Some years ago I taught middle school for one year. It was after one of the celebrated major cutbacks in California education history and although I'd taught high school for 10 years, I found myself lowest on the pole.
I decided to wait out the year, and hopefully I I got my old job back, It'd be well worth the time in a middle school.
it was culture shock. I went from writing college application letters for some of the most gifted students anyone could wish for to giving detailed instructions on how to properly open a hall locker. I'd be lying if I said I didn't like middle school kids and teaching them, but it definitely wasn't for me. So I suffered through the year. But...as sometimes happens with what befalls us when we resist the most, It was one unforgettable year that truly impacted my practice as a high school year. The other thing that happened is that I met some of the most unforgettable people throughout that year. This morning, as I eased into consciousness, one of those faces returned to me.
She was a Latina woman a few years younger than me and was assigned to work as a Title I aide for a couple of 7th grade Reading classes I taught. Rebecca had a calm quiet intensity that kids responded to instantly. Unlike an older woman that served in another of my English classes, Rebbecca was always prompt and never fell asleep.
She drew too. Beautiful drawings of mountains capes or literary characters that the kids recognized.
I quickly looked forward to her assistance. Anyone who deals with 150 12-14 year olds on a daily basis would eagerly welcome some help.
After a time, Rebbecca turned her quiet intensity on me. She gave me drawings, wrote me notes about literary things we'd discussed after hours and ultimately gave me some beautiful gifts, like a beautiful turquoise inlaid belt buckle. Her intensity blossomed in the hand written notes. I can still see the blue ink in a bold handwriting on white-lined paper. She demur ed when I tried to talk to her one day about her personal life. I wanted to tell her that I knew she knew I was recently married. I even wanted to tell her that I was pretty sure that marriage wouldn't last but a few years. (In reality 3 years) but I never did. When the school year ended, we said our good-byes. As is often my custom at the end of a school year I like to take student-teachers or beginning colleagues out to dinner. If they have assisted me throughout the year, it's a safe way to say thank you. She declined, but at my insistence, did agree to meet me for a cup of coffee. It was a quick meeting; she seemed uncomfortable to be in public with me and because she depended on public transportation didn't stay long. She declined my offer of a ride home too. I got that it was nothing personal, just someone with a strong sense of ethics. I regret I never talked to her again after that. I was transferred back to my high school and the next 23 years went by before I retired. I see via the Internet she married and had a career in education too. She seems happy and still expressing her artistic visions. Somehow, in a strange way, I feel a chapter has ended.