Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Life of Work, Part 3B

And there will probably be a Part 3C too.

After I was married (an unusual affair which shocked my mother and inlaws, no doubt, as it was held in the Gold Hill Inn, in Colorado, and officiated by---not clergy, but---Judge Ted Rubin, my H-T-B's boss at Denver Juvenile Court), my work life changed substantially.

I was no longer the sole support for myself; my husband (HTB means husband to be) and I pooled our money and he pretty much controlled it, with my acquiescence (and a good thing it was, too, as I was stupid about money, never having had much and finally having A Credit Card of my own). He was pretty tightfisted, which was as much a problem as overspending, at least to me.

But within a few months of our marriage, the Christian Center was subsumed into Curtis Park Community Center, and the H and I began to consider what my next occupation would be. H had been an English teacher in Westminster schools and suggested that I might consider getting teaching credentials. It would probably be the only way I'd ever get to use my book-learned Spanish professionally, so I decided to do that.

I checked out Colorado Women's College in Denver, got a job there, and shortly discovered that not only could I take classes tuition free, but I could read the course materials and test out of some classes. Within a year, I had my teaching credentials and was ready to do a semester of student teaching.

But the jobs I had at CWC were interesting; they were totally entry-level but gave me contact with students and faculty, which I enjoyed. I served for several months as the Registrar's clerk, taking applications, filing materials, and making appointments. Later in this stint, a new Psych professor was looking for a secretary and I transferred to the office of Dr. Joel Greenberg. Dr. G was an interesting guy and I typed manuscripts and letters while reading the material for education classes and occasionally attending an education class. I didn't take very many classes, as I was able to test out of several. My college friends were right----there's very little that's interesting about education classes, so this was a true benefit.

Student teaching at Morey Junior High was another eye-opener for me; my students were mostly Black and Latino and many of them knew far more Spanish than I did. Classroom management was my main bugaboo, as these kids were pretty juicy. But I had a good experience, by and large, and by the end of the term, I felt ready to take on my own classroom. I applied to Denver Public Schools, in hopes of returning to Morey, but hadn't heard anything late into the summer, so I decided to apply to other districts.

(Note: in April of this student teaching term, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. occurred, a devastating experience for my students and the whole inner-city Denver community. The community had felt safe up to this time and though there was little violence in Denver (at least not like other major cities experienced it), we knew we were living in explosive times.)

While applications were pending across the metro area, H and I had the opportunity to attend the first Colorado Outward Bound School, a six-weeks course in the Rockies, climbing mountains, rappelling down cliffs, white-water rafting, sailing Sunfish boats on mountain lakes, three-day solos without food or fire, long, long hikes and getting lost, culminating in some good friendships, much improved survival skills, and massive leaps in self-esteem. COBS was a very good experience for me!

When we returned to the city, I had a job opportunity and then an interview with Dick Frost, the principal of Evergreen Junior High in the foothills of the Rockies. He seemed impressed by my Outward Bound experience and hired me to teach three levels of Spanish, starting immediately. I taught Spanish at EJHS for four years, profiting from my OBS hugely as I told wild tales to my students about rapids named "Hell's Half Mile" and how not to rappel down 150 foot cliffs. I was the drama coach, as well, and can brag today that the late Randy Van Wormer was one of my drama students. I love his song "Just When I Needed You Most". He was a cute kid as a sevie.

For two years, I organized a white-water raft trip for 9th grade students at EJHS, though I couldn't go on the second one because of pregnancy (mine). The students were a mixed bag of "Gilmore's Gorillas", the name given to the social studies classes I'd been given when I rashly offered to take on the kids nobody else wanted in their classes---the underachievers, the do-nothings, the hippies, the bums. Dick Frost's assumption was that I would work miracles with these kids because I'd been to Outward Bound. I don't know about that, but we did have a good time! (Gilmore was my married name.)

Pregnancy and the FS's birth changed my work life again. For two years, I was on maternity/educational leave; the FS was born in August of 72, I went back to school for a Master's in Guidance/Counseling, while subbing in the school district. Subbing was fun, but also challenging. Many teachers didn't leave very good lesson plans, so I always took my own bag of tricks, with stories to tell, games to play with Spanish words, and other diversions to help keep me sane. I found it was essential to learn some names as quickly as possible; it bolstered my authority to be able to call some miscreant by his/her actual name. Kids were actually pretty well-behaved in the 70's and I liked it when they'd tell me (though they may have been lying) "we like you better than Missus Soandso".

I also put in two years as a Spanish teacher at O'Connell Junior High, in the district. Field trips were a big deal and the H and I and the FS chaperoned a few, most notably a camping trip with 9th grade Spanish students to Bandelier National Monument, where one morning I woke up to discover that the H had not returned from visiting a neighboring campsite where substances were being consumed. I roused the FS, who was about 3, and we went looking for Daddy, whom we found curled up and snoring at the other campsite. Sheesh! Nobody ever found out about that, luckily, but it knocked another huge hole in what I'd hoped was a good marriage. It could have meant the loss of my job and his, for he was working for the same school district by then, as an attendance counselor.

In 1976, I got a counseling job at Creighton Junior High in Lakewood and stayed there for 13 years, until I realized that one of my seventh graders had been a fetus the last time I'd seen him. It was time to move on, I realized.

But at Creighton, I really developed a style of teaching and counseling that served me well. I co-wrote a peer counseling curriculum with Carolee Hayes, which was accepted into the district's junior high curricula regulars and became used around the district in other schools. I instituted a lot of groups for counseling: divorce, addiction, adoption, under-achieving gifted kids, anger management.

My own marriage was struggling, however; the FS was about 7 years old, and after a difficult summer, the H and I separated and then divorced. We shared custody, so the FS lived with me parttime and his dad parttime. We all had a hard time as we sorted out living arrangements, discipline, homework and school behavior. Once we regained some equilibrium, my life seemed to soar without the burden of substance abuse; I began to date, had some good relationships and some not-so-good, and the former H also seemed happier, giving up the sauce though not the grass, and getting some therapy.

In 1989, I transferred to Oberon Junior High and spent six more years as a counselor, with more groups, more peer counseling classes, and adapting to the many changes demanded by federal and state mandates. By 1995, I was thoroughly burned out and ready for another change. I had felt a strong call to the ministry in 1992 (outlined in the post MAGNIFICAT published in December 2011), but had not yet been able to respond to it, as I was too young with too few years in the district to apply for early retirement.

However.... stay tuned for Part 3C.

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