Make It Till Thanksgiving
Curtis Fundamental in the late 70’s was a huge brick building off Marshall Avenue in Clearwater. Stockings were required, and there was absolutely no air conditioning. A feeling of “look sharp” “act sharp” “be sharp” pervaded the teaching staff (difficult when you had sweat hives from your panty hose, and heat rash on your neck). We teachers attended all P.T.A. meetings, we conferenced (now called conferred) with every parent four times a term, we tutored before and after school. We were the END all, FIX all, KNOW IT ALL folks. Problem? No problem. It was our job, our responsibility, our duty to find a solution to every academic issue. We were fundamental teachers!
Sometime at the very beginning of that first difficult year of teaching my motto became “Just make it till Thanksgiving.”
Well, ( being a professional and all) I did “Make it until Thanksgiving.” Christmas passed, and the second semester began. Along with it came a different Social Studies book called Our Nation. Whew!
Now, on the cover of this book sat a giant arch. It was huge and silver and metallic. I still remember seeing a river flowing beside that arch in the picture. It looked interesting and impressive! WHAT the heck was it? Better still... WHERE was it? WHY on Earth was it on the cover of our books? Expectantly, I combed through my teacher’s manual. I read captions, indexes, diagrams, statistics, background information and MORE background information. There was not one word about that arch. Keep in mind, we couldn’t Google Earth anything back then.
BIG, JUMP, FORWARD, and it’s now Thanksgiving Day, 2010. My husband and I are sitting in our hotel room in the Hyatt Regency in St. Louis, Missouri. We’re on the fourteenth floor and before us is a 180 degree, panoramic view of The St. Louis Arch. The Mississippi River is flowing by. It’s the starting point of Lewis and Clark’s great expedition, and the “Gateway to the West.” It’s a giant landmark made from Pittsburgh steel. It’s the same arch that was on my old Social Studies book a long, long time ago. The St. Louis Arch. A miracle of modern engineering.
As I lean forward looking on this Thanksgiving Day 2010, I can’t help but reflect on the similarities between the St. Louis Arch and teaching. More often than not, teaching is like trying to bend steel. It’s an undulating, twisty, climb. A long way up.
I let my eyes take in the entire scene again. . .starting at the base, traveling skyward, up and over the massive top and back down the other serpent- sliding side. I settle back in my chair, and realize something even more fundamental...the books won’t always have the answers, I won’t always be able to fix the problems, and sometimes questions will remain unanswered. Maybe after all these years of teaching I’ve traveled one hundred and eighty degrees. Just like the arch.