Graduation - Finally! What an exciting day it was, as we gathered around the Lamp of Learning in the middle of our campus, each of us holding ivy, which had been laboriously tied together. The president of the college then cut the ivy between each graduate, signifying our leaving each other and launching our new lives. The married couples who were graduating together did not have theirs clipped between them.
I mentioned before that I had to stay on campus for a couple more weeks to finish up my student teaching, but then I headed home for the summer. I bought my first car, a hunter green 1969 Mustang. Man, I loved that car! (Obviously, this is not a real picture of mine, but just an idea of what it looked like).
The second graduation picture is of my senior year roommate and myself. She is the one that was RA on Second South when I was on Third South, when we called ourselves upstairs/downstairs roommates. Linda and I went job hunting together, hoping to end up in Colorado. It wasn't to be, and we took jobs in a small rural town in southeast Kansas. She taught high school English and I taught 4th grade. I had the much better deal! Her job situation was very stressful, with very disrespectful students, besides advising the drama club and the yearbook, neither of which she'd ever done, on top of first year lesson plans. She came home with a headache almost every Friday night and headed for her bed.
We rented the upstairs of an old house. We just about melted that first few weeks. We thought we were going to be "rich schoolteachers." What a shock - after paying the rent (the apartment was $65.00 per month, divided between us), the utilities, the groceries, the car and insurance payments, and the NEA dues, we barely squeaked by. She went back home to western Kansas the next year, mainly because of the job situation. I'll never forget - we left town for Halloween week-end because some of her roughneck students threatened to egg her brand new baby blue Ford LTD. We parked my car in our pastor's garage, to protect it if they made good on their threats. They did - we found our house covered with sticky dried eggs when we got back.
My job was much nicer. I was in a country school, with one class of each grade. Fourth graders were old enough to really engage in conversation, but they were still young enough to love their teacher. I was as green as my car, but we learned together.
The little guy on the top row in the red shirt, third from the right was Greg - a brilliant little guy. He would ask the most intriguing questions and get a look of dismay when I couldn't answer them. He thought I was a walking encyclopedia, I think. The other red shirted boy on the right end of that row was Patrick. He was from a Jeh*vah's Witness family, and they were quite evangelistic - he and his brother showed up at my apartment early one Saturday morning selling doughnuts. I had his brother the next year and one Thursday he told me that in their group study that night he was bringing the lesson on marriage. That threw me for a bit of a loop!
Jack is the portly young guy in the blue shirt on the middle row. Since it was such a small school, there was no special education option. Jack needed extra help. I worked so hard to find alternate ways for him to pass tests, since he had been passed along this far without having learned to read. His mom did his math homework for him and they both wondered how I knew. Disregarding the fact that the handwriting was legible and adult, there was the fact that I was teaching them "modern math," which required LONG answers for LONG division - showing every step, while she did the shortcuts that all of us in our age group were taught. I actually lost sleep over Jack and his problems.
The tiny little girl beside me on the front row was Tammy. Her mother came to my room the very first day of my very first year of teaching, before classes began. She told me that Tammy had cystic fibrosis - a disease I had never heard of before. I know a lot about it now because one of my son's best friends from church is a CF survivor at age 30, having been a "guinea pig" for an FDA trial, and then a recipient of a double lung transplant. But at that time the life expectancy was 14-15. When Tammy's mom told me of the possibilities that I might encounter during the year, I was scared spitless. The thoughts of the episodes she may have made me want to run and hide. She spent much time out of school, in an oxygen tent. I thought of Tammy every year after I left that town. I called the assistant superintendent of that school district, who was our choir director at church, and learned that she had indeed died in the 9th grade.
It is amazing to me that I can remember a story about almost every one of those children. It was a good year. But when Linda left and I was alone in that town and that apartment and that church (and had left a boyfriend back home that I had met the previous summer), and my expenses doubled, I was really unhappy. I longed to go to Colorado. I made a career-damaging move, resigning after the first semester and moving back home. I kind of made up a contract for God, giving Him all the logical reasons I should make this move, and asked Him to sign it. In hindsight, I should have definitely stuck it out the rest of that year.
Since so many of us had received the National Defense Student Loan that I mentioned in the last episode, teachers were a dime a dozen at that time. Even if I didn't have "career leprosy", I don't think I could have gotten a job in Colorado. I had a flashback to one of my interviews a few days ago that I hadn't thought of in many years. The superintendent of the school district in the town just north (where I now work at the university), came to Kansas City to interview for teachers. I went up there and stayed with a friend, dressed to the nines, and headed for the hotel where he was holding the interviews. Imagine my shock, even as naive and trusting as I was, when he opened the door to his room and invited me in for the interview. I can't even fathom what he was thinking - this was just asking for trouble - a closed door, himself, and a young female applicant. Not a good idea.
I did not get that position, nor did I get one in my home town. Maybe the fact that I didn't really love teaching came through. Ya think?? It was a shock to myself that I didn't, because it had been my dream since I was a little girl. I played teacher all the time, teaching my brother and sister after school when I was in first grade. But I also played secretary ---
TO BE CONTINUED.