Every year at this time I feel homesick, not for my childhood home in Iowa, or my home here in Edgewood. I miss the first week of school. When I walk in the stores, smell glue sticks, new tablets and No. 2 pencils, it brings back my youth at Corpus Christi Catholic School and the nuns who tortured, sorry, taught us.
Ah, the memories of the first day back. I get choked up. Part of the reason I became a teacher was that I could not make it through a fall without buying crayons and a fresh batch of colored pencils. I just loved school. OK, I am a little weird. Someone said to me—perhaps the dean who was sick of my not declaring a major—“Jo, take education classes!” Bingo, after six years for a four-year degree, I became a teacher and the fall glow is forever.
Now, we used to start school the first Monday past Labor Day in September. The smell of oak leaves burning and white smoke wafting in the air was how you knew to buy new clothes for school. Out in New Mexico, it is the smell of green chiles roasting, but the smoke is the same. I taught English and History in high school, and art, drama and journalism in middle school. The only time I taught college was a History course for teachers at the University of New Mexico. I would get wound up and really sell it to them, or so I thought. At the end of a lecture I would say, “Any questions?” Silence. “Care to discuss the issue?” Silence. “Want to go home?” Class dismissed. How boring!
So, I went back to teaching at the exciting age, middle school.
I still miss teaching and the thrill of having untarnished minds to polish up. It is so inviting. All good things come to an end; I have been retired now for 13 years from full-time teaching. Nevertheless, about seven years ago I decided not to quit, quit; I could still substitute, and I signed on to the Moriarty-Edgewood School District. It was a blast: All the fun without the paperwork. We have a great system here.
I must first mention the cafeteria workers. I love school cafeteria food and I will challenge anyone who tells me otherwise. They now supply breakfast and lunch to all the students. It is well prepared, healthy, filling and totally great. Every school I subbed for had a cafeteria manager that knew every student’s name. They smiled and fixed trays for special kids that needed a little help and they sometimes even carried their trays. To supply hungry children with what they need, I call that a miracle. The elementary school teachers, however, are the angels. I have faced with no fear in my heart, many a tall, lean senior football player who needed to do English homework. I had that teacher “no nonsense voice” and, also I could bribe them with cookies and pop.
However, it was an entirely different thing when the Moriarty-Edgewood substitute center sent me to kindergarten! I thought they liked me.
In English or history, we have one textbook. In kindergarten you have workbooks, lessons, pages, it goes on forever. The lesson said, “Math.” “OK, let’s get out our math books. Chop, chop. What are you waiting for?”
An adorable little lady with a slight lisp, raised her hand in a frantic wave and said, “Mrs. White, we don’t weed.”
I replied, “What?”
She was tapping her toe now, “We don’t weed, we don’t have books?”
“Oh yes, you don’t weed… read.” I felt the panic coming. They were all looking at me.
“Mrs. White,” hand raised and that same cute head, bobbing up and down. “Yes,” “Flash cards we use flash cards.” Sure enough, there they were, I was saved. I sat down on a chair so small that my knees hit my chin and the kindergarten class came to me on the special rug, like coach roaches after a fallen piece of pie. They were sitting right in front of me—waiting.
The precocious young lady again raised her hand: “Mrs. White, Mrs. White!”
“You have them upside down.” And I did. Don’t tell me elementary teachers are not angels. When I told the secretary to never send me there again she said, and I quote, “Suck it up Jo. You’ve got ‘em all next week.” Ha. I retired again.
Roaring Mouse, still hiding from the wee weeders after seven years. Out.
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 [email protected]