Friday, January 23, 2009

Student Teacher, Part 14

In June, Alice and I packed our things into a U-Haul truck and, towing the Pontiac, moved to Florida. We found a nice house to rent in Lighthouse Point, with a catch: We had to move out and into my parents' house every time the owner came from New York on vacation.

Alice found work as a fashion artist in Miami, but I had no such luck. I interviewed for a teaching position in Dade County, but the interviewer cut me short. They were looking for chemistry and math teachers. "No offense intended, " she told me, "but you English teachers are a dime a dozen."

I applied for all kinds of jobs, at theaters, furniture stores, warehouses. I answered an ad for a clerk in a liquor store. The manager asked me about my draft status, as all of them did, and I told him I was 1-A. "Look, kid, I want to hire someone who's going to be around next week."

In the fall, when the bill to renew the military draft was stalled in Congress, I found a part-time job in the circulation department of the Fort Lauderdale News. From there, I jumped to the Sun-Sentinel as a copy boy, and then became an intern reporter. But I was all the while thinking about teaching. In June, I went north for an interview at a school in Frederick, Md., and another in this area. While here, I stopped in at the Observer-Reporter for an interview as well. Alice and I were tired of Florida and wanted to live somewhere besides someone else's house.

I did not get a teaching job but did take a position as sports writer at this paper. And I never left. Back then, when teachers were always the lowest paid white-collar workers, I figured my financial future was brighter as a journalist. The joke was on me. In mid career, I envied teachers my age who were making far more money and building pensions and planning early retirement. But I never envied their work.

From time to time, opportunities arise for me to stand in front of a classroom full of kids. I have taught Junior Achievement classes in economics, instructed elementary students in Russian language and culture at Citizens Library, and I've enjoyed talking about journalism to classes of middle and high school students in many area districts. It's great when you can jump in and teach for a couple of hours and then go back to doing something much less demanding, like editing a newspaper.

I do not regret the course I took, because I doubt that I would have had the strength to face a classroom of kids every day. Thanks to those who can, those good teachers who inspired me, and inspired my children, and continue to do that every day.



Anonymous said...

Park, I really enjoyed this series. Thanks for writing it.

Anonymous said...

You are a brilliant writer and your ability to portray your thoughts and feelings amazes me. Thank you for this amazing prose.

PS Give Dale Lolley a raise...