Moving On

January is hitting the East Coast pretty hard this year.  I can remember winters like that.  In fact it was one such winter that finally drove Norman to Florida.  I was teaching at Wolfboro – Kingswood High School so as long as I could drive to the school it didn’t effect me much but Norman was stuck in the house when there was a lot of snow or too cold.  We had four cottages to rent and keep in the summer but no one rented those in the winter and we had four rooms to rent in the house/Bed and Breakfast but after Christmas things quieted down until winter break so there were no rooms to clean or breakfasts to cook so all Norman could do to keep busy was to clean ceramics for me to paint and fire.  He did this in the cellar where he got some heat from the furnace but not much and when it got cold like it is nows there really wasn’t enough heat to even keep his hands warm enough to work.  That was the winter Norman decided it was time to move to where it was warmer.  We had talked about moving to Florida  before but that was always sometime in the future.  We had a fairly good business that was growing, we had started out with just the cottages when we bought the place.  Then Norman redid the rooms upstairs and we moved into just the downstairs so we could have a bed and breakfast and he finished the apartment over the kitchen and laundry room and we had that rented by the month.  I had my teaching and a good little gift shop business that did fairly well on week-ends mostly in the good weather, never in the winter.  People that went by our house in the winter were only interested in the skiing so didn’t stop until they got to North Conway and the White Mountains.   Besides the whole time we were there we never had enough snow to open the skii tow that was less than a mile from us.  Most years were cold but that last one was like this one and Norman froze to death trying to work in the cellar and it would not bring that messy job into the house so he many long cold lonely days that year and decided it was time to go so we put the house and business up for sale.   We were taking our vacations in Florida by that time anyways so in Feb. we took our winter vacation in Vero Beach as usual and instead of just relaxing I had set up interviews with the St Lucie schools and the Vero Beach school.  We had always wanted to go to Vero Beach and had never gone down that extra little bit to see what St Lucie county  was like.  I had an interview with the Vero Beach superintendent but that was as far as the county went.  I was not given interviews by either the high school or Jr high school principals.  In St Lucie county I talked to the superintendent and he sent me to the two High Schools and one Jr High school principals.  He told me to report back to him as to which school I wanted and he would give me a contract right then.  I went to visit three schools and picked the Jr High as they needed an algebra teacher for their top 8th grade class and two pre-algeba classes and that was just perfect for what I wanted and with the whole summer to prepare I was sure I could do a bang up job for them.  I had had a Jr High teacher under me as department head in Ashburnham school system and he was the best teacher I had ever met and wanted so much to apply what I had learned from him to a class of my own.  So I left that vacation with a contract in my hand and books that I would be teaching out of and we were on our way south for the next school year.

