Back to the Classroom

After considering the pros and cons for the past few years, I’ve decided to go back to the classroom.  My teaching credential expired long ago, but Tennessee does not require a teaching credential for substitute teachers.  Most districts only require a bachelor’s degree, and some only require a high school diploma.  (Of the states that do require a teaching credential, as long as you’ve got a credential in something — anything — you can sub.  If your credential is in Serbo-Croatian language and literature, you can sub middle school math or fourth grade or high school girls’ PE.)

I’ve been working as a freelance writer and proofreader.  The website at Krypton Radio now lists me as a Staff Writer.  I’m getting more proofreading and copy editing work from Norilana Press and B Cubed Press.  I sold four stories and one song last year, and have sold one story so far this year.  However, as James Michener said, “America is a country where a writer can make a fortune, but not a living.”  A more regular paycheck is required.

German book with glasses

On the one hand, teaching in a modern American classroom could be considered a sign of insanity.  Teachers are underpaid for what they do and the training they’re required to have.  Most schools suffer from budget problems, leading to deferred maintenance and teachers buying supplies for their students.  Modern students aren’t taught by their parents to respect their elders; many aren’t taught basic courtesy and civility.  Classrooms are overcrowded.  More time is spent teaching to the test than actually teaching history, geography, multiplication, foreign languages, English grammar, etc.  Recess is often cut from the schedule to make more time for test preparation.  And now, people are seriously suggesting that teachers be armed to prevent school shootings.

On the other hand, too many people don’t know and don’t understand the Constitution, and if you don’t understand your rights, they can be taken from you.  As a travel agent’s wife, it disturbs me how poorly understood geography is.  As a SFFH writer who enjoys alternate histories a la Dr. Turtledove, readers won’t buy and can’t understand alternate history novels if they don’t know real history.  Too many people seem incapable of critical thought.  As a writer and a reader, seeing they’re/their/there confused or defiantly/definitely grates on my brain the way fingernails on a chalkboard grate on your ears.  I want to make a difference, from enlightened self-interest if nothing else.  Today’s students could grow up to be my plumber, my doctor, my senator, or the nurse’s aide at my old folks’ home.  I want them to grow up as literate and ethical as possible.  It’s my bit for staving off catastrophe and saving civilization.

“Civilization is in a race between education and catastrophe. Let us learn the truth and spread it as far and wide as our circumstances allow. For the truth is the greatest weapon we have.”  H. G. Wells

Back to School picture

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.  Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”                      Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Many people, including classroom teachers, consider substitutes mere babysitters, just there to provide an adult presence in the room and maybe pass out worksheets or play a movie.  Going back to subbing doesn’t mean I’ll introduce young people to the beauty of Shakespeare’s words, or how to organize their thoughts and express them clearly in writing.  I’m more likely to show a DVD of Jacques Cousteau than explain  E = mc2  

Even if all I do is teach them how to do the nine times table trick on their fingers and review the parts of speech by playing Mad Libs with them, I will have done something.  And not to be crass, but I need the money and Dairy Queen says I’m overqualified.

Library

I’m a teacher born, I’m a teacher bred, for the rising generation.

And I teach for love and for the money and for the long vacation.

Ed Miller, “The Teacher’s Rant”


All photos courtesy of Pixabay.

To check out my most recent story, click here to read “The Kissing Bridge” for free.

 

Magevney House

Magevney House is one of the oldest buildings in Memphis, Tennessee.  It was built in the 1830s and added on to over the years

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Eugene Magevney was born in County Fermanagh, Ireland, in 1789.  He immigrated to the United States in 1828 and settled in Memphis, TN, in 1833.  Magevney was a schoolteacher, a civic leader, and a real estate investor.  He died in 1873 in the yellow fever epidemic.  His house is on the National Register of Historic Places.

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The house was originally built in hall and parlor style.  There was the parlor, which was the site of the first Roman Catholic mass in Memphis, the first Roman Catholic wedding in Memphis (Eugene and Mary Magevney), and the first Roman Catholic christening in Memphis (Mary Agnes Magevney).  Across the hallway was the hall, originally a multipurpose room, but eventually the master bedroom.  As the family’s budget improved, a dining room and second bedroom were added to the ground floor, a porch to the front, and two bedrooms upstairs.  The upstairs bedrooms were rented out to boarders rather than being used by the family, and are now offices.  The porch was removed when the house was refurbished, so it could look as it did in the 1850s.

The front door and bedroom (hall) window.  The numbers above the door may be too ornate to read.  They say 198, for 198 Adams Avenue.

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The parlor fireplace.

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The piano in the parlor.

The bed in the master bedroom.

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The fireplace in the master bedroom, with a decorative firescreen to the left.

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Eventually a second bedroom was added behind the hall/master bedroom for daughters Mary and Kate Magevney.  Here’s the bed with two antique dolls.

A rocking horse, somewhat battered with age and loving use.  The horsehair trunk was used by Mrs. Magevney when she emigrated from Ireland.

Eugene Magevney was a schoolteacher.  The chair in the corner was his teacher’s chair, with a drawer under the seat and another smaller drawer under the writing desk attached to the arm of the chair.

The dining room table.  As was the custom in 19th century southern houses, the kitchen was a separate building out back.  It burned down years ago.

The dining room fireplace, with pots and pans in front of it.

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The dining room fireplace.  There are candles, a kerosene lamp, and a clock on the mantelpiece.

Magevney House as seen from the backyard.  The window on the right is the dining room.  The window on the left, further back, is the parlor.

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The back and side view of Magevney House.  On the left is the parlor.  On the right is where the second bedroom and the dining room were added on.

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Magevney Kitchen Garden Sign.

All photographs taken February 16, 2018, by Susan Macdonald.  For better quality pictures, check out this link.

Remembering Shirley Hemphill

During African-American History Month, it’s normal to focus on people like Elizabeth Key Grinstead, Sojourner Truth,  Harriet Tubman, and Rosa Parks.  While they were important to our nation’s history, it’s OK to remember the entertainers as well as the civil rights heroines.

Shirley Hemphill

Shirley Hemphill  was an actress and a comedienne.  She was a funny lady, and from what those who knew her said, very nice in person.  Her career was too short.

I first became aware of Shirley Hemphill when she guest starred on the short-lived sitcom All’s Fair as a thief.  It was her second TV role.

She became famous playing smart-talking, sassy waitress Shirley Wilson on What’s Happening!!  She would later reprise the role in the sequel, What’s Happening Now!!

My favorite role of hers was as Shirley Simmons in One in a Million, where she played a taxi cab driver who inherited a Fortune 500 company from one of her regular fares.  The show dealt with her being a regular, normal person who suddenly had a lot of money and control of a major company.  I remember the episode when an African prince courted her … without bothering to tell her he already had over forty wives.

My father met her once or twice.  He said she was very nice, very funny.  Mark Maynard suggested that a drink should be named after her, an adult version of the Shirley Temple.

She was first and foremost a stand up comedienne.  Being a TV star came second, and being a movie actress came in a distant third.  She only made two movies, CB4 in 1993 and Shoot the Moon in 1996.  She was also an waitress in real life for a time, like so many actresses waiting tables as she waited for her chance for a role.

Shirley Hemphill in office

She wasn’t the first African-American to earn a Ph. D. from Yale like Pauli Murray.  She wasn’t Secretary of State like Condoleezza Rice or an astronaut like Dr. Mae Jemison.  But she made people laugh, and in a sad and crazy world, we could all use a little more laughter.

Shirley Hemphill (July 1, 1947 – December 10, 1999)