By Tom Groenewal
Thanksgiving, my day is quiet after yesterday’s teaching job and the non-stop kids wanting stuff from me. I head for a hike and meet some people who invite me to dinner. I thank them and let them know I have to get home; my Golden Retriever, Willow, is awaiting me. That’s not true, really. I made it up. I’m not a big fan of hanging with too many people and I didn’t see anyone on the trail either. Alone on Thanksgiving. It’s okay, I didn’t come to Forks for the picnics.
I make all the traditional food: turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, glazed carrots, pumpkin pie and some green Jell-O pineapple and cottage cheese dish my grandmother always made. It’s weird but delicious. Willow is happy and wants more gravy, the best flavor. Dogs always go for flavor.
I go outside to get a green tomato pie cooling in my truck. Someone next door is banging on a garage window. I see my neighbor and recognize her as one of my students from the first day of teaching. She was polite and helped me sort out the class procedure and lesson plans. Forks is small. I don’t really want a student next door.
I am called at 6:30 in the morning and asked if I could come and teach for Rosa Lincoln’s Spanish and French classes. This will be my second day at school. Today, I learned about the in-house suspension room. The place where the naughty children go. It feels good knowing about this room. Good solid support if needed. But a last resort.
The third student in the room calls me an environmentalist.
I ask, “How would you know?”
“You have a beard.”
“Oh, I have a beard?”
“Yea, plus you are wearing hiking boots.”
“Listen to this story,” I say, “One day I was asked by my teacher in third grade what I wanted to be when I grew up. That night I had a dream that I was winding down a mountain with a load of logs. There was a lot of weight behind me and I didn’t know how to use the brakes.”
“In the morning I put an x on my paper where I had written my list of future jobs and crossed out Log Truck Driver, too dangerous.”
My story seems to make a connection and the student eases up.
“I like to live in houses made of wood. If I was an environmentalist I wouldn’t be a very good one, liking wood houses and all. I never did like the owl debate. It was a problem before it got off someone’s desk. I love mature forests, the Olympic National Park and wild ocean beaches. Everyone likes wild places. I like wild places. So, the environmentalist tag is not something I prefer to be called.”
“OK,” he says and walks to his desk. I don’t think he cared anyway.
Today I teach for Mike Noble. He is across the hall from Rosa Lincoln’s classroom. I had seen him yesterday and he looked like a nice guy, round wire glasses, a happy guy. I will teach for him for two days in a row. He is taking small groups of students to the Port Angeles library or something for some kind of field trip. Mr. Nobel teaches history and one psychology course.
He leaves a very good lesson plan, seating chart, bell schedule, and a bookshelf with many back issues of the New York Times. I pick up a Tuesday issue; they have a science section with topics of various interests like rocks hurling through space.
Everything goes well until seventh period. It starts out with three guys in the back, they have been talking. I asked them to quiet down and get to work, but they don’t seem to want to do that. I give them a warning, a second chance. Take it, please. They think about it. No response.
A girl in the front wants to get in on the action and I give her a warning. Now, the guys in the back start rambling about my being a something or other, I give them the boot. The girl thinks for a second. Make the right choice I tell her, but she crumbles and I tell her to join the boys. As this is going on I sense the rest of the class getting a little tense and noisy and I imagine the whole class starting a revolt. I play it cool and luckily, they settle down and get to work.