Kitten in a Dog Fight

I am a teacher. These are my stories.

The Smack-Down

Usually, my classes consist of 12-15 mildly well-behaved children. There are a few exceptions to this (read: all of my fourth grade classes). But the behavior levels in class are directly related to the number of students in the class.

Imagine my surprise when I walked into a classroom of not 15 but 30 ten-year olds. Occasionally teachers will get sick and their students get shuffled to another teacher (usually whoever is working the same subject for that grade).

I had not prepared for 30 students. I think they could sense it because they were sitting on tables and throwing paper planes and about eight of them were wearing very obvious smirks. I took roll for my half of the class and prayed that nobody from the other half was missing.

Sixty eyeballs split into my forehead and I took a deep breath. Then it all unraveled.

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No apple left behind

IMG_2504Miluška is 87 years old. She has the lightest blue eyes I have ever seen and little red boots that she wears when she works in the garden. She walks to our church every Sunday even though it must be at least half a mile for her. She also owns an apple orchard and today we got up at the crack of dawn to help her harvest.

I feel like I start every blog with something along the lines of, “So, I had a tough week.” Comparatively, my life is not tough at all. I love my job, I love the town I live in, I love that Jerry keeps buying pear flavored yogurt. God has put me in a great place.

However, I am struggling with stuff too boring to post about (and I am sick again), so instead of doing the mature thing and getting plenty of rest last night to prepare for our long day, I stayed up till 1:30 a.m. talking to my sister via facebook chat. She’s good at listening to me when I have boring emotional stuff to vent and she has pretty decent advice which I don’t listen to nearly as much as I should. And it reminded me that I don’t live across the hall from her anymore and so instead of feeling better, I went to bed at 1:35 feeling lonely and confused.

Like many Czechs, Miluška owns a cottage in the country. The 45 minute drive out of Prague is a scenic one. Honestly, there were so many cute, postcard-perfect homes and hills and rivers with little red bridges that I thought we might be driving through a huge Hallmark factory and not a corner of Eastern Europe.

The purpose of the trip was to pick the apples in the orchard and get the garden ready for winter (this is something most Czechs do, I’ve discovered. Getting their gardens ready for winter is a huge deal). Last year Jerry and Marilyn brought in 2,000 apples from the handful of trees in Miluška’s overgrown, under-cared for orchard.

We pulled up next to her gated property and I followed Miluška through the calf-high grass to the back door of her cabin. She slowed her steady hobble occasionally to look up at the trees and I could tell that something was troubling her. A look of concern dressed her soft blue eyes and I heard her mutter, “žádné jablka tady…” – roughly translated, “no apples here…”

I too was expecting to see more apples than the sparse fruit clinging to bare limbs. When Jerry and Marilyn showed up behind us they were upset as well.

“Mary,” Jerry told me, “Someone’s stolen the apples.”

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