I got my credential in 1990. My last cooperating teacher of my student teaching days would have chastised me for using the word got, but there you go. Then I spent a year subbing (sorry, we call it guest teaching now), and I enjoyed that. It was also my in for my current job; someone I had subbed for a lot (another no no adjective for my old master teacher) suggested me for an opening 16 years ago. I also enjoyed being able to take the phone off the hook (can you tell I don’t have a cell phone?) if I didn’t want to work that day.
In 1991 I took a job in a high school district about a 1/2 hour drive from where I live. This “commute” is one of the things that drove me to my hatred of the automobile, but that’s for another day. This is about the job.
It was part-time, teaching what they called independent study. For a while it was the perfect part-time job. I worked 8-1, and the last hour was considered pe, so I played hoops with the kids. We got free hot lunch trucked over from the high school (we were housed at the Boys’ Club), and I was home in time to get to my other job at the liquor hut.
But I soon realized I wasn’t really getting a whole lot of teaching in.
I was cleaning out one of my little-used, but still stuffed, file cabinets, and I found a stash of bits and pieces I wrote at the time. Here’s one from November 1991. (Unedited – In all its former “glory.”)
He says his sister taught him to do math. He certainly didn’t learn it here. He also says that she taught him to ride a skateboard, and that until his step-mom got plowed and jealous of the money he was making at skate contests, and knocked him off his board and broke his wrist, he was “good enough to be sponsored, eh.” He says many things in the 20 minutes a week I get to see him.
“I gotta go to LA.” He pronounces it like aylay.
“I thought it was Orange County.”
“Same thing, eh.”
His uncle is dying of AIDS. He says. Rich and his family – step mom, dad, sister, and his real mom’s new husband – go down to Orange County not only to see his HIV-stricken uncle, but for some sort of work. This happens usually, but not necessarily always, Thursday through Monday. Every week.
“This can’t go on.”
“You call my PO?”
I pull out his personal experience essay to talk about a rewrite. It’s called “Armed Robbery Charge.”
“So I went over to some friends house at about 1:30 pm and we started drinking. And so we drank until about 4:00 pm. So then we start driving around looking for someone to jack.”
Almost every sentence begins with “so” or “and so.” Almost like a mathematical proof: A is this, so B must be this.
I try to get him to tell about what was going through his head during the time he was beating up another fourteen year old, and taking his jacket. (It was armed robbery because they happened to have a gun in the glove compartment of the car.) The look on his face says that he can’t imagine why I would be asking such a silly question. I ask him to rewrite this gritty narrative, and include some details and feelings: Wasn’t he scared when they locked him up? Why did they pick that particular kid to “jack”? Didn’t he feel guilty after he left this kid crying and hurt and jacketless?
The paper comes back a week and a half later. (“We hadda go down to AyLay, eh.”) The only noticeable change, beyond a spelling fix or two by the sister, is the addition of a sentence that reads, “When I was in that jail room I felt scarred (sic) because I didn’t know what would happen to me, probation or what.”
to be continued