My second day as a teacher was a Tuesday morning. I remember it really clearly. I just started as a 7th grade math/science teacher in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Just ten days earlier, I had packed all of my belongings up and moved from Houston, Texas with my new boyfriend, Jason (whom I now just call him by his pilot callsign, Trunk). Trunk and I dated at the University of Houston 4 years earlier when we were freshmen and reconnected after graduation. We had moved into a rental split-floor level home owned by a friend’s parents and her grandmother still lived downstairs. We made the long trek from Texas with just one stop at Maxwell AFB where I smuggled Julius my black cat into the Air Force Inn. We were just learning about a lot of things that first week and a half: about each other, about our new jobs (Trunk had a year transition period to get his private pilots license while he waited for a training slot in Mississippi), and especially me, I was learning to live without my family close by to me. Trunk’s family lived just down the road and that was purposeful: I moved to North Carolina because I was replacing the 7th grade teacher in Lara’s class, Trunk’s youngest sister. Yep, you read that right. I moved to North Carolina to teach my boyfriend’s sister and her class.
I didn’t have time to get “my class ready” because the school year had already started weeks prior. I was literally stepping into someone else’s shoes and classroom. As a math major who had a certification teaching 7th-12th grades, I felt as though I was prepared. I knew how to teach balancing equations and order of operations. I knew how to create a lesson plan and how to assess students’ thinking.
But sometimes teacher prep programs can’t always prepare you for everything. Especially that Tuesday morning.
For the first day, we had introductions. I asked them about what they had been learning and what the previous teacher had set as routines. I learned about their interests, about what it was like to live in Goldsboro, North Carolina where families typically worked in one of three places: tobacco farms, raising pigs, or the air force base. I learned about what it meant to “go to the Pig” (The Piggly Wiggly grocery store if you’re not from or have visited the South) and I learned about what it meant for things to “get gone” if you didn’t secure them properly by locking your car. In that first day, I learned that 7th graders were temperamental, much like me as a 22 year-old who had just moved out of her parents’ home.
I went home that first day and made a terrible dinner for my husband, had to have been spaghetti out of a jar or something terrible. I never really learned how to cook and I am grateful that Trunk stuck with me for seven years even though I might have come close to killing him with my terrible culinary skills. I could make a mean burrito though, but not much else.
I went to bed that night knowing that I would have a good second day of class in my new job and that I would finally get to work on implementing what I had learned in my teacher preparation program.
Trunk would go out flying that day and wouldn’t be home until later so we both had things to be excited about.
Class was to start promptly at 0800 and I was ready for it. My 1998 forest green Dodge Neon was parking in the parking lot. My coffee was hot in the cup, my copies were made, my attendance was taken, and I was starting my math lesson.
My second day as a teacher was September 11, 2001….