I didn’t belong at that school, but it was the only one within driving distance from where we lived that was hiring that year, and my husband had recruited my family to make me promise I would not return for more abuse at the autism center.
With the exception of the principal, also new to that school, everyone was related to someone else. Not only did I not fit in by lack of my family relations, but I was the biggest culture shock for the staff, students, and families. I wasn’t just from outside of the county, but outside the country! I didn’t hunt and fish for fun, I went to museums and operas! I didn’t know a single turkey call, but I spoke French.
With all the ferver and idealism of a new teacher I set out to do my best to inspire my students and broaden their horizons, even my remedial English class.
After all these years, and despite all the tears I shed over them, I still think about that class: I wonder how many of them will be contributing members of society, how many will further their education, and how many will get out of the county. I also wonder how many will start families before finishing high school and how many of them will injure themselves in a hunting accident, or a bar fight. And I miss them.
“I don’t need to edit it, it’s fine the way it is. It’s as good as my Dad writes and he’s just fine. I’m not going to be some stupid pencil pusher, anyway.”
That class was my biggest trial. They weren’t interested in reading, they didn’t care to write, getting them to class was demanding and keeping them in class was my main goal most days. I began each class with silent reading and at the beginning allowed them to read whatever they chose, so long as they each read their own thing, and with the understanding that by the end of the year I wanted them reading books.
“Hey,” I said, “I have that Cabela’s catalogue at home! It’s a fun book. But you boys can’t share, you each need to be reading your own thing.”
I kept my cool but secretly my insides were dancing. We finally had a connection! Was this the remedy to our culture shock? A bridge? A stepping stone?
They must have felt the same thing. The two followed me to my desk and proceeded to explain to me which guns and bows were illegal in Virginia; they knew I was new and didn’t want to see me get myself into trouble. It was so sweet. And for a brief moment, there was no cultural barrier between us.
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