I worked all summer on my lesson plans for my new classes at Dan McCarthy Jr High only to get there in September to find they had given my job to a man from New York who had never taught in the public schools before and never taught Jr High Kids  I was given the bottom classes because I had some special education training and experience and the other new teacher, Mr Bailey, did not.  He had only taught in a private high school.  I regretted my choice right away but settled in and made the best of it.  After three years of never being given a normal class I was told I would have the remedial class until I was certified in better classes.  I got my transcripts and my state certifications and took them to the principal, the vice principal, Dean and everyone else who would listen to me but it did no good.  I was told the principal assigned the classes and I would have that level class as long as that was what he wanted.  That next year they were to stop the assigning students to  high, average or low groups and assign them heterogeneously.  We teachers were assigned to teams, a teacher from each discipline  in the team and the kids then assigned at random so each team would have to prepare for each level of ability.  I stayed at Dan McCarthy because I knew I could real get my teeth into that.  But when September came around and we had a week of prep time to get out groups together and assign our kids I was again in for a big shock.  I met with my team and we started planning for the new year but our English teach, Mrs Smith, an excellent teacher, a black teacher.  One of the few teachers I had ever heard about and always in the best way.  She had the reputation of being the best teacher, most caring and most student oriented teacher in the school.  I was so glad to see her on the same team as I was.  I wanted her to be the team leader but she would not, in fact she would not even sit in on the planning we were doing and just sat off by her self sulking.  I pushed her about getting ready for a new year and a new way of doing things and how great it would be but her only answer was “Don’t piss in my face and tell me it’s raining.”   She finally explained this way- “Look at the teachers we have in this group. ” You are the remedial math teacher, I have always been the remedial english teacher …….” and she went through each of the disciplines with the same comment and when I thought about it, she was right. Then she went on to say-“Do you really think he will let US have any good students?”  Of course I have always thought the best of everyone and had never really had to deal with a big-got before so I said Yes I took him at his word.  She said you’ll see, he will take every one of our good students and replace them with the bottom of the barrel again.  I didn’t believe it we had the list of our students, they had already been assigned to our team so we went on our merry way, planning for such a great year and Mrs. Smith off by herself planning for the same old year she had had for so long and done such a great job with.  Before the week was out Mrs. Smith’s prediction started coming true.  First they took all the algebra I students out saying there were only one class of them so had to be in one team, they took ours and we were given the remedial kids, old familiar names.  Then it was the pre- algebra students taken from us on some excuse, then it was the top English students and by the time we met our classes for the first time we were right back where we had been the year before only now we were labeled the remedial team.  I went to the principal and told him I would be transferring to another school but he told me to forget it as he would not release me.  Well it turned out the had no say in it that year as the student population had changed so much and it had grown so much they would have to move teacher around to fill the class rooms and any teacher who wanted to move could go if there was an opening and the principal had no say in the matter.  So I got to Central High School under Mr. Hooker department head and a new principal who was much better.  I was transfered by the second week of   Sep. and stayed there until they opened the new school in Port St Lucie and I was chosen as math department head. So you see I am adjusting to my new life here much quicker and easier than that change.  I have no desire to change things here I just want to fit in so it is a lot easier and nicer.  I am older too so any change is harder but I am getting there.  I still have moments that it hits me again that Norman is never coming back and it slows me down for a moment but then remember that is the point of the live change to get on with my life wherever I can be of the most use and to find a true use at this age is so rare I need to focus on that and not worry about things that can not be.

Luke and I are getting on so well!  He is a star pupil in math.  We are now working out of an Algebra I high school math book and he loves it.  We still do a little geometry because he love it and we do some English each day because that is so important for later in life.  He can’t make a living with just math skills, he has to be able to communicate with other people.  So we hit every subject every day in one way or another.  Of course math is my favorite subject and since it is Luke’s too we just put up with the other ones.

Have a good day.  I know I will .

About Carol (Ouma) Petts

I am a retired teacher. I have taught all levels from kindergarten through college and have been retired now for over 20 years. The last ten years we have lived on a farm and lived off the land, growing our own food and canning for our extended family. Now we have sold the farm and are moving to Florida to truly retire. I guess I have always had a short attention span as this is our 11th move. We have moved from a small farm in New Hampshire, to more city type living, small business adventures, focusing more on traveling, Florida living, Georgia, and Tennessee farming and now back to Florida. My blog is a way to keep my children up to date on what I am doing and letting them know I am still alive and well. My children are spread across the country from New England to Florida, Nova Scotia to New Mexico and CA and several places between, They let me know what they are up to by commenting on my blog but they are so busy with their own lives most times I have to assume " no news is good news". Now I are starting on a new adventure so will try to give daily updates until we get settled into a routine. Then I know even if I am getting older and should settle down I will start looking for some new and exciting adventure to start. Welcome aboard. Norman died Oct 30, 2017 so I am continuing the journey alone with the aid of my children, grand children and great grand children. At present I am living with my daughter and we are 7 in one house and cover four generations. We range in age from 7 to 85 and are finding common ground, we are living proof that multi generations can live and function in a three bedroom house if they really want to. Soon my grandson will have his house built next door so we all will have a room of their own except for the seven year old twins who by choice will share a room.
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3 Responses to Moving On

  1. DEBORAH HANN says:

    You have to tell. what became of Mrs. Smith ?

  2. dphann says:

    You have to tell. what became of Mrs. Smith ?

    • Hi, So nice to hear from you. The last I heard she was at Dan McCarthy still teaching English and planned to stay with her kids that needed her so much until she was old enough to retire. I think by now she has retired as she was just a little younger than I am. I never hear from anyone in the schools so she may be still alive or maybe not. Life is very hard for our colored colleagues, equality has not come far enough in this country and the black woman has it doubly hard. Nice to know you are still keeping up with us.

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