Yesterday (March 3rd) we met at a bookstore to hear a presentation on some of our English materials ("Journeys" textbooks from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) in the afternoon. It was very nice, a good refresher for someone like me who hasn't taught ESL for a few years. We heard more news about the school, and were told to meet there the next day (March 4th) at 10 a.m.
When we got there, it was a bit of a shock. I had seen the pictures I showed you in my last post, but they didn't do it justice.
The third floor, where my classroom is, wasn't so bad. Fire had passed through the hall, melting or burning everything on the walls, including the bulletin boards which had sucked up a day of work for me. The glass panes of the sliding doors to my room were cracked, broken or smoked over. Inside the room everything was covered with soot, just like the last fire I had to clean up after.
I salvaged a few laminated things from my classroom, but not much. I hadn't really done much, unlike the teachers who had been there for years. My puzzle book and a couple of novels survived, as well as my Korean grammatical structure book. I was happy to clean up the new mouse and take it out of the room, though I will probably have to take it apart and clean it before I use it again. All of the textbooks were fine, though I had to wipe soot off of the ones on the top of the stacks.
Restoring my room to a usable condition will not be difficult, just time consuming, and I will not have to do it. The hallway, however, will take more work. The ceiling is sagging, and will need to be replaced. The bulletin boards are all gone, as is the wood paneling. They had just paneled the stairwells a few days before, which was probably a factor in how quickly the fire spread. Freshly varnished well-dried wood in a big chimney, funneled the fire right up from the 1st floor where it started due to an electrical problem.
The second floor hallway was worse. "It looks like a war zone," was a comment I heard many times. The ceiling panels had all fallen in, making a mushy, ashy carpet on the floor. In some places the metal framework for the ceiling was sagging or laying on the floor, and there was a lot more debris scattered around. I passed a framed picture from which the glass had sagged and dripped without falling off completely. The classrooms were still mostly okay, but they took water damage from the fire fighters, where the third floor really didn't.
The first floor was gutted in many places. Desks burned down to their metal frames, books lost, total mess. We were fortunate that there was no severe structural damage, though I am sure that they still need to do a complete assessment.
Amazingly enough, my slippers were still in their cubby. They are no longer usable, as some glass or plastic had dripped into them and hardened into an unpleasant sort of insole. Horyon took hers, though. They need to be cleaned, but she can use them. I need to order a new pair.
We spent the day carrying books and our stuff to the gym, then cleaning the piles of books. I still smell smoke on myself, and need a shower before bed.
And finally, while cleaning my zipper notebook, I opened the pockets and found my USB drives! Hurray!
Our classes will be distributed through other buildings and schools in the neighborhood, as well as in "container classrooms" in the school yard. In the States schools often use portables (like a mobile home with a classroom inside instead of a home), here they use cargo containers. I have never seen one, so that should be an interesting revelation. We will be doubling up, so 30-40 students in one class shared by two teachers. I am trying to think of it as a unique opportunity to do some team teaching, share some prep, and do activities involving more third graders than I care to imagine in one place.
Wish us luck! Right now all of our materials are sooty, aromatic, and piled up in the gym, and they expect us to start teaching on Monday! No problemo!