Book of School Forward by Tino Gomez

Yes, it is true. I hired Jonathan; I take responsibility for that. Also, I was Chair of the English & Communication department. I’m not bragging; it’s just that some people, —Blank—, (No names here.) might not believe I had made it this far. I won’t get into “why” some wouldn’t believe as those stories no longer matter. I’m not the same person I was then because simply put, the experience of teaching changes things. There’s no way of escaping it.

I’m certain teaching, for me, brought good change. Proof of that is now I don’t have time to do much else and if it could the profession would take more, any teacher knows that. I have often heard from family members, “due to limited time a person is able to do three things well in life” and given what teaching has taught me, I believe them. In my experience, teaching, at its most intense moments, will account for all three things a person supposedly “masters” in a lifetime, as well as a few more skills where I am mediocre at best.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, something stunning happened and it happened on a Tuesday, a school day. When I entered my classroom ready for first period Fundamentals of English III most students were already in their seats quiet and facing forward.

—Blank— (Remember, no names.) in the front row broke the silence, “The principal over the intercom said we need to turn on the TV. Something terrible has happened.” Four heads behind the voice nodded in agreement. I reached for the dusty box mounted next to the chalkboard, turned the knob, and what we saw was something that changed all of us.

“Do you think all those people got out?”

“This can’t be an accident, right?”

“Are we going to war?”

“I just enlisted in the Army last week.”

“Me too.” 

I didn’t have answers. This was far beyond any three things I could do well, but it became part of the job description. So, when I thought I had it, I turned away from the fire and smoke on the screen, faced them all from the front of the classroom and said, “I care about each of you. I will remember every one of you for the rest of my life.”

At that moment the classroom door opened and, always late, always smelling like teacher on the weekends, and always wearing sunglasses, in came —Blank— (Perhaps especially here.), but today —Blank— stopped in the doorway, looked toward us, turned toward the screen, then asked, “Are we watching Die Hardin class today? Are you guys crying?”

“Yes.” I said as I pointed to —Blank’s— empty seat at the opposite wall, “I care about and will always remember you.”

Twenty years later, a different campus with different students, I still stumble at the front of the classroom clutching the only three things I am good at as I often remain unsure of the answers. But I do take comfort in knowing that I work alongside fellow educators like Jonathan.

You want to know why? Read on, go ahead, and take a look!

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