Thursday, November 8, 2007

T is for Teaching

...or memories of my first year.
Fresh out of college, I began my first year of teaching at West Gresham Grade School. I was to be one of two second grade teachers. My salary was a whopping $5,000. I had a tiny apartment right off of Stark Street. It cost me $79.50 a month. You could justifiably describe my apartment furnishings and possessions as Spartan. I had a few dishes, some pots and pans, a single bed, a clock radio, two small rattan chairs and a table that was smaller than most peoples' computer screens are today. I had no dresser, no t.v. and no car. My good friend "K" who was the other second grade teacher did have a car, so that solved my transportation problem in going to and from school. Did it bother me that I had next to nothing on the home front? Not a wit, because I had a teaching job. I was a teacher at last and I was raring to go. I was full of enthusiasm and happiness. It was going to be a great year!
Two students stand out in my mind from that little class. They were both boys and I adored them. "T" was a character whose father was a swimming coach. One day I noticed that he kept bringing out a small object that he had carefully wrapped in a Kleenex. He would pull it out only when he thought I wasn't looking. I kept quiet about it, but kept sneaking peeks to see what he was up to. I could finally tell that it was a very small, but dead lizard. "T" would carefully unwrap the lizard, gently trying to open its mouth, while blowing little puffs of air down its throat. He would then place it on his desk and just as gently, with carefully curved finger, apply a wee bit of pressure to the lizard's abdomen. He would repeat this process as often as he could, trying not to draw the attention of his teacher. It finally dawned on me what he was trying to do, and where he had learned this life saving technique. I think he would have continued with this all day if I hadn't finally convinced him that his lizard was truly dead and beyond resuscitation.
We reverently consigned him, wrapped snugly in his Kleenex, to the trash can at recess. I think we even said a few respectful words. I gave "T" some hugs and life went on.
My other vivid memory is of "J". He was a bright and engaging little guy, but one who would perform a very odd ritual now and then. This ritual was the methodical and intentional habit of licking the surface of his desk. These were not randomly or carelessly applied licks. "J" had a plan and he stuck to that plan, by golly. He would start at the bottom right hand corner of his desk, lick all the way up to the top in one fluid movement, turn the corner, go across the top, down the left hand side, and finish at the point where he had begun...always the same, never deviating from his thoughtful self appointed task. Ahh.
My guess is that "T" became a danged good swimming coach like his dad.(Forgive me, he "followed in his father's wake") I'm not so sure about "J", but I would venture that he's highly successful and works in Washington D.C. for the Federal Government.
It was a wonderful year. I loved every minute of it. Oh, wait a moment while I eat my last words. I didn't appreciate the whopping case of measles my dear class shared with me.



Paula said...

What wonderful stories! The trying to resurect the lizard is hysterical. Poor little guy!
and licking the desk?! Too funny!

Amy said...

That is a great story!...the licking of the desk part did give me the shivers, however :)

marylou said...

Lovely story Ms. Ellen, but, alas...did you ever give "J" candy? NO, that is most likely what led him to licking his desk. Poor soul was in dire search of CHOCOLATE!!! Oh, I know your bloggers will think me odd but they do not know you as I do:-)
Loves ya, Marylou
PS Have a grand week-end, hugs!!

Mrs. G. said...

What a sweet story...trying to blow a little life into the jaws of death. What is it with kids and licking?