Monday, December 16, 2019

Another semester in the book!

One of my students, Karlee, wanted a photo after class!

The semester is over, and I look back at the first day as I always do. They sit in their seats with anticipation, maybe fear (?), and certainly with much curiosity. They have heard rumors of my class. I don’t know them…not their names or where they are from or their dreams. I take roll call and phonetically write out their names if it is difficult, and some are difficult! At the end of the first day, I go home on my bike, sit out in the garden and ponder the situation. I will never get them to where I want them to be. The magic just will not happen, no, not this semester.

The golden days of autumn fly by as quickly as the geese take to the skies. One day at a time, one student at a time, we make our way. Before long, there is magic and we have come to know one another, and yes, I fall in love. When that happens, teaching becomes as common as drinking a glass of water or picking the last summer roses. 

I think of a few of my teachers who brought the magic to me. June Gregory was my high school English teacher, yearbook and newspaper advisor of which I was on the staff of both! She had red hair, which she wore piled on top of her head, and she was young. She must have been very young for me to remember her as such. I knew nothing of her personal life, yet she was my favorite teacher of all times. In those days, the paper was printed on a printing press in the town of New Haven where I went to school. On printing day, she issued passes to me and Dick Hoagland to spend the day helping with the printing making sure the typeset was perfect. I loved those days. Leaving school with passes in our hand, we headed out to do our job. We arrived back at school with the newspapers hot off the presses. On those days, we stayed to visit with Miss Gregory in the classroom. I do not remember too much about the room except that the windows faced south so the late hot summer sun or the early cold winter darkness would fill the room with shadows and images. We spent those hours discussing how to make the yearbook or the paper better. 

Little did we know that years later, Dick would become Ambassador Hoagland spending a decade in South and Central Asia. Whereas my life was not quite so eventful, it led me here to this town I love. I know Dick credits Miss Gregory for some of his successes. I know I do. Miss Gregory helped me get a high school job writing for the News Sentinel and later my journalism scholarship. She was also the one who knew I was not the reporting type. My love of words and language (and sunsets?) kept me on the essay page. She knew long before I did.

I think I always wanted to be that teacher. You know the one the kids will remember. I want them to remember how the sun came in the windows or the story I told, or the way I listened to their heartfelt stories.
Therefore, we come to the end of the semester, I have to let them go, and I find it difficult. One student asks me, “Do you always fall in love?” I think about it for a moment, and say, “Yes, I do.” She promptly asks another question, “What happens when you don’t?” I smile at that one. “Time to quit teaching,” I answer.
On the last day, we head out to the courtyard for my ritual of “Dead Poets Society.” I have all the pieces in a folder…Shelley, Keats, Whitman, Thomas, and Shakespeare. This year I add a piece by Mary Oliver. She became one of the dead poets last April. On one of these days, it is snowing hard in the courtyard…just one of those quick passing snow squalls, but just enough to make the students complain. I face the falling snow with laughter as they gather round. As in Frost, “The only other sound’s the sweep of easy wind and downy flake.” 

I read all the pieces. Close the book. Give them my last bit of advice as I fiercely hold back the tears. They scatter like leaves or snow or dandelion seeds.

I pack up and go home.