Sunday, July 09, 2006

How I Got Lost in Kids

I appreciate all of you who read our blog site. I also think that I should open up a little more to our readers. This is secret stuff that will probably surprise some of my family members when they read this.

I know why I became an elementary school teacher, but sometimes I am amazed at how it all happened and why it took so long. In the back of my mind I knew what career I wanted, but I spend most of my time in the front of my mind so I didn’t do it.

When I was a boy I wanted to be a jet pilot. By the time I started making money as a young man, I went down to Hobby Airport in Houston, drove up to a flight school, and told them I wanted to learn how to fly. My very first flight in an airplane was wonderful because I got to pre-flight the plane, start the engine, taxi it to the runway, and do the takeoff myself by pulling back on the stick. I remember getting about fifty feet in the air and leveling the plane off. The instructor yelled, “Pull back on the stick! Keep going up! You’ll hit a tree!” I went up another fifty feet, started to level it off, and he yells again, “Keep going up! Higher! This is an airplane!” Climb to five thousand feet.” I remember replying, “Oh yeah. I was just thinking about getting it off the ground. We have to go really high, don’t we?” By the time I had logged about fifteen flight hours, I became increasingly concerned about landings. The air traffic controller, usually an expert speed talker who could easily rip off four thousand words per minute, would mouth machine gun something that sounded like, “Cessna one niner relocate to 3500 on a 230 and come in 18 over.” I’d reply, “Huh? Are you talkin’ to me? Wha’ you talkin’ ‘bout Willis?” The instructor would tell me to reply, “Roger. Over and out.” Then he’d explain what in tarnation the air traffic controller meant. Then there’d be a cross wind spring up and the plane would start drifting all over the sky. I kept imagining the front page of the local newspaper with a photo of a demolished Cessna on the runway with the headline, “Local Man Dies During Solo Landing.” I realized I loved to fly, especially if someone else with some natural flying capability was at the stick. I gave up on my hopes to be a pilot and probably saved my life making that decision.

I also dreamed of being a major league baseball player. However, I was a tiny little kid. I have a photo of me in my Little League uniform and I am wearing my glove. The glove was regular sized, but on me it looked like a leather turkey platter. When I got older I realized that "Pee Wee" Reese, the great Brooklyn Dodgers' shortstop, was listed as 5' 9 1/2" tall. I met "Little Joe" Morgan at a Houston Astros tryout camp, and he was way bigger than me. He must have been 5' 10". He walked by me and said, "You got a major league throwing arm, but you're scared of the fastball." Then the giant walked off. I knew I would probably be lucky to hit 5' 6", which I never did, so I decided that my height was too big a disadvantage. Chuck that dream, too.

I started job hopping. I have worked as an order clerk for a tool and die firm, a copy clerk for a newspaper, a floral delivery man, a forklift operator, a lab technician, a convenience store clerk and manager, retail lumber sales, wholesale millwork sales, window manufacturing sales, a truck driver, a route salesman for various wholesale food companies, and the list goes on. I disliked most of the jobs, and the two I did like the companies closed up due to a lack of business.

By the time I was twenty-six, I was a frustrated truck driver, and even worse, a very reluctant bachelor. I wanted a wife and kids. All my friends had gotten married, and there I was, not even dating anyone. Then I had a medical condition arise that I will not go into, but the doctor told me that I was going to have difficulty having children. It could be done, but when I got married, I was going to have to come see him and he’d send me to a specialist to assist my wife and me in having a child. A couple of years later a cure for an earlier, separate medical condition that was somewhat painful was invented, but the doctor warned me that the medication had a side effect that was going to further inhibit my ability to have children. Taking the medication would eliminate the chronic pain, but I needed to seriously consider the repercussions of the side effects.

By this time I had come to grips with the fact that I wasn’t exactly the charming, debonair ladies’ man. The first thing most women did when they saw me was glance at my receding red hair line and grimace. All my bachelor buddies had gotten married, even Gary. Gary was on a double date with another friend and his wife, and my friend told me that right in the middle of the date, Gary took his full set of dentures out and showed them to the girl who then asked to hold them. Four minutes later they were makin' out, and three months later they were married and she was pregnant. I hadn’t been on a date in over a year and so I took the medication.

When I was thirty I met and married my wonderful Peggy knowing that she wasn’t interested in having children, and she knew it was unlikely that I would be able to father them. I love her immensely, and I am very happily married.

A month into our marriage, Peggy realized that I was unhappy with my job and encouraged me to keep looking for something I enjoyed. I started job hopping again. It was a few years later that I finally discovered what I wanted to do for a living. I volunteered to teach a Sunday school class at our church and realized that I looked forward to teaching that class more than anything. At the age of forty I returned to college, got my teaching certificate, went on to obtain a Masters Degree in Elementary Education with an emphasis on the learning-to-read process, and found that I didn’t job hop anymore. I have found my niche.

Peggy and I have no children, but I love my job. I don’t even call it work. I tell Peggy, “Well, I’m off to school. See you later!”

I have lots of children in my life…… students. But I don’t kid myself. I am not their father nor their friend. I am their teacher, and they come into my life and then leave. But I love being an elementary school teacher.

1 comment:

Jack said...

You once told me the story of the flight instruction and air traffic controller. I mention that because I once was talking to someone at work who owned an airplane. He mentioned not being able to figure out the instruction, which made me think of your story at the time. He said that once the controller told him to got to "the intersection" and radio back. Neither he nor I knew wtf "the intersection" might be, but he related to me that he decided it was the intersection of Routes 2 and 128. Now, even having never heard an air traffic controller, I knew that it was highly unlikely an air traffic controller would refer to the junction of two highways some 3 miles distant as "the intersection" so I knew where that story was leading. About the time my coworker was reaching said intersection, the controller radioed back asking where in tarnation he was and why he hadn't replied yet. "I'm just now reaching the intersection of Route 2 and Route 128." "#*%&#!!" Har. Har.