The Worst Job I Ever Had

Years ago I was hired to teach first grade at a private school in the San Francisco Bay Area. (I won’t be more specific.)

The principal who hired me in June told me she was leaving, and there would be a new principal when the next school year began.

The week before school would start I went to set up my classroom.

The school doors were open, but there was nobody in the office. I wandered all over the ground floor looking for the first grade classroom, but couldn’t find it. Finally I saw a man in overalls standing in the hallway and asked him, “Are you the janitor?”

Someone behind me said, “He’s my husband, and you think he’s a janitor because he’s black.”

That was my new boss speaking.

Except for a music teacher who came in once a week, I was the only white person who worked there, and the principal told all the other teachers I was a racial bigot, so they weren’t ever very friendly to me. Prejudice works both ways.

My classroom was on the second floor (which was illegal in California) and the teacher of the class below mine would get angry if I let the children move around because it made noise. I had to keep my students seated all the time except for recess.

And at recess they weren’t allowed to run on the cement playground. Because the school was in a dangerous neighborhood, they never got to play outside from home, either. And kids that age have lots of energy.

There were 42 in my class.

The curriculum had just been changed from one that taught reading in First Grade to one that taught it in Kindergarten, so all my material assumed the kids already knew how to read. I had to develop my own material to teach them to read.

Then I was put in charge of writing and directing a Christmas play for the entire student body of 250 kids.

When the Christmas break arrived I was so tired I had health problems, so I quit the job.

That was one I’ll certainly never forget.

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Janet Ann Collins