We would rise early in the morning to prepare for our twenty mile drive to work.  At first breakfast was bacon and eggs every morning.  Hey, that’s what my dad expected each morning.  Don’t all men expect the same?  After two weeks, Phil finally begged me to stop. He wanted his cereal instead.  Oh what a relief!  Cooking the big breakfast was a chore!  He was so kind and apologetic.  His stomach just couldn’t take it anymore.

After breakfast with books and plans in hand we jumped into my brown Ford pinto or his blue Volvo.  Frequently the drive was in Florida’s pea soup fog.    Nerve racking, but the sunrise was always beautiful.  Zipping past palmetto palms, long-horned cattle, armadillos and all the critters in the swamps.  In my mind’s eye I still see the Spanish moss hanging from the trees.  The mistletoe nestled on the branches with crows flying everywhere.   Nearer to our destination we would pass the migrant shanties.  A heart wrenching site…  the buildings are still there, not sure if they are inhabited anymore.

Arriving at school early allowed for preparation.  Rethinking everything, rearranging the seats, trying a new approach, hanging in there…smiling!

Being Florida, the temps don’t go very low.  Students frequently came to school without shoes or coats.  One student wore the same outfit all year.  Some who had shoes wore them even if they didn’t fit, the shoes might have been hand-me downs or purchased without the child being present.

My classroom was lucky, we had our own toilet.  Time wasn’t spent in lines waiting for the facilities.  One student would sing while in the quiet little room.  All of us were entertained as we worked.  No one thought much about it.  I’m sure many of them sang while they worked in the fields.

Ditto machines were the norm, most of our math was supported with these purple pages.  As I went from student to student and supported their reading, they worked on their dittos and read books.  A few students were able to meet together, usually more one-on-one was needed.  Sometimes we only had a student for two weeks and this was all the schooling they would receive for the year.

Physical education was taught outside.  Our school did offer music and art.  We had a large library.  At one point our school was given a grant.  We were to spend it in a limited period of time.  We had two choices.  One choice was to  improve our library or buy the new “computer” for the classrooms.  My choice was to improve the library, add books, find ways to encourage the students to do research…  Yet because of the time crunch and we would loose the grant if we didn’t act quickly, we bought “computers” .  Machines that the students could just press a button and not pay attention to the screen. Grrrrrr.  I wonder what those students think of that experience now.  They are in their 40’s!

Philip and I didn’t spend anytime in the teacher’s lounge.  You could cut the smoke in that room. We did have some potlucks with the staff.  The food was always delicious and appreciated.  Once a year there was a fun fair for the families.  The principal always was the duck tank guinea pig, his performance was appreciated by all.

The biggest mistake that I remember was not promoting all my students.  The day we handed out the report cards, the first question everyone was asked, “Did you pass?”  I was shocked.  One student, I felt, would benefit from another year in 3rd grade.  He was devastated.  We did learn that the family left town, I’ve always wondered what happened in his new school.  Or if he went back to school…

We arrived at school early every morning and we stayed one to two hours after.  Every week we turned in our plan books.  I faithfully had mine ready, but discovered near the end of the year that my husband wasn’t as diligent.  As it turned out, we both decided that this year in Florida was enough.  The midwest was calling our name – time to come “home”.