Grammy’s schoolbooks: beginning life as an educator

Every journey must begin with one step.  I have taken many steps to this point: looking at myself as a potential educator.

First step: learning my alphabet so I could join my older brother on the big yellow bus.  Little did I know it was all a lie!  I still I couldn’t go to school until I turned five.

The fire began burning young.  My parents read to me.  Thirsty for learning, for stories, I begged for more and more books.  Tell me more.  Why is that?  Why does it look like that?  Why can’t I?  Why?  Why?

Many steps.  Time flashing by like it does out your car window as you drive down the highway.

I’m almost thirty and decided to end my period of unemployment by learning new skills.  Step 1,000 (or maybe 100,000) involved nixing the idea of becoming a lawyer (too potentially evil) or a medical practitioner (too potentially messy.)  Yet it was time to think of a profession.  Specializing in the humanities meant not being able to say what I was, not like a nurse or accountant.

I needed to think about the basics.  What did I play as a child?

McDonalds.  I loved playing McDonalds with my plastic toy Chicken McNuggets.  But perhaps there was not room for advancement within Lunenburg County’s fast food industry.  Plus, I feel cynical about capitalism in general even though I like providing service to people.

So McDonalds was a no.

Working in a grocery store.  I enjoyed being a cashier, ringing through groceries, pretending everything had a price tag, handling money (capitalism isn’t all bad.)  The dream came true when at eighteen, I began working at the small grocery store in my community.  Beep, beep.  Click, click.  How are you today?  That will be eleven fifty please. But again, advancement was probably not in the offing, and I like to advance.

What to do?  There is the matter of lugging around those degrees, unable to show them off at parties.  They must do some kind of tricks.  Something.

Then I remembered the smell of chalk, the squeak of its nub on the small chalkboard at my grandmother’s house.  It was a leftover toy from my father’s childhood.  It stayed in a spare room at Grammy’s house.  I liked to spend time there when she was babysitting me.

Every pretend teacher needs texts; I had old books from the 1930s which had been my grandmother’s.  They were health books which focused on avoiding tuberculosis and keeping your sputum in your throat, as well as English texts with dusty old poems from bewigged old men.

These small texts differed from my modern ones.  They were small, black and white, and delightfully compact, not like the clunky, bright-coloured books that were hard to take seriously.  These tiny tests, though.  I could take them seriously.

I would explain to my metaphorical class, sitting in the dusty bedroom with me, how important William the Conqueror was.  I probably made a terrible teacher; I never got past William the Conqueror.  He was always the topic of discussion.  My metaphorical students knew him quite well.  To this day I see him standing there, nobly in the text book, in his mail, sword and shield, even though he was as dead as the house flies littering the floor of my small “schoolhouse.”

When I was young and lacked tact, I asked my grandmother if I could have her books.

I can’t begin to imagine what she taught of this strange request.  They were dusty old textbooks, covers inscribed with inky pens instead of ballpoints.  What would I want with them?  Yet she gave them to me proudly.

My bibliophile tendencies must’ve begun way back then.  I trotted home with these old school books and put them on a shelf where I could see them, proud to stand up again, even with spines that were beginning to fray.

That was the beginning of it all, I suppose.

I don’t mean to romanticize my choice to learn pedagogy.  I’ve seen the pay scales of teachers, along with benefits that even my parents never had.  I would like to eat and pay my bills.  It’s a nice adult thing to do.  And the dead-end jobs I have had the pleasure of slowly dying in barely paid the bills, let alone encouraged me to do a specific thing for the rest of my working career.

Truth be told, I’m terrified of being responsible for the education of the next generation.  I’m even more frightened they will smell my fear and make fun of me like the cool girls used to.  That discussion is for another day.  Today is about choices and steps.

This morning, I made a step to my car even though I did not want to make the one hour drive to Acadia and was considering giving up.

This afternoon, after another day of classes, I still feel the same.  What am I doing?  I don’t know what I’m doing?  I’m in over my head.  This isn’t what I want at all.

Or is it?

So I take one more step.  I will do my homework.  I won’t quit for now.  I will go to bed, wake up in the morning, and do it all over again.

One step at a time.

William the Conqueror would want that.  I don’t want to disappoint random historical figures.

Seminary House, Acadia's main education building.
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