Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Monday, August 15, 2016

I Always Walked to School

Adams Elementary School
Enid, Okla.
My mom had also attended it,
not long after it opened.
I never rode the bus to school. I rode it only to athletic events and, later, as a teacher on a field trip (don't get me started!). Because we lived fairly close to the schools I attended, I always walked to school, K-12.  Google Maps says it's about a half-mile from my later boyhood home in Enid, Oklahoma, to Adams Elementary School. An eleven-minute walk declares Google. In good weather I rode my bike, but walking, biking--they both took longer than eleven minutes because I was, you know, Taking My Own Sweet Time. Meeting friends, lazying along--in no real hurry to get to Adams, where hours of workbooks and silence and (occasionally) some fear awaited me. (The kid who bullied me was--no kidding--named Donald McDonald and his brother was Ronald.)

The Hiram Local Schools (where I attended grades 7-12) was about the same distance, I'd guess, though most of those years we lived down Hiram's steep hill. At the bottom. Cardio. Every morning.

I even walked to college for a couple of years--right up that same high-school hill to Hiram College.

I'm thinking and writing about this today because our grandsons, 11 and 7, start back to school this week. August 17. An unthinkably early day. When I was a boy, we never started this early. No, it was basically Labor Day to Memorial Day, leaving us three honest-to-God months of FREEDOM in the summer--hell, it wasn't even officially summer yet when we headed for home at the end of a school year.

But--our vacations were much shorter; there were no teacher in-service days. Oh, and I never even imagined a "snow day" until we moved to northeastern Ohio. Those days of snow helped me fall in love with Ohio, by the way.

And I'm thinking today about the beginning of school for another reason, as well. This 2016-17 academic year marks an anniversary for me, for it was exactly fifty years ago, the late summer of 1966, that I began my public-school teaching career at what was then the Aurora Middle School; Aurora, Ohio. Seventh graders. I was twenty-one years old, would not turn twenty-two until November that year. My students were twelve. (Below, see my yearbook picture from that year!)

I had just recently completed my student teaching at nearby West Geauga High School (11th grade English) and was feeling pretty good--and pretty bad. I'd had a good experience there with the kids. I learned a lot every day (I'm not so sure how much they learned, though), and I'd already made an astonishing discovery: I loved teaching. (More about this later.)

(I was feeling pretty bad, as I said, because I'd had very little help from my supervising teacher at WGHS. He'd turned over four classes to me, and throughout the entire 10-12 weeks I was there, he saw me work with each class one time only. Four visits the entire time--each followed by some perfunctory (and mostly useless) comments. Otherwise, he sat in the lounge all day, smoked, and enjoyed his weeks off.)

I was a little worried about middle schoolers--for a couple of reasons. For one, during my own early adolescence I was, well, certifiable. The principal factors in my madness: realizing I had barely any interest in schoolwork; trying to survive the newly cruel rule of King Testosterone; trying to figure out who in the hell I was and what I was good at (I was very wrong about the latter for quite a while.)

And another reason? One of the few bits of advice my supervising teacher at WGHS had given me was this: Whatever you do, don't get stuck teaching in a junior high school. I'd smiled with a sort of daffy confidence at that remark--Of course I wouldn't get stuck in that kind of hell-hole!

But I did. And was "stuck" there--very happily, thank you--for about thirty years.

To be continued--my first very difficult days (years?) in the classroom ...

the year I began my career

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