School lasted all day from early in the morning until dark, with an hour for dinner. The teacher was generally a man, very stern in his discipline, who believed that the best way to teach school was to apply the rod to lazy pupils.
—First Lessons in Georgia History, 1913. Georgia retail contract price fixed by the state textbook commission: 50¢
The first morning of my first day of being a real schoolteacher with my own classroom I was already so high on caffeine my eyeballs were the size of BBs and my brain was screaming Yeehaw.
God forbid I was planning to give them a test on the first day of school on the eighteen most popular Georgia state symbols. I just had this deep-down rookie teacher’s feeling that they’d appreciate it. One of the state symbols is a largemouth bass.
At 8 o' clock in the morning, which is not a particularly attractive time of the day at all for doing anything, the first schooly thing I see when I get out of my truck is the grizzled veteran of educating seventh and eighth grade boys and girls and their teachers, Lurlene Brownlow, our principal and my new boss, standing out in front of the building with her little video camera.
Lurlene was photographing the seventh and eighth graders while they were getting out of their cars and walking into the building. Lurlene was smiling and waving and giggling and screaming in her Appalachian Mountains-infected accent … Welcome to skooooo-wull! We’re so glad to have yooooo! Lurlene aimed the camera at their heads as they walked by, and then she’d aim it at another kid and scream the same stuff. Welcome to skooooo-wull!
Anyway, by this time I had juked out of Lurlene’s way. Now I’m standing behind her watching the kids’ expressions. I have to tell you, Lurlene was enjoying these precious moments a whole lot more than the seventh and eighth graders. Sweat was already running down my back. I’m really looking forward to working for Lurlene this year. I’ve got ten months to see what being a real schoolteacher is like. What the heck, I’ll start today.
Welcome to skooooo-wull!
In first period, right after he walked into the room and before he had even sat down, I asked a kid named Benny who his favorite teacher was and winked and smiled at him real big, even though he hadn’t really had me in class yet, or even met me personally at all, and he thought for a long time … then shrugged his shoulders.
Well, now. I’ve got ten months to put up with his bad behavior.
I gave them their Georgia History textbooks and then told them to turn to page 505 and start memorizing the eighteen Georgia state symbols because in a few minutes we’re going to take a quiz on them. Honestly, nobody freaked out. They seemed giddy about the idea to tell you the truth. They wondered what the heck staurolite is. A largemouth bass was easy. It's a gross looking, mouth breathing fish.
While they were studying the symbols page, a brown-haired girl with bright green eyes named Petal was busy looking at the opposite page, page 504. It was a map of Georgia that showed the geophysical provinces. Petal asked what a fault line was and even though I wanted her to be studying the symbols list, I was impressed that she was really interested in her textbook. I told her, and the rest of the class, what the fault line in Georgia was and they couldn’t believe that most of Georgia was under ocean water a whole bunch of thousands of years ago.
Somebody said, No shit!
Tempest asked me what the state bird was.
I said the mosquito. I let that sink in. And now they’re looking at me with their eyes bugged and their ears perked to the hilt as if they would run out of the room if they could, but they are frozen in awe.
Even as my words of inspiration and hope are pouring out of my mouth I know that I must seem like an enormous doofus. But it feels about right. And on my first day of real school, too, for them and me, I’m wondering what I deep-down think of kids … children … young people … learning, behavior, and emotional disorders or not.
They’re looking at me. All with a certain expression on their faces.
My decision’s been made.
Next Entry ... August 13: There Is Dumb Questions