I had a couple of standout experiences in school that impacted me in a negative way and I have teachers that I remember with fondness though I am not sure why.
Twenty years ago, at 31, I told my grandmother I was going back to college and she told me that my first grade teacher had said I was retarded, interesting. I always say that I am smart when it comes to tests and school, 1290 on the GRE 10 years out of school and with a migraine (1310 the first time), but when it comes to life and relationships I am clueless. What I remember of that teacher was being grabbed by the shoulders and shaken until my shoulders hurt for drawing on the bathroom wall with a pencil and I remember a conference after which I was taken to the eye doctor and given glasses. I think that she told my grandmother I had emotional problems and my grandmother being who she was didn't understand. In the first part of the third grade back with my mother, who pretty much left my 7 year old sister and I to fend for ourselves, the teacher accused me of cheating during an exam because my eyes were wandering. She yelled at me and when I started to cry told me I was crying crocodile tears. Does an 8 year old know what cheating is? At a different school later that year, my teacher had a dunce row in front of the class, she would put us there for various infractions, we got to wear a pointy paper hat. I really didn't like it there.
Somehow I made it through those experiences and learned to read and to even to do well in school. I fell in love with mythology and stories of old civilizations and then with science fiction. I excelled at math and loved latin and french but still I never got comfortable in school. I started in with the proverbial bad crowd (I think I was the bad crowd) and dropped out of high school.
I know many teachers took an interest and tried to help me but I just couldn't take it in. When I did start taking college classes I needed constant reassurance for the longest time. I took basic math, remedial english, that english teacher actually got irritated and told me I was wasting her time, I had all the skill I needed to succeed in school. I learned to love learning and to trust myself when it came to tests and writing anyway. Yet I still struggled with bad study habits and when I got to graduate school realized I didn't have what it took for a theoretical program like that one. I quit and though I have gotten as close as applying I have never gone back to school.
I suppose my insecurity comes from a hard childhood but I usually berate myself for my failings by saying it was not as difficult as many and is surely no excuse when I look at those many that have overcome extreme difficulties to become amazing people with great accomplishments. I am now finding myself longing to go back to school just because I want to. I think because it is easier than my life, which appears very easy...making a living as a massage therapist in the florida keys. However, I want a goal with an endpoint and the semester lends itself perfectly to that. It seems I am just no good at setting and keeping goals for myself or perhaps at acknowledging what I do accomplish. Also, I have no health insurance, vacation or sick leave and so far don't seem able to save money so no retirement and the work is seasonal so I have long stretches of little or no work that leave me struggling with more feelings of failure. In addition, I feel that this whole part of myself-the "smart" part-is unused and longing for a place in the world. I often say that my retirement plan is to live in a University town and take Mathematics and linguistics classes to my hearts content.
I didn't get to listen to this whole show but it seemed the appropriate end to this week. Earlier this week, (listening to NPR-WLRN), I heard that New Orleans was struggling to find enough school teachers. I thought about the times in my life when I have thought of being a school teacher, how I would like to find a way to make a difference in the lives of young people. I want to teach high school math but it has been over 25 years since I had a math class and I have no education background but I could go to school again. I could have my life portioned out to me in manageable chunks: class hours, mid-terms, semesters, school years. And then my job would be like that...I honestly don't know why I didn't do it sooner. I don't know how I will pay for it and I may be 55 before I am done and I worry that the kids will see right through me to the insecure parts and just eat me alive but I also love learning and somehow someway maybe I can give that to them.
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