News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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May 6, 2007

The Off Season: Repeating fourth grade again …

TERRE HAUTE — It’s awfully tough to be a teacher right now. I don’t just mean in these difficult times as unexplainable horrors become commonplace in the daily news. I mean right now: early May, when the dandelion cotton, caught up in southern breezes, floats across our yards, and every classroom-confined kid and teacher wears basset hound faces as they stare out the windows at the sunshine.

I skipped kindergarten myself — I don’t think it was invented yet — and started in first grade at age 5. That means I’ve been walking into classrooms of one kind or another for more than 45 years. You’d think that I’d be tired of it by now, but I’m not. I guess I have red ink running in my veins.







I fashion myself to be some sort of a writer, too, and apparently Susie Runyon thinks so as well, because for the second time in the past three years I was invited into her classroom at Montezuma Elementary last month to talk about two of my favorite things: writing and reading. I enjoy these visits; instead of facing the sullen indifference of many of my high-schoolers, it’s refreshing to see so many hands in the air at once.

As I waited for my audience to come in from the organized chaos otherwise known in schools as lunch period, I wandered around Susie’s room and snooped a little. I inspected the artwork on the walls, the clutter of the kids’ low-riding desks, the bits and pieces of the attic-like space they live in for most of their day. Many of them had scribbled questions for me on little clipboards, apparently expecting terrible lulls in the conversation, and at the top of their lists seemed to be questions concerning my age.

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