Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Reflections (and Rants) of a Retired Teacher

Most of the time, I don't miss teaching.

Who would? The kids, much less the schedules and regulations and meetings, would try the patience of Job himself. Disruptive students. Rude students. Note-passing students. Arm-folding, "I dare you to flunk me" students (which I usually did). Students who couldn't tell the difference between Dickens and Dickinson (shall we start with spelling?). Students with parents who can't understand how their "precious angel" could have gotten a D on her last assignment (how about a three-day late, illegible essay on The Taming of the Shrew expounding the meaning of "to be or not to be?").

No, I definitely don't miss that. Or the early rises to teach bleary-eyed students who partied instead of studying. Or the staying up late to read essays written from CliffsNotes.

Retirement, on the other hand, lets me linger over my coffee at Java Joint on a crisp morning or savor Poe's The Tell-tale Heart during a thunderstorm. Granted, it also allows Angie to drag me after psuedo-stars--but you-ve heard enough on that.

However, despite all this, when autumn comes and youngsters lug their brand-new backpacks past Java Joint-s windows--well, a small part of me wishes to join them.

I especially loved the first day. The gold and dross haven't yet separated and hope always exists I'll find an exceptionally precious nugget. Like my second year of teaching, before I moved to Kanner Lake.

That year Emily L. slipped into my eleventh grade English Literature course undetected. She was quiet, unassuming, and unremarkable in appearance or participation. Then she turned in her first essay, the traditional "The best book you read during the summer and why."

Forty years later I still remember her choice--A Tale of Two Cities, a book that she openly admitted left her unsettled. But, she said, the writing exceeded anything else she'd read during the summer, and she went on to describe why in a detailed analysis.

It was a teacher's dream essay. Clear, accurate, well thought through, beautifully phrased. I was hard pressed to correct anything, and every assignment that followed was the same way. Soon I was shuffling her work to the bottom of my papers to grade so I could look forward to something.

We kept in touch through the next year until she graduated and I moved to Kanner Lake. Last I heard, (which was now many years ago), she was teaching creative writing at the University of Iowa. Perhaps we'll see a Pulitzer Prize winner out of her someday.

Yes, it was students like Emily who kept me teaching for so many years. And to this day I still treasure autumn.

-- Bev Trexel

Posted by ~ Bailey Truitt @ 7:00 AM
My mother taught 2nd grade for 35 years. Times sure changed during that span. She loves to tell about the early years, when kids actually listened and a had some respect for authority. We still live in our home town. I love going places with mom because everyone recognizes her (Mrs. Case! I had you for 2nd grade!) Of course it isn't always as easy for her to recognize them all grown up. I'll bet you influenced many a young life, Bev. Even the lives of those paper airplane- throwers.
Posted by Blogger Janet Rubin : 5:30 AM
One of the highest callings in this world is to be a teacher. I echo Janet's sentiment that you surely must have touched many lives. Your love for teaching (despite the complaints) comes through your post.
Posted by Anonymous elizabeth monty : 8:41 AM
I gotta admit--I hated English. That essay you mentioned on the "To be or not to be" stuff? Sounds like one of mine.

And just what's the matter with that topic, by the way? That Shrew gal said a lot of stupid things.
Posted by Anonymous fred wiley : 1:37 PM
Fred, I do hope you're just putting us on. Everyone knows the "To be or not to be" phrase came from Romeo and Juliet.
Posted by Anonymous larry cellaway : 4:15 PM
You're both wrong. It's King Lear.
Posted by Anonymous r.j. hager : 4:15 PM
All three of you are wrong. It's from Hamlet. In fact, Hamlet said the words himself. He was trying to make a decision, I believe. It's been so long since I've read it and hope to never have to read it again.
Posted by Blogger Cassidy : 2:41 PM
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