If there has been a constant in my life, it has been children and education. I began baby-sitting at the age of 12; started working as an arts and crafts instructor at 14, and in high school became president of my high school’s chapter of Future Teachers of America (FTA). Our district’s FTA club provided the opportunity for high school juniors and seniors to teach once a month in district classrooms. Here I am in what would now be called a BD class. This is 17-year old me and Jill. Yes, I still remember her name. We were making candles. The Muench-Kreuzer Candle Co, was a fixture in Syracuse and was always ready to donate the ends of wick rolls.
I went on to earn a degree in Elementary Education from SUNY-Geneseo, doing my student teaching in the city of Rochester, NY. And looking back on that experience now, I have a hypothesis about why I never got any further in public education.
Cora was a student in a 2-3 class in a school that would now carry a Title 1 designation. She was a sweet child, but very much defined by her upbringing, and quite possibly a disability. (Years later in describing her behavior to my psychiatrist husband, he thought maybe childhood schizophrenia).
One day, Cora brought a purse to school which she said contained her best friend. She had told me the day before that her family rabbit had given birth. When I asked her if she would show me her friend, she opened to purse to reveal a dead bunny. And who was there that day to watch me deal with this situation? My supervising teacher from SUNY-Geneseo.
Cora and I spent a good long time in the teacher’s room talking about how she couldn’t keep the bunny; that the dead bunny would make her sick. I remember the janitor being near by to dispose of the animal. The only way I could ultimately get the purse, and the rabbit, was to promise her that I would bring her a stuffed bunny the next day. (And believe it or not, I left school, went to a store, found a bunny kit, and made it overnight; but I don’t remember how.)
My supervising teacher was also near by watching silently. And at the end of the encounter, she gave me this feedback which apparently haunts me still because I remember it clearly: You like children too much to be a teacher. And of course, I wonder all these years later if she didn’t write that on the confidential recommendation supervising teachers were allowed to write. They were sent as part of a packet from the college along with a student’s transcript.
To be continued . . .