After last night’s nightmare, I’m pretty sure that teaching high school for a year scarred me for life. I was told to take the students to the gym, giving them a writing assignment to be completed by the end of the period. A veteran teacher led them, with me taking up the rear; yet, even though the walk was short, she claimed she’d never take any part in my class again. Not a good sign. We arrived at our destination. Seating was abundant—far too spacious—so I told the students who sat farther than midway back to take seats toward the front. There was much grumbling and one confrontation; she refused to move. While I argued with her, wondering how to save face because I knew I was fighting a losing battle, I noticed not one but four students swinging from trapeze swings from the very high ceiling. I yelled, “Get down from there, you idiots!” but no one paid attention to me. Correction: the entire student body laughed at me. I rushed into the hall. I was so new that I didn’t even know how to contact the office. A coach saw me and pointed to a phone. A short buzz later connected me to the principal. He was too busy to deal with me, even after hearing about the trapeze swings. I was on my own.
In real life, I had 90 students that year—95% of whom were happy and willing to be in my class. The remaining 5% took Spanish that year only because they felt they were forced to do so. Alabama education requirements had changed—students needed to take the equivalent of two years of a foreign language to receive the Advanced Diploma. That 5% didn’t want to be there and let me know daily. I was the one on the swinging trapeze, but it wasn’t exhilarating. One or another of that 5% batted me around with a big, giant hand.
This was a shock to me. Before and after my stint in high school, I taught English as a second language to sweet elementary kids. They loved to get out of their regular class to see me. Kids whose first language was English wanted to be in my class. My class was fun. I was dynamite. And I was in complete control.
These days, I’m on my own again. For good or bad, my teaching days are behind me; I’m in charge of no one but myself. Even so, I occasionally find myself on a trapeze, not feeling the angst of a teacher about to get smacked, but, instead, feeling the remarkable exhilaration of writing. Something fun. Something noteworthy.
And when I send it out to be published, someone invariably yells in the form of a rejection letter, “Get down from there, you idiot!”