Monday, June 2, 2014

A Wrinkle in Time (or just Wrinkled by Time)...more work, part 2



Getting married while you and your new husband are still students means that you keep working even after marriage...
I had already graduated, but was theoretically in a Master’s Program (actually the MRS  program) and had a job as grad student teaching assistant...I taught two sections of freshman English.  What were they thinking? I looked very young...
 
About 1967...student teacher at Highland High in Salt Lake and then grad assistant at BYU
I was very young...but I guess most of my students were at least five years younger....Harvey Hulme was one of my students! I made $200/month. That was our total income...John worked hard in the summer but never during the school year.
Rent was $80/month and I tried to spend no more than $20/week on food. I can remember adding more pasta to a macaroni/tuna salad to make it last for one more meal.  Although gas was only .25/gallon, we struggled a bit to fill our tank... John’s cousin owned the Gas n Go on 4th west, but we never got free gas.  Fortunately, as an English major grad student, I was given a free dictionary by each of the publishing companies...which meant I had 8 or 10 of them. When we ran out of money for milk or gas, I would sell one back to the bookstore for $7  or $8...what riches!
The first summer after we got married we came back to San Jose...no, we didn’t live with my parents...we house-sat for the Joe and Pauline Pace family...the people who had the bomb shelter that John had lived in. They were on a trip to Europe so we had their nice home on University Ave all to ourselves. Of course our summer jobs started again too...John with his daytime construction job and nighttime fork lift driving at the cannery...and I went back to the Payless Drug Store; (Kids, remember that pink “rat tail” comb Dad had? he got it at Payless when I worked there). John also got me a night job at the cannery, standing over a peach sorting conveyor belt...because who doesn’t work two 8 hour jobs every day? I only did that for about a week.
At the end of the summer we moved to San Francisco where John started dental school at UOP and I began teaching school. In 1968 I had a hard time getting a teaching job in California. A declining birth rate meant declining enrollments and many school closures. I was lucky to get a job teach English at Woodrow Wilson Jr. High in Oakland. (I did apply and interview with Mt Diablo…they assured me that the new BART train would soon be up and running to ease my possible commute…luckily I didn’t get hired…since BART didn’t start running for 6 more years.)
First, regarding teaching at WWJH.  My only previous teaching experience was student teaching…I had done mine at Highland High in Salt Lake City. This school was located up on the “benches” near the University of Utah.  I taught five periods of college prep sophomores…about as far from an “inner city” school as you could get. The only unit I remember teaching was on Shakespeare’s Julius Cesar, and my only discipline problem was one boy who didn’t always raise his had to talk…oh, and I think a couple of kids chewed gum…
Flash forward to WWJH…this was the school Hughie Newton (founder of the Black Panthers) had gone to. There were only 12 white students…just as well; I could never be accused of favoritism!

 Bobby Seale and Huey Newton



Looking back, I wonder that they hired me…maybe no one else wanted to teach at that school…or maybe the administrators were really tired of all the liberal Berkeley grads who wanted to smoke pot in the teachers’ lounge…who knows.


Anyway, it was with great trepidation that I took on that job.
When I interviewed for the job they saw that my minor was French, but they wouldn’t hire me to teach French as it wasn’t a “teaching minor”...just as well.
But imagine my surprise when I showed up at the 30’s era building on 48th and Telegraph to find out I was teaching English and one period of Art! I mean, I like art, but hadn’t taken it since 7th grade!
But I figured I could just do what the two full time art teachers were doing, right? But one of them was another new teacher…a white guy from San Francisco who didn’t know what he was doing, and the other was a nice black lady who had been teaching elementary school for 15 years and was on the verge of a nervous breakdown dealing with jr high kids! *
So I fell back on my remembrances of my 7th grade art class and various girl scout projects…like: scribble all over a piece of white paper, color in each section heavily with a variety of crayons, paint over all this with black india ink, and finally scratch a picture into the black surface revealing the rainbow hues beneath!
Don’t scoff…it kept my students busy for most of a week…and I noticed the other two teachers were doing my project with their kids too!
(*I feel a little bad identifying people by race…but it was very much an issue then…this was a very “black” school…white teachers were definitely the outsiders…a very new and intimidating situation for me….look up what was going on in the US in 1967 to get a feeling for what I was dealing with…race riots, protests against war...etc.)
..
In my English classes I kept getting kids added to my class throughout the year…not kids moving into the neighborhood…these were kids getting kicked out of Mr. Cheatham’s class…a tough disciplinarian who didn’t put up with any variance from his rules. It was a shock for me to find out that kids didn’t just sit quietly and do their work and also that many in the seventh grade could not read!
But I adjusted and figured out how to deal with my crazy new reality since it was my responsibility to put John through dental school for the good of our future family!

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