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Monday, August 03, 2020


by Jen Schneider

Morning greetings spill through speakers, one per room - affixed to paint chipped ceilings – Good day, All - beside a single ceiling fan - in each of our building’s fifty-three rooms. Stocked with metal chairs on rusted legs, boxes of No. 2s, and books – many Requirements, more Favorites. Ferdinand and Potter. Mice and Men and Huckleberry Finn. Rosa, Ruby Bridges, and Malala, too. Most passed down for generations of classes before. Don’t consume. Critique, Ms. B. said, as she’d stock our stacks with book swap finds. Ms. B. fought hard – her 4 feet 11 inches - alerting officials – in formations six yards wide and six feet tall - at evening school board meetings – monthly. For years. Fifteen and counting. Until the counting stopped. Teach us to fight for what’s right – through the written word, library research, and careful fact-finding. 

I want to be a Teacher. And a Writer. And a Reader, Ms. B. Uncover injustice. Just like you.

Chuckling over inside jokes of hidden closets and earlier versions of ourselves from classes prior. Missing room No. 54. Did you see…? Misplaced backpacks, clear by compliance – it’s regulation. Did you hear…? Uninhabited chairs that squeak. Each room, a relic from the 1920s. Ms. B.’s magic made each home to no less than thirty-four warm bodies of all shapes and shades. 

Principal – Ms. B. - shares updates on weather – cloudy with a chance of rain – isn’t it always the case? – and schedules – extended time for third period – stomachs flutter, mandated tests, extra review – Algebra, U.S. History – with Ms. B.’s extra readings, so that we learn the truth – cells away, pencils out - no options for pass-permitted bathroom breaks – I’d rather not say why.

Always closing with words – the reason I - We – all eighteen hundred plus of us, united by zip code and respect for Ms. B. – show each day and on time.

No matter what, Remember, you are loved. Ms. B.

Static. Click. Now done. Silence. A single chair squeaks. Rubber-soled shoes shuffle. Someone coughs. With nothing more to say, we do as Ms. B. would. With space between us, we write.
Adjust elastic around ears. Reset cloth masks. Watch silent tears drop. Pick up broken No. 2s

We love you, too, Ms. B.

Rip sheets of lined paper from spiral notebook. Crumple, tight. Place in right front pocket. Wash.
For fifteen years and counting, kids like me would know the voice of kindness. Syllables streamed through pie-shaped speakers – tone of warm blueberry cobbler and savory chicken soup. In servings and portions perfect for all. Never too hot. Never too cold. Always just right.

Always Ms. B. 

Until now. Last week’s Board meeting was Ms. B’s final chapter. She set down her glasses, capped her blue inked pen, and returned her key. Want only to Unlock Lives and Unleash Learning, she spoke clearly. Lose No One, she continued. No One. Through tears. Confidently. With Conviction. Just like she taught us. Want only to pile on Love. 

Cannot police young bodies. Cannot risk more lives. 

Microphone off. Static. Then Silence. 

Good night, Ms. B. Good night, all.

Jen Schneider is an educator, attorney, and writer. She lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Philadelphia. Her work appears in The Popular Culture Studies Journal, unstamatic, Zingara Poetry Review, Streetlight Magazine, Chaleur Magazine, LSE Review of Books, and other literary and scholarly journals.