I moved to the city eight years ago, and I still don’t know how to drive in city traffic. I’m a small town girl; I can handle a railroad crossing with aplomb, and I’m great at spotting deer before they reach the road, but merging on a highway during rush hour? No, thank you. So when I quit my fancy private school job, I knew I wanted to work with low-income students, and I knew I wanted it to be close to home.
Lucky for me, I was able to make that happen. My first seven years at my current school, I lived in the same neighborhood as most of my students. There are, obviously, both positives and negatives to this situation.
Pro: Short commute to work, no highway, Dunkin’ Donuts on the way. While all the other teachers were consuming an audio book a week, I had time to listen to half a Grateful Dead song every morning.
Con: Long commute to a different grocery store for all sensitive items. Once I went to the local Kroger to buy tampons and wine. I ran into a couple of kids, who tailed me through the store, and I ended up getting out of there with a package of Krazy Straws and a card that said, “Our Condolences on the Loss of Your Pet.”
Pro: Easy to drop off missing work for absent students, bring presents for new baby siblings, spy on suspicious absences.
Con: “Daniela missed the bus again…Can you take her home?”
Pro: Sometimes a kid would walk up the street with homemade flan or tamales to share.
Con: Had to spring for full-size candy bars on Halloween to avoid egging…or arson. Also, I once walked out onto the screen porch to find a kid I hadn’t taught in three years. He held out a Princeton Review book and said, “I’m taking my SATs next week.”
Pro: Lots of convenient, competent teenage babysitters. They only lived a block away, so they could walk home and avoid the dreaded Ten Minutes of Awkward Conversation with the Dad that is the bane of every teenage babysitter’s existence.
Con: First time a kid saw me walking the dog in a pair of shorts and a tank top, I realized that I now needed a comfy exercise muu muu.
Pro: Living in close community with students, building solidarity, etc.
Con: If I drank wine on the porch, I had to use a juice glass.
We moved last summer, and now I live one block down and across the street from school (and a little farther away from most of my students). My morning commute is pretty simple, except for that one really big puddle when it rains. There’s a little dance I’ve learned that involves waiting until no cars are coming, then sprinting past it as fast as I can. Otherwise, cars sail right through it and splash a big sheet of water on me like a Dickensian orphan and I show up to school looking homeless.
The puddle aside, my commute is exactly 361 steps. It takes about two minutes. That’s right; I come home on my planning to pee. Sometimes I jog home at lunch and grab my dog so the kids can play with him at recess. If I forget about a soccer game, I’m always able to make it by halftime…because I can hear them from my backyard.
There really aren’t any drawbacks to my current location except the occasional heckling through the bus windows when I’m walking home. Seriously, you’d think they just saw J. Lo clomping down the sidewalk in rain boots. “Oh my God, it’s my fifth period teacher! Hey! Miss! Hey! HEY!” Seriously? You were sleeping in my class thirty minutes ago. Where was the celeb factor then?
Yup, overall it’s vastly easier living near the school than living near the students. Except I miss the heck out of the tamales.