I started at age five. Buttons from my mother’s sewing box, my first students. In rows according to size, round, eager eyes seeking mine; they recited. At recess, in circles, they played games, color and design making each unique.
Our spice cupboard, another classroom. Tall children in back: Sage, Saffron, Cayenne. Standing on a chair to reach the shelf, I told them stories and read them poetry. Ever obedient, they were always there when I opened the classroom door.
When I was eight, the children were alive, gathered from neighborhood families. School was year-round. Our garage, the summer classroom; in winter, beside the furnace in our basement. Desks and chairs made from old crates. I taught them of Columbus and Sacagawea, how to add and subtract; we read Dick and Jane, made time for recess. We dismissed school only when the last child was called home to dinner.
More difficult my years in real school; paperwork, test scores, hall watches, parents, principals, old math, new math, their math, phonics, no phonics, phonics, sex ed, nuclear ed, no to drugs. Thank God for the staple, the children.
I’m retired now. Thought I’d enjoy resting and reading, maybe golf or tennis. Instead, I find some boys next door who need help with homework.
Sixty years so far, my teaching career. Not planned, not agonized-what shall I do with my life? Buttons, spices, neighborhood, real school, after school. Where students are, there I will be.
I am a teacher.