Margaret Elizabeth Thornton teaches English at Charlottesville HS in Virginia. She enjoys running, playing fiddle, and staying up all night reading The Hunger Games.
There was an earthquake on my first day as a teacher; it was also the first one I had ever experienced. Some might have seen it as a sign that this wasn’t the profession for me: that the kids who I had just told not to worry to stop talking because “it was just a train going by” would never trust me, and that I should have been in law school like my parents wanted.
Not me. I knew I wanted to teach, and was confident that I could weather any storm (or earthquake).
Winston and his friend Sam sat on opposite sides of my last class THAT day, but that didn’t stop them from having a conversation about how much they’d smoked the night before. I did the good new teacher thing. I didn’t show any shock or emotion as I took the two of them out into the hallway to ask all of the affective, restorative questions I had been taught to ask in education school.
The questions didn’t work. And then the principal came in. I knew it was to be nice, to check and see how my first-ever day as a teacher was going, to give me some backup. By the end of the day, Sam was no longer in my class. It was an act of kindness on my principal’s part. She said that no one should have to deal with the two of them together — and definitely not a new teacher.
I felt defeated before I’d even started. But we got through. The class ended in January and Winston moved on to the English class he was supposed to be in for his grade level. He had to take it online so he could take other classes to get the credits he needed, and he was lost. Winston started visiting my room after school to talk about Macbeth and how to write a literary analysis. I didn’t have to plan these student interactions. I didn’t have to worry about objectives and essential questions and whether or not the copier was working. He brought the questions.
I ended up leaving that school for one closer to my home, but I heard from Winston recently. He graduated at the end of the summer after the rest of his class and enrolled in community college.
He plans to become a teacher.