My First Class
I open my e-mail and recognize the name in an instant. “Do you remember me?” he writes.
Of course I remember him. He had a great smile. I remember all those kids who were in my first class, a fifth grade, at P.S. 136, in St. Albans. He’s no longer a boy; he’s’s a grandfather.
A day later, a second boy from that class writes, too.
How grateful I am to them both. They remember me!
I was twenty-one that year, assigned to teach three blocks away from my house. I knew that school. I’d attended kindergarten there, and my old teacher was still there. I didn’t dare call any of those teachers by their first names.
I wonder if every teacher feels the same way about her first class. I remember all of them: the two who waited on my front step to walk me to school every morning, the girls who patted my dress in approval, the boys who were willing to do anything for me, from emptying wastebaskets to washing the blackboard. One of the boys, always dear to me, told me he called me, my Miss Reilly.
I’ve kept that first plan book all these years and went through it today, smiling at their names. Was it possible that I taught everything that was written every week in my neat new teacher’s handwriting? I’d zipped right through the discovery of America and in ten months we’d fought the civil war and learned about the important cities in the South. Ah, but I loved teaching Social Studies, and close to my heart was what one of them said years later: “I became a Social Studies teacher because of you.”
I taught sewing to the girls. We made aprons. I pulled out out huge uneven stitches and gave them a little head start with stitches of my own. But where were the boys? They were next door at Mrs. Rizza’s, doing something called construction. I have no idea of what construction was. Maybe the boys do.
I’ve listed their heights and their vision results. There’s a note reminding me to encourage Virginia to wear her glasses.
I know we didn’t have a library, but the book bus pulled up regularly and I still come across the books from my own childhood, marked Miss Reilly, that I shared with them.
Standardized tests were far from my thoughts. I wanted the kids to be happy, to be involved. I hope that happened. I’d love to hear from all of them. But in the meantime, thank you, Shelly, thank you, Frank. It was a joy to hear from you.