Thursday, August 24, 2017
20 years ago this week, i escaped a long, scary marriage and ran for my life with my 8 year old son to come to Bowling Green State. It felt like jumping off a cliff, leaving my friends of 16 years, Grand Valley State, where I had taught for 10 years and loved, colleagues, Edward's great Montessori school, his friends, a beautiful Arts and Crafts style house I loved and 38 rose bushes. It was so scary i could barely breathe and my first year in the PhD program, I felt like I was a secret impostor. Ed had the teacher from hell and we had no money. I came out as a lesbian (a good, but scary thing). During those years I went through financial ruin, major depression, 3 major surgeries, a scary divorce, a PhD program, a bunch of side jobs so we could eat, teaching at 2 colleges, living in 1 bedroom apartments for 6 years and sleeping on the couch, buying a house by the skin of my teeth, and searching through couch cushions and coat jackets to pay bills. I don't write this to glorify myself, but to say to any woman out there struggling against mighty odds or dying in a bad marriage, you DO have the strength to get out and start a new life. And I didn't do it alone..I had good therapists, a great sister and her family, met wonderful friends I now couldn't live without, students who have loved and supported me and made me proud, and a younger faculty here who love and respect me. I did a lot of praying. And jumping off that cliff was the best thing I ever did, apart from having my son.
When Ed was about 8, his goldfish George V, died. (Yes, there were 4 earlier and identical ones). He was heartbroken, and came to me saying, "We have to have a funeral for George." I asked what he wanted to do. He wanted a little soft cloth to wrap him in, a little box to put him in and to dig a hole in our garden. I went out to our little patio to dig a hole and he comes out with his trombone. I asked what what we were doing and he said, "Playing taps!" It was all I could do not to laugh, but I didn't because he was serious as a heart attack. So he played taps and we had a ceremony ending with him praying for George to go to heaven.
Monday, February 6, 2017
The teacher sees the students as "other", the students see the teacher as "other." My very first teaching job after I got my secondary teaching credential and Master's in secondary education was 60 miles north of where I lived in Grand Rapids, MI, in a very rural area, in a county that was the poorest in Michigan at the time and had the highest incidence of incest and child abuse. I taught in two different schools, parts of an alternative high school system. The first school was in Sand Lake, MI, for kids, mostly boys, who were kicked out of the regular high school for assaulting teachers and students, spray painting a teacher's car, shooting out the town's street lights, etc. There were a few girls who had gone missing from high school, one for a 100 days in a row, because they were being assaulted by boys at the school or by male stepfathers or boyfriends of their mothers. At night, I taught their mothers who were on welfare in a one stop town down the road called Howard City. In Michigan in the 80's, women who were on welfare were required to get their high school diplomas or GEDs in order to receive their welfare checks. These women struggled even to get there..once they enrolled in school their boyfriends or husbands either refused to bring them or consistently came home late with the car so they couldn't go. Several of us teachers would drive out in the country and get them, along with their 3, or 4 or 5 little children, who sat at the back of our classrooms and played, or caused a ruckus or colored. Many of these women didn't have running water and came dirty to class. These were poor white women, whose mothers and grandmothers and great grandmothers had been on welfare. I wasn't shocked, because I spent 3 years living in a barrio in southwestern Colorado, but at the same time, I knew they considered me "other", a woman who wore dress suits and nylons to school. And I would be a liar if i didn't say I saw their lives as "Other". They were trapped in their situations with abusive boyfriends, had often been molested by fathers and uncles growing up, lived in an area where there only jobs in the carrot fields in the fall and Christmas trees in late November. I taught there for three years, and i think about them every day.