Three Things

By Michael J. Legeros

I was kicked out of public school.  No, not as a *student*-- though
there's the story of a *suspension* that I'll tell another time--
but as a student *teacher*.  Spring in Raleigh in the late Eighties.
Yours Truly is assigned to a math class at a local high school, a
math class because my *major* is Math Education, a curriculum origi-
nally chosen because I didn't have the *faintest* idea of what to be
I "grew up."  (Still don't, but, hey, who does?)  Four years prior,
as a high-school senior, I didn't have the first *clue* about jobs,
careers, or life direction.  I knew how to "use computers."  I had
some artistic ability.  And I was good math.  Oh, and in the back of
mind, I wanted to be a fireman.

After rejections from North Carolina State University's schools of
"computers" and "art," I gained admittance into the far less dis-
criminating School of Agricultural and Life Sciences.  (High-school
grades ranged from "A's" in math, science, and art to "D's" in for-
eign language-- French, ugh-- which was taken as a college require-
ment and, upon said acceptance, I ceased completing class assign-
ments.)  I transferred from "Ag" to "Math Ed" in my second semester
at "State," my reasoning this:  high school was fun and math was
easy.  Ergo, I'll teach math in high school.  (That the former Fun
Factor was directly related to a senior-year status as "class clown"
apparently didn't cross my mind.)

So, for four-and-a-half more years, I took math classes out the wa-
zoo.  "Trig," "calc," "stats," theory, advance theory.  Hell, in one
class, we proved the existence of... numbers!  As each year passed,
however, my enjoyment of the curriculum waned more and more.  As did
my grades, falling steadily from "A's" to "B's" and, finally, "C's".
(That too many of the teachers were dense, poorly presenting grad
didn't anything to do with it, I'm sure.)  On the elective front,
the courses *most* engaging were 15 wonderful hours of (5 courses
on) music.  Both theory and history.  [ Note:  If you'd like to be-
come a patron and contribute a few hundred thousand dollars so I can
quit work and study music, please contact the author ASAP.  Thank
you. ]

A dwindling interest in my (seemingly) future career didn't concern
me, 'cause I was also working at the campus radio station.  As a so-
phomore, I was hired as a newscaster.  From there, I worked my way
up to news director, station librarian, Saturday night "Chainsaw
Rock" host, morning drive "Rude Awakener," and, finally, one semes-
ter as Program Director.  By my second senior year, I was broadcast-
ing off-campus, working part-time at a traffic-reporting agency.  (I
was a "roamer" instead of a "flyer," because a certain air-sickness
problem.)  Thus, with an alternate career path at the ready, I was-
n't worried about lower grades in math or diminished enthusiasm to-
ward the teaching profession.  Radio would be my "out."  (Or until I
discovered how little money is made.  One year later, I joined the
Raleigh Fire Department.)

An entire semester was devoted to student teaching.  Twelve or four-
teen weeks at a school, first observing, then aiding, then teaching
a couple classes, then teaching *all* classes.  My assignment was in
an affluent area, my pairing with teacher who taught 9th, 10th, and
11th grade.  The classroom was inside a trailer, my desk in the back
of the room.  I "observed" for several weeks, and with near-zero in-
terest.  By then, I had absolutely *no* intention of working as a
teacher.  I'd go with radio, I figgered.  And if that didn't work
out, well, I could always be a fireman.  (Needless to say, these
sentiments were kept to *myself*.)  This less-than-desirable atti-
tude led to a less-than-desired amount of motivation, which rapidly
translated into sagging self-discipline.  I was more cocky casual
than apprehensively serious toward the kids.  So I wasn't the least
bit surprised when, one afternoon, I lost my cool one and cussed out
a class.

No, I didn't use any Really Bad Words.  Just a "damn" or two and
maybe a "Hell."  Still, 'twas enough to stun the ninth graders who
receiving an angry admonished for some collectively undisciplined
behavior.  (Why *do* people work in public schools, anyway?)  Now,
as this happened right before a holiday, a couple days passed until
I received that once-in-a-lifetime message on my answering machine,
request I "please report to the Dean's office."  I learned that the
principal had learned of What Happened and asked that I be "remov-
ed."  Which I was.  And though I had enough credit hours to gradu-
ate-- no problem, there-- I would have to repeat the entire student-
teaching process to receive state certification.  Thanks, but no
thanks, I said, and graduated with honors.  (Well, the honor of be-
ing the only person in the room with an ALF doll hanging from their

So I became a fireman.  And then a "911" dispatcher.  And, then, ac-
tually *did* go back to school, though to take *computer* courses.
(And several in professional writing.)  Most ironical of all, how-
ever, is that I've been employed for several years now as... a
teacher.  Er, trainer, but who teaches adults instead of kids.  (I
daresay the discipline problems are sometimes the same...)  And with
over a decade of water under the proverbial bridge, I still have e-
motions leftover.  And memories.  And "lessons learned."  And even
laughter, because of what one parent said after it happened.  Twenty
four hours after The Incident (AKA The Great Cursing), the mother of
a student came to the classroom.  She had three things to tell me,
she said:  "Number one, when you insult my daughter, you insult me.
Number two, I'm going to do everything in my power to prevent you
from teaching in Wake County.  And, number three, Jesus loves you."

True story.

Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros


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