Today I went back in time. Not literally, of course, but it seemed so. Steve and I were on a panel to speak to and take questions from four groups of middle-schoolers.
Grant County Middle School for Operation Preparation! The students looked pretty similar to Portland Junior High in 1957 or Chapel Hill Junior High in 1958. Some bored, some interested. Several girls taller than the boys and self-conscious, but we know the boys will soon catch up. Faces fresh-scrubbed, little makeup or carefully coiffed hair. Good, clean country young people, wondering what the future holds and trying not to think of it any more than necessary. All challenged to be on their best behavior, and they were. More girls than boys coming to the session on Education—no surprise there.
The librarian from the Grant County Public Library spoke passionately about her career and the draw of libraries. She stressed getting a Bachelor’s degree in a subject you loved and then getting a Master’s in Library Science, thus providing more job opportunities because of a more varied background than the typical English lit major. That was a new idea for me.
The other career educator was a retired principal who had attend high school in that building, then gone to Lexington to teach and to be a principal for 20 years. He told them that he “loved every minute of it.” I wondered about that. Was that a retirement statement that he wouldn’t have made while in the throes of the actual job?
I could never say I loved every minute of teaching. I loved it, starting in my fourth year when Enid taught me to love it, but I still didn’t love every minute of it. Oh, not at all! The hassles with parents and principals, not to mention difficult students, stripped away any chance of truthfully making that statement.
One of the middle school boys was wearing a shirt that read: “I’m not trying to be difficult—it just comes naturally.” From my experience with middle schoolers, most of them would qualify to wear that shirt—maybe even more with their parents than with their teachers.
Steve spoke of the perseverance required to finish a Ph.D., but that the rewards are worth it. I talked of the rewards of teaching children and urged them to go back to a favorite teacher and tell him or her how much their teaching had meant.
Steve had encouraged me to tell about being hired for my second teaching job, so I did so for the first two groups. Then I decided it was too irrelevant to their lives and I dumped it for the next two groups. But I’ll tell it here.
Steve and I moved to Kansas ten months into our marriage for him to get his Master’s degree at Kansas State College of Pittsburg, now Pittsburg State University. We rolled into town in a Volkswagen bug, with all our earthly possessions in a U-Haul pulled by Steve’s parents. After we’d found a small apartment, the parents left and Steve started summer school. I decided it was time for me to look for a teaching job.
I went into the school board office and asked for an application. As I started on it, an assistant superintendent hung around, asking questions. When he asked where I went to college and I answered, “George Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville, Tennessee,” you’d have thought Ali Baba had cried, “Open, Sesame!”
He insisted on escorting me into the superintendent’s office, then announced that I was a graduate of Peabody and in search of a teaching job. The superintendent jumped up, pumped my hand, and insisted he drive me on a tour of the town to see the three elementary schools where positions were available. Dazed, I agreed.
I had gone to Peabody, now a college of Vanderbilt University, because my dad taught in the high school there and I could go tuition-free. That’s all I knew. It was close to home and the price was right. But evidently in the 1940s and 50s, Peabody had been cutting-edge in all things educational. So in the 1960s, its reputation still held and I was rewarded with the quickest job offer I ever got. In answer to our parents’ prayers, no doubt, for I don’t think I prayed about such as that back then. And just think how far ahead God was watching out for me!
I chose Washington School, one block from our apartment, which worked out very well since we had only one car. It was one of my favorite teaching experiences. I was young and ignorant and the teachers all helped me out. My students lived in the same neighborhood, which had its downside, but we made it work.
The student I recall best was Jeanne Middleton—short, pudgy, with bouncing blonde curls—who also went to our church. It seemed that the Middletons arrived at church at exactly the same time we did every service, and always Jeanne would call out, “Hi, Steve! Hi, Mrs. Boyd!” Somehow the combination of names always brought a smile—then in reality and now in memory.
Do you remember your fifth grade teacher or any students in your class?