When I finished my graduate work at the University (MA in Public Administration) there were countless job opportunities from federal agencies and state departments. To the frustration of my program advisors I opted not to interview for any of them. I had taught high school in Hinckley the year before I entered grad school and, despite reasonable advice to the contrary, I wanted to teach again. That decision brought me to Hibbing High School. I’ll admit that I left teaching to make a better livlihood for a few years. I did make more money but I wasn’t as happy or fulfilled as I imagined I’d be. (Eventually I did end up in government service for four years so my degree proved to be an asset). Searching for my place in the working world I took a year off to write the Great American Novel in 1981). I loved writing but . . .
Fortunately, I was able to return to HHS when my novel didn’t become a classic.
I loved teaching and did my best to be good at it. Those were my ‘golden’ years. When I retired after 26 years, I said ‘good-bye’ to my beloved school and the class of 2000. I would never substitute–I left Room 232 with the best of me already spent.
Since my farewell to HHS I’ve been writing–soon my 12th novel will join the three children’s books. As much as writing has become a passion, and I’ve been rewarded with a growing readership, I’ve realized that my best work was behind me and I will never find my name on the New York Times ‘Best Seller’ list.
Several weeks ago I was asked if I would be willing to teach a ‘Creative Writing’ class at Assumption Elementary School. I agreed to give it a whirl. I would teach writing one night after school for five weeks. The children were third through sixth graders. Should be easy, right? Wrong. I spent hours putting together some lessons that I believed would fit the age group. I guess I was expecting things to be much like I remembered them with seniors in high school. I did not expect chaos. “One person at a time, please,” I asked as questions came flying from around the classroom. That, I realized, wasn’t going to happen. I’d have to go with the flow. After my first class I was totally exhausted. After four classes I’ve become accustomed to being under siege. It’s been fun and, hopefully, of some value to the children. (19 students–2 boys, which reminded me of my book sales– overwhelmingly gender skewed.
Should anybody suggest that it must be much more difficult, or challenging, to teach seniors in high school than third-graders in an elementary school setting . . .not so! I have a new perspective on teaching and teachers. ALL teachers are equally challenged regardless of ages. And, I am convinced that teachers are among the most deserving professionals of earning a BIG THANKS. (Probably even more so with this new generation). Of all that I’ve ever done, teaching has been my most meaningful footprint on this earth. God bless our teachers.