Sometimes I almost forget that I was an elementary ESL teacher in Camden City Public Schools for more than nineteen years. Three and a half years of retirement… It’s very good. To say, the least. Ha ha. Sorry for laughing, but it’s just so good.
When my husband brought home two pastelitos de pollo, fried turnovers with chicken, early this morning, my mind jumped to the little store across from my former school. I bought these delicious and probably unhealthy snacks for lunch on days that I didn’t bring a sandwich from home.
I opened the newspaper at my dining room table and I bit into the first hot pastelito, the delicious grease ran down my chin and I remembered eating this treat at the classroom table that served as my desk.
However, the newspaper articles about the shootings of school children brought me back to a much less fond memory–those days of drills where another teacher or I would herd the third-graders into a corner during an emergency drill. I “knew” it was a practice. But, when I heard the principal’s voice calling out a code over the loudspeaker and saying, “There is a shooter in the building,” it was enough to make me wet my pants. I didn’t, though. Almost.
Some kids were cool and quiet–they figured it was a drill. Some let a tear roll from their eyes. And, there was always one or two who kept whispering, “I’m not allowed to sit on the floor and get my uniform dirty.”
I’d put my finger to my lips and look grimly authoritarian, yet comforting. Not easy. They had to be silent. The heck with a dusty seat of the pants or uniform skirt…
In all seriousness, I’d thank God when the drill was over and I knew for super sure that it was a drill.
I had shoved most memories of teaching to the back of my mind after I retired.
The pastelito and newspaper yanked out those memories, one happy, one frightening.
Love to all my readers,
Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra
Cramer Hill resident and former Camden City Public Schools ESL teacher