I had barely set foot on the island when I was getting my first tour of the school where I would be teaching. The outside was a little drab and run down, but the inside looked like any other school in appearance. There were colorful posters in classrooms, signs and bulletin boards in the hallway, and long hallways styled with old carpeting.
My coworkers, were showing me around the few main hallways that seem to make a boxy “U” shape. They stopped outside my room, pausing for a moment before commenting on someone I didn’t know and knocking.
Knocking, on my own classroom…why would there be anyone in there?
They opened the door, and there in the room were blankets, a pillow, luggage, and some desks pushed together…as well as a visitor…a visitor that would be spending at least one more night sleeping in my classroom.
Welcome to “Hotel McQueen”.
In a village with a housing shortage and no hotels, the school transforms into the Ritz (major exaggeration) for any out of town guests. If you were a visiting journalist, you would stay at the school. If you were doing a professional development workshop with teachers, you would stay at the school. If you were construction workers, ski instructors, thrill seekers, or any other sort of paying customer…you would stay at the school.
I forget this every time…until I walk into the computer lab and someone’s sleeping bag is rolled up and tucked away in the corner and an unknown face greets me. I forget about it until I’m about to head home, far later than usual, and an unknown man walks into my room scoping out the quietest place to sleep. I forget about it until I talk to a woman on an airplane who comes around to the villages and she mentions the room she usually sleeps in…which happens to my current classroom.
Although it surprises me, it doesn’t faze me or astound me anymore. When I first took the job, I didn’t think I would see people from outside the village until I returned home. Now, I realize that we have visitors almost every day for different reasons.
The stay at the school isn’t luxurious. I’m not 100% sure what people do for food, sometimes the shower/laundry facilities are unlocked for use, you have to be up and out before school starts, and you are sleeping on the floor. But, there are flush toilets and it is nice to have a warm roof over one’s head.
All in all, it sure does make for a unique experience for all involved & from what I’ve heard, it is pretty common in the district (and I imagine in villages with similar situations).
Fun tidbit…after I wrote this, but as I was editing to post, I found out that I would have four people staying in my room for the next couple of nights. Cue needing to leave school early on a weekend because my room was being turned into a bedroom.