Confession

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For all six or seven of you who follow this blog regularly, you may remember that I was going to sub in the local school district this year after being away from that world since the last day of school in June 1996.

Here’s the link to the post: https://jmsimpson.wordpress.com/2018/08/05/20-years-ago/

I did sub twice so far, and maybe I’ll return for another try.

And maybe not.

My past teaching experience was with high school students. So when I walked into the middle school to sub for an eighth-grade teacher, I thought I’d be in sort of familiar territory. Well, I guess I was, but I had forgotten two things — the decibel level and the fact that adults don’t register in an eighth grader’s frame of reference. In other words, they looked right through me. I was a ghost. In fact, I was worse than a ghost.

I was a substitute ghost.

I couldn’t find the sub plans until halfway through the second group of students. And then half of them wanted to read the assignment silently — a few did. Most of them didn’t. By the end of the day, I was tired, my feet hurt and I was famished (no lunch, although I had to escort them back and forth to lunch).

“Where’s the lunchroom?”

“Just listen. You’ll find it.”

———

My second sub job was for a fourth-grade teacher, who was in the building working on team curriculum. She kindly returned once in a while to make sure the carefully plotted schedule was being adhered to. It had been a long, long time since I’d been in a fourth-grade class, and I was in awe at how detailed the substitute plans were at this level. Math, science, language arts, geography, special instructions for special needs in and out, art, band, music, lunch, bus passes in 30-minute to 45-minute increments. By the time I read all the instructions, I was 15 minutes behind.

Thank goodness for the teacher’s aide, who knew the answer to every question EXCEPT how to get back into the assignment sheet on the whiteboard in the front of the class, which I mistakenly closed with a click of the pen during the first class.

At least I felt like a human being; they definitely saw me, noticed I was breathing. They even said I looked like their teacher’s mother. I kinda did. They listened too. They were sweet, they got excited about everything. They read quietly during reading time (mostly). And they were great helpers (really).

But again, by the end of the day, I was wiped out, my feet hurt and my head was killing me. This time — I had lunch — but no coffee.  And I was desperate to find a bathroom. Ahhhhhh!

I don’t know. I think I’ve learned my lesson.  I like being the student better.

I’m taking a drawing class right now. And I think I’ll stay on this side of the teacher’s desk from now on.

I still have a lot to learn.

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On the road

 

I’ve been a little mopey lately. I must have pinched a nerve in my back a few days ago, because I’ve had a dull ache (sometimes not so dull) since then. Anyway, it makes me feel old, older, whatever. Yesterday, I lay on the sofa all day, thinking I needed to let it rest. That night, the pain  gnawed at me, despite a few Tylenol. Needless to say, I decided I needed to take my mind off my leg, get out of the house and go somewhere new.

And, so, since it was a chilly, windy day, I decided to take a ride to New Haven to visit Yale University’s Art Museum. I haven’t traveled very far west on I-95 yet, so it was time to take the leap.

I was so glad I did.

It took about an hour to get to New Haven, because, as usual, there was a backup. But luck was with me because my side was only slow because of the rubberneckers looking at the multiple-car accident that had completely shut down the north side. I counted two exits (about four miles) of stopped traffic, with people hanging out of their cars and sitting on the retaining wall as I headed down the road to New Haven.

I’d driven through New Haven many, many times — for some 30 years we had driven back and forth on I-95 to New Jersey and then Delaware to visit my ex-husband’s family. In fact, I probably drove down more than he did, because I often took the girls down there for visits in the summer without him when I was teaching. But in all that time, I had never stopped in New Haven or visited Yale. So, today was an adventure.

I am thankful for my GPS, even though it seems to give directions a little too late sometimes. It brought me right down to the university’s center, I found parking and headed to the art museum. Best surprise — it’s always free.

I spent almost two hours wandering around the museum’s three floors of amazing rooms of color and form and shape. Around every corner, there was a new surprise. I loved the spaces and the design. And their collection is such a treat — so many familiar names and favorites. I’m not sure what it is, but Edward Hopper’s strong lights and shadows always pull me in, and van Gogh’s soft sunlight calms me.

