Many years ago I decided that I did not aspire to be a high school English teacher.
This decision was arrived at in part by a rather difficult student teaching experience in a school whose students were mostly economically deprived and rowdy. Therefore, I made the decision to go to graduate school and work towards an advanced degree so that I could teach on the college level. I accomplished my goal, got married, and moved to Charlotte where I spent the next few years teaching at 2 colleges for women in Rock Hill, South Carolina and in Charlotte. The girls were nice, and most were from wealthy families who viewed education as a necessary step toward the MRS. All the while, I was the one driving the used Ford rather than the BMW’s common among the students.
Eventually, my husband got a job offer that he liked in Fayetteville, so we moved down there. Because Methodist College had no opening for English teachers that year, I applied to the public school system, was hired, and assigned to a high school where I taught 11th and 12th grade English. You must use your imagination to realize what a difficult adjustment it was for me considering my prior experience. I had 3 classes a day, a planning period, and a study hall. My 11th grade American literature class was full of eager learners, and we did a lot of creative writing and had poetry readings every Friday. I still treasure the poems they wrote, which my son typed up in a beautiful notebook for me one Christmas. It lies in a place of honor in the foyer of my home.
I also had one class daily right after lunch that was considered a lot-performing group of students who were also behavior problems. They tried everything to try to get under my skin. One day I just told them that there was nothing they could do that was going to ever make me leave the room, cry, or have some kind of huge reaction. Thus, they started to pay attention and to behave. From that time on this became my favorite class. I realized that these were students who had just gone through the motions of school without ever learning much and were just promoted for whatever the reason. Several of them could barely read, so I started working with each student individually at least once a week by having them come up to my desk and read to me. They started to thrive, and their grades improved dramatically.
That class made me realize that those students were the ones who needed good teachers, and it was also a great lesson to me about the true value of teaching. It was, after all, never about the subject or the level, but it was that love could work miracles!
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