Thursday, July 25, 2013

to teaching

There was one thing I was never going to be.  My sisters were.  It didn’t pay.  It was hard work.  Kids laughed at you and made fun of you.  Even if Anita and Cheryl were, I wasn’t.  I was going to be a Broadway star.  I was going to be on television.  I was going to direct and act and produce and emote.  I was NOT going to teach.  Everyone knows those that can, do.  Those that can’t, teach.  Not me.  No way.  I didn’t even like kids that much.  They were disrespectful.  They were lazy.  They were rude.  They didn’t do as they were told.  (Understand, I was one of them, so I knew of what I spoke!)  No one is his right mind would want to do that.  Not even for June, July, and August (a myth about the time teachers have off!).  Oh, I had had my share of good teachers.  Mrs. Duba.  Mrs. Grannis.  Mr. Paulson.  Rosemary Smith (By the way, you must read that with a sigh in your voice.  Rosemary Smith taught American Literature at Moorhead State.  She was GORGEOUS.  She was witty.  She was intelligent.  She made Moby Dick interesting.  She worked miracles!)  And Hazel Scott.  Hazel (or ma, as we called her) was my college debate coach.  She was the best of the best.  What she did was. . .she loved us. . .and let us know she loved us.  She was diminutive, wry, brilliant, but most of all, caring.  I would have done anything for her.  Hazel died recently.  And 39 years after my last class with her, she still motivates and teaches me.  Let me ask you a question.  When you die, what do you want people to say?  My answer to that question is always the same.  “I miss him.”  Well, I miss Hazel! 

Even with all these inspirations, teaching was right below the last thing I wanted to do with my life.  However. . .Miss Lucy, my brilliant mother, suggested to me that perhaps I should have something on which to fall back if the performance thing didn’t work.  Maybe I should take the education block as a levee to hold off the creditors should I not tread the boards and make a million.  So I did.  It was AWFUL.  In my educational psychology class, we had to “experience” something.  I sat in a manhole in the center of campus for 30 minutes.  It was an experience.  And it must have been good, because I got the “A”.  In my Teaching of Speech in the Secondary Schools class, I got the only B I have on my transcript in my major.  Something should have been speaking to me.  In my Teaching of English in the Secondary Schools class, I went three times during the quarter.  I presented my project (teaching Thoreau using “You and I Travel to the Beat of a Different Drum”), took the midterm and took the final.  I was proud of that B.  In my Secondary Education class, the assignment was to write a 15-25 page paper on something about education.  My thesis of the paper was education was too verbose.  Words should be valued.  The paper was 3 pages long.  I received an A.  I was not a believer in the profession of teaching.

Final quarter.  Course work completed (except for the class in drug and alcohol which was required of all teaching candidates and during which we were given a “card” with all the answers the week before the test.  On the day of the test, the questions were handed out and the instructor left the room.  Be aware, his name does not appear on the list above.  One by one, cards materialized, cards were passed, and cards were used.  Now understand, I do not condone cheating.  Nor, however, do I condone stupidity.  I learned that memorization was a good thing, but knowing where to find the answers was a better thing!).  Student teaching.  Junior English.  Moby Dick.  (Thank you Rosemary!)  OMG!  (See, I may be old, but I’m hip to the lingo?!)  I was hooked.  I was reeled in.  I was stuffed and mounted.  From the first day to the day I retired, I knew what and why I was on this earth.  It was to teach.  I loved the atmosphere.  I loved the subject areas.  I loved the faculty.  I loved the administration (well, all but the former marine who was the principal).  And surprise of surprises, I loved the students.  (Of course, I was only 3 years older than most of them.)  And I had no discipline of which to speak.  And I made mistake after mistake after mistake.  And I was fired.  (And I should have been.  Can you believe an English teacher who would start that many sentences with “and”?)  But not before I learned.  Not before I cared.  And not before I knew it was what I would do the rest of my life.  Statistics say most people will hold 7 different jobs in their lifetime.  One of my debaters at Fargo used to say in his debate round, “Statistics are like a beautiful girl in a bikini.  What they show is interesting.  What they don’t show is more interesting.”  (Could be one of the reasons I was fired!)  I believe that there is the perfect match out there for some people.  One job is all that is needed.  And I found mine.

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