And you know what? I never noticed that pinched nerve the whole time until I was back in the car driving home. I didn’t have much time to explore the rest of Yale today, but no worries.

I’ll be back.

Ophelia’s Soliloquy

In the past few days, I’ve noticed quite a few clicks on a post I wrote several years ago based on Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. With school starting up again and with Hamlet probably on the syllabus of most AP English classes, I thought I’d share a link to the post again. Maybe it will spark some discussions. Let me know if it does!

https://jmsimpson.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/ophelias-soliloquy/

A night of art and poems

Another wonderful night at the Wickford Art Association. The event was packed and they even stayed until the last poem was read. Thank you for all the work the team does to pull this night off. Mark Richard was the artist who interpreted my poem into an oil painting. The poem selected and that I read was “Roommates, 1978.”

Come join us if you live nearby!

To the tomato thief

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One more day, I said yesterday.
Tomorrow I will proudly pick two perfect tomatoes,
the largest my 10×10 garden has produced
during my first year in this community space,
surrounded by people who give advice,
water my vines while I’m away
and remind me to lock the gate.

Today, I walked past wild vines
taking over Connecticut soil and stopped short.
My two perfect tomatoes were gone.
The space they occupied yesterday
stripped clean as if they never existed.
A thief had bent over my chicken wire fence
and plucked my perfect pleasure.

I blamed myself for not picking them earlier.
Those huge red orbs taunted anyone who came near.
Maybe they thought I was away, that the fruit would rot,
Maybe it was a stranger who jumped the fence.
Maybe it was simply someone who had bacon and lettuce,
but no sun-ripened, summer-kissed Big Boys.
I forgive you, I whispered.

Enjoy.

Back in school 20 years ago

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I interviewed for a substitute teacher position at the high school in Groton on Friday. It’s been over 12 years since I left my last full-time teaching position, so I had to dig through my files to pull together a binder of recommendations and college transcripts to bring with me to the interview.

While looking through the files, I read some recommendations I’d received from mentor teachers and college professors. Behind these official letters, I had tucked a note from Nick (no last name). After wondering why I kept it, I realized with a start that I might have saved this short note because it was from one of my three students who died in a tragic boating accident — in early July 1998, 20 years ago.

I remember those last days of school when my three sections of junior English took their final and headed off to the summer before their senior year. But less than ten days later, three of them — Greg, Eric and Nick — were gone. The boys drowned after the canoe they were fishing in broke apart on the reservoir near the school in Seekonk, Massachusetts. It would be days before their bodies were found while dragging the swollen water. Their heart-broken friends and family posted themselves along the shoreline. Flowers overflowed from the bridge.

At the end of every school year, I asked my students to write letters to someone on the school faculty who they wanted to thank for whatever reason. Nick must have written me (maybe because he still had some outstanding assignments that he needed to turn in). Despite his lukewarm feelings about English, Nick was a funny kid who was everyone’s friend, and I enjoyed him and the others in that class.

Seekonk is a small community, and it was a gut-wrenching time for the town, who watched the three boys grow up. Even though school was out for the summer, counselors were there to support students who streamed in to share their grief. It was like a big family. Nick’s mom was a teacher at the school. Eric’s family was well known, and Greg’s family lived on the same street as the high school.

I’ll never forget the memorial program held on the high school football field later that summer. Friends sang, the teachers sat together on the field, doves were let go, and Nick’s mother spoke for the boys’ families. She shared stories about her funny, opinionated son; Eric, the sensitive artist; and Greg, the quiet one with big blue eyes. I cried as she read from Nick’s autobiography project that she found in his room just that morning. I can’t remember what she read, but they were Nick’s words and she cherished them all the more.

As I prepare to substitute in another high school in another state two decades later, I am thankful for this reminder of the strength and importance of school community, how the students and faculty leaned on each other, how the class held on to their memories of the boys all throughout their senior year, how the yearbook was dedicated to them, how the G.E.N. Memorial 5K Run/Walk continued to bring the town together, how words made a difference.

How we wore thin silver bracelets with three clear beads all the next school year.

And how the bracelet is still in my jewelry box.