Some people love teaching junior high school. I am not one of them.
I began my teaching career substitute teaching K-8. I did that for eight years, while finishing my degree and raising three children. After that time, I knew what I wanted to do: I wanted to teach the older kids. Junior high seemed perfect.
I was first sub on call for my children’s elementary school and the new junior high in town. When I finally earned my degree, it was at that junior high where I began teaching full-time (at $5,500 a year!).
One of my most memorable students was Sherman. The assistant superintendent, Dr. Erickson, came to evaluate my teaching. I introduced him to my class, which led Sherman to walk up to the man, open his mouth, point to his throat, and say, “Hey, Doc, I got a sore throat.”
Another time, when I caught him with cigarettes in his pocket, I led Sherman to the principal’s office.
“I understand you had cigarettes in your pocket,” said the principal.
“I don’t know how they got there,” Sherman said, with a serious demeanor.
“No,” Sherman replied. “You see, I never use this pocket.” Here he pointed to his jacket pocket. “You can ask anyone,” he continued. “Ask my mom. Ask my best friend. I never use this pocket.”
The administrator and I had a difficult time keeping a straight face. Sherman never changed his testimony. I don’t recall what his punishment was. (Having cigarettes in your pocket in the 70s was the ultimate student crime; today, sadly, it’s having a gun in that same pocket.)
Sherman’s saying became a family mantra: when a child was accused of a misbehavior, the response was often, “But I never use that pocket.” Even I used it on occasion: “Mom, where’s that $5 you borrowed?”
“Five dollars? Me? I never use that pocket.”