Thursday, August 18, 2011


While writing my post yesterday about the start of a new school year, it got me to reminiscing about the very first job I had teaching.  I got a job teaching an elementary special education class in January of 1972, the semester before my first full year of teaching at the age of 22.  The teacher who had the class to start with quit at mid-term because she couldn't take it anymore. That should have told me what I was getting myself into.  Here I was fresh out of college and needing a job desperately and so I gladly accepted the position. 

Every first year teacher dreams of changing the world one child at a time.  I was no exception. Well, as the semester went on, my dream changed to just making it to the end of the year alive!  The first two weeks in this class was a lesson on survival.  It was going to be me or them.  I walked into a class that had been out of control to the point that they weren't allowed to play with the other students at recess. That's right, they had their own resess!  The children were ages 8 to 14 and most of them were bused from across town from the "projects". (That is what it was called in those days.) These kids were very streetwise and knew more about sex than I did. I was the queen of green and I don't mean that in a save the earth kind of way. (This event in my life would make a great movie.)  Of course, being that they had gotten away with who knows what, they were ready to challenge me in everything. Now normally at this time, I was soft spoken and had been raised in a very strict and religious home. I wasn't use to hearing certain words or phrases, if you know what I mean.  Let's just say my vocabulary was expanded beyond what college course work taught me that semester of teaching. Imagine a very young, naive, skinny looking girl walking into this classroom the first day. Looks can be deceiving though.  It took me two weeks of detentions, missed recesses and using the paddle often (which we could do at that time in history) to get the point across that I was running the show now and not them.  My principal thought I was doing a great job and supported me in every decision I made when it came to discipline. Constantly, other teachers were telling me how grateful they were that I had settled "that class" down. Little did anyone know that I was going home every afternoon and crying my eyes out.  I wasn't sure I could last much longer.

my college graduation picture

I remember one day an eight year old boy in my class standing up to me and telling me his mom was going to come up and kill me because I had put him in time out.  As soon as he got home he must have let her know what he had had to endure for 20 minutes that day. Not long after, here she came with him confronting me about what I had done to him.  Thankfully, my principal saw her come in the front door and was following her to my classroom. I told her the reason I put him in time out and that he had threatened me. Of course, she wanted to know how an eight year old boy could threaten a teacher. I told her that he said that his mom (her) was going to kill me.  That stopped her in her tracks.  She turned on him and let him have it with words. I can't remember what she told him (probably to do what I told him and to behave), but it worked.  After she left, my principal told me that she had killed her ex-husband and this eight year old had been a witness to it and that if she ever came up to the school again to come get him. Another day the local police came to the school and took the 14 year old fifth grader away for burning down a house the week before.  I could go on and on. 

I don't know if I taught them anything but we all managed to get through that semester. Because of the sucess of turning that class around, I was rewarded with a full time position the following school year teaching ten of the sweetest children. Thus, my first full year of teaching. Thankfully, the years that followed never were anything like that first semester of teaching.  One thing I can say about what that semester taught me was that if I could survive that class, I could survive anything.



Gloria said...

WOW! That sure sounded tough! Glad things turned out for the better!

Miz Liz said...

WOW!!! I admire you for sticking to the job :) Those kids really needed you!!

Oklahoma Granny said...

Your story really does sound like it would make a good movie. I really thought I wanted to be a teacher when I was in high school but God had a different plan for me. Looking back on it now I can see His was the best plan for me.

Ninny said...

I wouldn't have lasted a week. You had the toughest exam ever, trial by fire! No wonder you were such a great teacher!

Vee said...

What an amazing and interesting story. You should write a book!

Mel said...

What an incredible person and teacher you were to put up with that. I know I couldn't do it. You could definitely write a book.

Jeff said...

Wow! And I thought my first year teaching was bad. Mine was a breeze compared to yours!! What a great story, but not a great thing to live through! ~Jeff

Sush said...

You are indeed a very special person...we need more teachers like you in this world.


Kathy said...

Wow! Talk about a baptism in fire - your first teaching assignment with special students!!
I was a teacher's aid in a special ed class and I think those teachers should get combat pay!
Thank goodness it was just a semester...the longest one of your career, I'm sure! :)