As my teaching career winds down, I can't help but think back to some of my early memories related to my teaching career. Sweet Girl reminded me of some of them tonight related to her, so tonight's episode will be devoted to Sweet Girl and how her life intersected with my teaching career.
I don't know if I've ever told her or not, but it is BECAUSE of Sweet Girl that I went into teaching. I was working at a dead-end secretarial job under the supervision of a BEEYOTCH at the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine. I was a good secretary and an excellent typist, but I couldn't help but feel my talents (and college education) were being wasted. Sweet Girl was born at the end of June, and I had planned my pregnancy down to the exact number of 30 sick days I would need to take 6 weeks of maternity leave. Taking any additional leave without pay was out of the question. What I did NOT anticipate was having a case of walking pneumonia early in my pregnancy, and I had to stay out of school for a week. That left me with only 5 weeks when Sweet Girl was born.
I promise there's a point to all this, and I'm not going to regale you with Sweet Girl's entire biography.
I decided to take 4 full weeks and then work mornings only for 2 weeks in order to ease back into the working routine. The two weeks I worked half-time I would pick her up from daycare (a four week old in daycare!!), and we would have the rest of the afternoon together. Toward the end of the second week I got emotional at the thought of leaving her all day every day. I remember thinking, "If only I had the whole summer off." I never thought I could be a stay-at-home mom (finances wouldn't have allowed it anyway), but the idea of having that three-month period together started the wheels turning and I decided to pursue a degree in education.
It wasn't easy, going back to graduate school with a little baby, and if it hadn't been for my mother, I couldn't have made it through the whole program. I was working toward my masters degree and my teaching certificate at the same time, and when it came time to student teach, I was assigned a school about an hour from home. Mom let me drop Sweet Girl off at her house, and she fed her breakfast and took her to daycare.
My first years of teaching were in a middle school, but I had despaired of getting a job and was happy to teach ANYWHERE. The first year I had trouble building up any sick days at all. I had a couple of minor illnesses (that was before I figured out that teachers go to work when they're sick unless they are throwing up or running a fever over 235), my brother was in a terrible car accident, and then Sweet Girl had the chicken pox.
When I moved on to the high school (thank all that is holy), I was given the top only if I would agree to tackle the yearbook. Welcome to high school, where we have ways of making you do things you would otherwise run like hell from. Anyone who knows anything about a high school yearbook knows that a large part of the work is done beyond the hours of the school day. There are workshops, advertising sales, sports events that have to be covered, and the dreaded deadlines. The woman who was in charge of the yearbook before me found herself spending the night at school with her staff when they were expecting delivery of the yearbooks and they didn't come by nightfall. So glad I didn't have to do THAT.
Poor Sweet Girl usually had to be dragged along to these after-school activities. I remember (and she reminded me of it tonight on the phone) one Saturday when we had an all-day work session. She was about 5 years old, and I was at a loss as to how to keep her occupied at school all day when I would be busy doing other things. I finally decided to allow her to take her roller skates (she was just learning) to school. She had the run of the entire building on her skates, and I'm so glad it was in the days before video cameras. She had a blast roller skating up and down the halls of that big building, and I didn't feel (quite as) guilty about making her spend her Saturday at school.
Whenever Sweet Girl got sick (it's always the middle of the night, too, isn't it?), I had to take her to school with me. Her pediatrician and my school were in the same town, about 30 minutes away from where we lived. It only made sense to take her to school with me, arrange lesson plans for a substitute, call the doctor's office when it opened, and take her to the doctor from there. Once the poor thing was so very, very sick that she lay down on the floor behind my desk and went to sleep. She was running a high fever, and I had to get some things together for the sub. We were still in my room when students began arriving, and she stirred restlessly. One of my students pointed at her and said, "Look! It's moving!" I lit into him like he had shot my dog, and I never ever liked him again after that. I know he was only teasing, but he was picking on my cub (sorry Sweet Girl), and I went into Mama Bear mode.
Sweet Girl remembers coming to my classroom and playing on the Mac. It was a tiny little computer with about a 7-inch screen, black and white, and those of us who had them were so dang proud of them. Naturally we didn't have a computer at home yet, so it was a special treat for her to get to play games on my computer.
I taught summer school a couple of years, because I could always use extra money in those days. (Wait...I still can always use extra money. "Extra" back then meant we might be able to buy groceries, though.) When Sweet Girl was in second grade, we were talking one day about what she might want to be when she grew up. I asked if she ever thought about being a teacher, and she said, "Maybe... But I'm never going to teach summer school." That broke my heart, and I never taught summer school again.
Sweet Girl went with me to Friday night football games and Saturday swim meets. I took her with me on the state Beta Club convention after she asked me one night, "Mom...What's a hotel?" The child had been to Italy, but she didn't know what a hotel was? She had a ball staying at one of the swanky Atlanta hotels, taking luxurious showers and wrapping her hair in a big fluffy towel. We went to eat at the revolving restaurant on the hotel's roof, and she loved the experience even if she didn't care much for the food.
She's gone with me to buy candy that I sold (illegally) out of my classroom cabinet to fund the school's literary magazine, she's helped me put together the student handbook and the literary magazine, she has helped me make copies and graded papers.
If she ever DOES decide to go into teaching, she's already had a lot of practice.
And I hope she doesn't ever teach summer school.