Ten years later when I was trying to write a book about Marvin’s life, two people in one of my classes passed away.

A little voice inside me said “Oh-uh, brace yourself.”