I’ve often marveled at the bitterness in Paul Simon’s lyrics for his famous song, Kodakchrome. In fact, I’ve often marveled at the bitterness of most people in America toward high school and, if I’m honest, I’m on board with that. Not that I went to a bad high school. Not at all. I went to Bloom in Chicago Heights, IL, and I feel a bit of angst just recalling the experience.
When I started teaching, I didn’t have any idea how to do it. I’d taken a minimal number of education courses, and that only because I needed to fill some places in my schedule. I also needed some good grades. Then, nine months later, I found myself in front of a classroom of 6th graders–all of them wanting me to teach them. Or rather, all of them wanting to get through a mercilessly dull experience without being too badly scarred.
I was recruited by a small school system on Chicago’s south side. Really, I did my best, but several incidents scarred me for life: heinous parents; self-righteous faculty; my girlfriend 150 miles away; living with my parents; earning a miserably insulting salary, but–and this was the key–safe from the draft which would have sent me overseas into southeast Asia. Yes. Teachers were protected from the draft as ‘critical personnel’. I remember the first weekend. I went to see my girlfriend in Urbana–the first time I’d seen her in some time–and the relief of being in familiar settings, with her, made up for a deplorable week.
After six years, a lot had changed: I had a new degree, a wife, a family, a new home, and I was teaching in a far better school system. For years, though, I had nightmares about being at that first school. I was too creative to be bound by normal teaching boundaries, and the community of that first school made me miserable. To this day I haven’t contacted any of my cronies and friends from that school. I mean it: literal nightmares.
For never wanting to teach, I wound up after 33 years with two master’s degrees, a doctorate, and a fine pension. It was a scarring, rather than an enjoyable experience in a lot of ways, but today I remember fondly many of the kids i taught.
Back with more on this later. I find I need to catharsis.