The sound of freedom rings through the halls of Kennedy High. The bell is a sweet melody to my ears, since teaching is beginning to take its toll.
I continued speaking to the students through the deafening sound.
"Ok, class, that'll be all for today. Remember to bring in your short stories tomorrow about the person you most admire."
I heard the usual complaining, but nowadays, I have the pleasure of hearing a few choice words to go along with the grumbling!
I guess the whining about the assignment wasn't enough, so Heather Moore, the one who's always been well dressed with rather good grades shocked me. She decided it was appropriate to give me the finger, so I decided it was appropriate for her story to be three times longer than everyone else's. I was dissapointed in myself for taking such pleasure in her punishment!
Years ago, I used to enjoy teaching in my classroom. Now, it feels more like I'm teaching in a giant fishbowl. I'm now disguised as a piece of raw meat, waiting for the piranhas to eat me alive! The youngsters today have evolved into a new breed!
I shuffled my papers into a neat pile and sighed at the amount of reports I needed to grade tonight. This is becoming a drudgery, I thought to myself, as Sam Hutton, one of the few hopefuls in my English class interrupted my thoughts.
"Umm, Mr. Dunmore?"
"I just wanted to thank you for talking with me last week about my interest in becoming a teacher. I know I'm only in ninth grade and all, but I think it's what I really want to do. I want to be a great teacher just like you," Sam said proudly.
"Well, Sam, you can certainly follow your dreams, and if you have any questions, I'll be happy to answer them. And, thank you for the compliment."
"Sure, Mr. Dunmore," he cheerfully responded.
While Sam was gathering his books, I noticed he was the last one left in the classroom.
"You have a promising future in whatever you choose to do, Sam." You're one of the special ones," I remarked.
He looked up at me wearing a soft smile. I know those words permeated his rather weakened self-esteem, for the look of true acceptance and hope washed over him.
He certainly didn't get the acceptance he needed from most of the students. He was one of those "geeks" as the "clueless" ones referred to him. Having a soft spot for Sam, I often made sure I provided the acceptance and encouragement he needed.
Forty years of teaching has taught me many things. Lately, they are things I'd rather forget. Soon, I will try to do just that. I have one month left until retirement.
* * * * * * * * * *
A new day dawns at Kennedy High. The bell rings once again. Ironically, that familiar sound which often offers freedom, now only serves to imprison me for the next seven hours. The years of escalating decline have surely molded my current feelings.
I closed the door after entering the classroom and settled myself at my desk. While opening my briefcase containing the day's lesson, I asked the students to pass their stories to the front of the room about the person they admire the most.
While waiting, I realized my time as Mr. Dunmore, the teacher, is running short. It's finally sinking in that over forty years of hopes and dreams for my students will end in this classroom.
Now holding all the stories in my hand, I glanced throught he pile. My eyes settled on a story entitled, "Mr. Dunmore, My Encouragement and My Friend." I knew this wasn't Heather Moore's paper! The author was Sam Hutton. Anxious to read his story, I knew it would warm my heart and be worth all my years of effort. I wiped a lone tear from my cheek so no one could see.
Next month, I will leave the teaching profession I once loved. The students are now also teachers themselves, of disrespect, foul language, bad attitudes and diminishing moral values.
Teachers. We leave behind what we happened to improve. We also leave behind what has been destroyed. Sadly, I leave behind Sam and those like him.
I sighed and prayed for God to handle the rest.