Yesterday I learned that one of our people in the composing room is resigning. I nearly had a fit, but then she explained. She's going back to school to become an English teacher. What could I say to that? How could I object?
"Did you like it?" she asked, as I proofread this week's newspaper on the copy table.
I had to be honest. I loved teaching. It was my life. I lived and breathed it. When my husband died 18 years ago, teaching saved my life. It gave me a reason to get up in the morning and put one foot in front of the other and walk out the door.
Talking to Chelley has made me go over those years in my mind. It's 1:20 a.m. in the morning, and, here I am, at the keyboard, remembering...
I've nearly forgotten the hard parts--the long hours of homework, grading papers into the wee hours, agonizing over lesson plans, having to miss family events, because I had to figure quarter grades.
I remember random moments of joy and delight.
I made my classroom a shrine to the English language. I wanted students to step through the door into a magic world of wonder. Above the blackboard (which was actually green), my student-made medieval shields hung by fishing line. On a bookcase rested the painting a student did of Charon, the boatman of the river Styx, beckoning with his bony finger, "Pay the toll." On the far wall were three huge, framed photos of our trip to Europe. On the ancient bookcase in the corner, I kept my favorite student project, a two-foot tall wooden cutaway model of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.
One year, a student group made a life-size paper mâché model of the ham costume that Scout wore in "To Kill a Mockingbird." I kept it in the front corner of the classroom for several years, but I finally had to get rid of it, because it was just too distracting. That was the year that Travis Bollinger hid in it.
I had started my first hour mythology class in a bad mood. I had a headache. The kids were giggling for some stupid reason. I took roll, put the slip on the door, told them to read over their homework assignment, and then I went down the hall to take an aspirin at the water fountain.
Shortly after, the school secretary came to the door and said, "Mrs. DeJournett, is Travis Bollinger absent?" I looked around the class, and there sat Travis.
"No, he's right there," I said.
"Well, you have him on the absentee slip," she said.
"I don't know why I would do that," I said, in exasperation, "He's right there!"
I shook my head and thought no more of it until fifth hour after lunch, when I had Travis in yet another class.
By then, the guilty culprit had worked up the nerve to tell me what happened.
He had hidden in the ham, but, when he saw that I was in a bad mood, he was afraid to come out. My trip to the water fountain gave him a chance to escape his little prison, but he was still too afraid to explain. Instead, he waited until later in the day, when he knew my sense of humor would return and we could laugh about it.
The incident goes down as one of my favorite stories, and I had almost forgotten it, until I thought about why I loved teaching.
I would never give up retirement and go back to the classroom. Thirty-two years is enough for anyone, and I thoroughly enjoy writing my own stories, instead of grading those of my students--but there are moments... in the wee hours of the morning, when their faces return to haunt me...and I have to cry tears of joy for all those wonderful, wonderful years.
You asked me, Chelley. Yes, I liked teaching.
As our readers may be aware, the Statesman has been purchased by the Butler County Publishing Company, which owns the Daily American Republic in Poplar Bluff. Things are going to change, and it's my understanding that this website may not survive. My BFF suggests that I hurry and save my blog archives on a flash drive, before they disappear. Heaven only knows what I'm going to do in the wee hours of the morning, when I can't sleep and can no longer post these midnight to 3 a.m. conversations with the moon..."Goodnight, Moon"