thirty-five to life

The thought popped into my mind today of how I got my teaching credential , finally , from that shall- be- for- the- present  unnamed university on the hill . Why such thoughts suddenly revisit my awareness after , in this case , more than thirty-five years , I have no idea . Sometimes they sneak up on me  in my sleep , after hiding for years , decades lying low .   Sometimes I welcome them , wonder where the hell they’ve been all this time . And sometimes they just arrive , unannounced , like unwanted visitors  showing up right at dinner time .  I wonder , sometimes , what to do with them . But , there they are .

I was teaching in a small Catholic elementary school in Venice , CA , having a good time , getting paid next-to-nothing , being respected , working among a talented group of teachers ,  trying to catch on to the nuances of the teaching profession . Well , more accurately , I was simply trying to survive day to day ,  not to be found out and fired for not having a clue what teaching was all about .  In those days I was still intimidated by  principals  . The principal  would , after all , be the one to fire me . Then where would I be ?school bus 1942 One day , during my first weeks at the school , the class was noisy and getting noisier . Two of the boys decided, suddenly, that it would be a good idea to run across the classroom and  fall to their knees and slide . It was an impromptu knee-sliding contest , I guess . They slid toward the door to the corridor.  Just as the door opened . Everything instantly froze . There stood  Principal O’Donnell . The boys  slid smoothly up to the principal’s shins and knelt there quietly and meekly as if paying homage . He looked , not at them , but directly at me . He didn’t say anything , nothing , but much was communicated in his pained  expression . What is there to say in such  a situation  ?schoolchildren I didn’t have a teaching credential yet . During those years I have to admit that I’d always felt like an amateur . Those public school teachers , I firmly believed , were the true pros . When I eventually got to the public schools , however , those naive fantasies of mine soon evaporated , split , cut out , boogied , bounced , vaporized , steamed away in the first few weeks . But , that’s a story for another time .

I worked on getting a credential while I was learning to teach at Saint Clement Elementary School . It was on-the-job training , so to speak  . All teachers have to learn , I think , on the job , despite other training and preparation . Well , most do . Some rare individuals may have emerged from the womb already  skilled teachers . I  have run into one or two of those over the years . I did a year of part-time credential  work at the University of California at Northridge . Now called CSUN , it was known as the best school in the area for  preparation for teachers .

At some point , though , I quit  .  I decided to take a break . Three years I broke for . I was having a good time teaching at St. Clement without a credential . I was , eventually , doing a good job as a teacher . I was proud of myself .  A credential seemed , I guess , superfluous , like frosting on the cake . I had lots of time to work on my credential .school room 2 Eventually  I went back to CSUN , intending  to finish my course work . I needed a health course and to do student teaching . That’s all. That’s what I thought . That’s what they had told me three years before .

” But , you haven’t been here for three years , ” the CSUN advisor said to me .

” That’s right ,” I said .

” Three years is the cut-off , ” she said . The cut-off ? She explained that , in effect , after three years ,  a student’s program accomplishments go up in smoke , vanish . Poof ! ” You’ll have to start over , ” she said . Like hell  I was going to start over  !

I went over to Pepperdine University in Malibu . I had wised up a little . ” What do I need for a teacher credential ? ” I asked . Played dumb ; I’m good at that . The counselor outlined the Pepperdine credential requirements . ” I have all of that except the health course and the student teaching , ” I said . The counselor frowned . Deep frown . I guess I had thrown her a curve ball and she was readjusting her stance for the swing .  She was ready .

” We’d have to get to know you first , ”  she said , ” So you’d have to be here at least a semester before you could do the student teaching or take the health course . ”  Really ? You really want to know me ?  $$$$$$$$$$$$

So I went over to the university on the hill . Sea breezes . An aura of academia wafting around the place .  The advisor said , ” It’s three hundred fifty dollars a unit . ”  It was a question . I nodded . We shook hands on it . I have one of the last of what was called the Ryan Credential . Mine is for life . Soon after I earned mine the life credential became a thing of the past . Afterward , teachers in California needed to renew every few years . Renew and then renew and then renew . Or it would expire .

I never did student teaching , by the way . I had been teaching students for five years by then . My  professor visited the school , had tea with the principal , said hello to me on my morning break , and signed off :  student teaching done . How many units was that again , four ? , eight ?  $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Maybe when I’m ninety I’ll go back to teaching . ” Life credential , man ! ”  I’ll tell the hiring administrator .

” I remember you , ”  s/he might well say . ” You taught my great grand kids .”  S/he might give me one of those double -edged compliments , the kind I got once from a mother whose daughter was in my eighth grade class . It was two years after her less-gifted son , Sean , had been in my class.  . ” I want to compliment you on what a fine job you’ve done teaching Janice , ” she had said . While she expanded upon the kind words for a minute or so I was waiting for the other shoe to drop . “A really fine job , ” she said .     ”    Not like you did with Sean . “

4 Comments

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4 responses to “thirty-five to life

  1. Ah, memories. I did my student teaching and graduated in 1975. Seems like a century ago…gee, almost was. I had the pleasure of being an art teacher, so every day was fun, creative, and a pleasure. But, it’s kinda like childbirth, you forget the labor pains after the years. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Some rare individuals may have emerged from the womb already skilled teachers.

    Dan, Of course, I know nothing about your state of mind when you sprang from the womb, but I remember you as one of those rare individuals called natural born teachers. All the university training in the world can’t turn straw into gold. This message might disappear once you’ve accepted your mission, so please just remember it.

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