I miss the smell of colorful Crayolas and the sound of white copy paper ripped open for a new year’s school rules. I miss the sight of freshly waxed high-gloss floors shining brightly before the stampede of raging barbaric hordes descend. Students of course. How much they have grown in only three months. I miss my colleagues grousing about how short the summer was, how much vacations now cost and how they are going to whip that seventh grade into shape. They will be respectable this year and not the hooligans spoken of by sixth grade teachers. I miss it all and I have been retired 14 years.

I taught for 30 years and loved every minute of it, mostly. If, however, you are thinking of doing this wonderful job for a living, marry or partner up with someone with money or you will always have two jobs.

Old-fashioned? Yes! Truthful? Yes!

Managers at McDonalds make more than teachers and they get free French fries, but teaching is so worth it.

I taught English, literature and grammar, and history, New Mexican, American and World. I was also lucky to teach electives like journalism, newspaper, yearbook, drama, all school plays, and art.

We combined drama with English and history; and used the art classes to work on sets. I ran clubs after school to keep the kids busy from 3 to 5 p.m. We had an African American club, and anyone interested in African history and culture came. We had a Japanese Anime club and the kids taught me. We had an International club, a Native American club, and an after-school yearbook and window painting club. They would not let me do this now, but I had a microwave and a refrigerator in my room full of cookies and pop. The clubs were always full and the popcorn, apples, and treat jars were always empty. I refilled weekly. Keeping young people busy stops trouble. And it lets you in on how things are going at home. A win-win situation, a sweet deal.

The only pain in teaching, from my point of view, was the paperwork. We used to drown in it. Probably still do. It was necessary and computers make it easier. Every cloud has mud storms, sorry no silver linings for you, teachers. And I proudly proclaim that elementary teachers are ANGELS!

About eight years ago I signed on to sub. They sent me not just to middle and high school but also to elementary. I was used to having one textbook. OMG, they have millions of books. I have been a storyteller for the Edgewood Municipal Library for 15 years. I never feared small children when I entertained them, but teach!? Then came THAT DAY. They sent me to kindergarten. As I faced the lesson plans I did not understand, a little girl with a lisp raised her hand and said, “Mrs. White, Mrs. White we start with math.” “Thank you.” Yes, there were flash cards on the desk. I picked them up and sat on an extremely low chair. The class came crawling to me like cockroaches in the kitchen when you have spilled sugar. Show no fear. Hand up, “Mrs. White, Mrs. White?”

“Yes.”

“They are upside down.” It all went black.

“Never send me to kindergarten again,” I ordered the secretary who replied, “Suck it up, Jo, tomorrow third grade.” That was then, how about now?

How can we bring the joy of learning back? I do not know! How do you make small children with finger paint on everything wash their hands well enough? Then, how can they correct their neighbor’s paper? Maybe use their phone camera to click it and text the answers? As to the matter of social distancing, this is not new in middle school or high school. We used to teach it by ripping the fire extinguishers off the wall and hosing them down. NOT GOOD? The hormones were there before the pandemic. Get some after school clubs going and stay with them every minute. Roaring Mouse out to buy new crayons, out.

Leota Harriman
Leota Harriman

Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at news.ind.editor@gmail.com.