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A teacher graduates from first year of school

Donna Daniels

School is out for my friend Ted.

He’ll heave a sigh of relief at having made it through his first year of teaching.

At the beginning of the school year, in late August, I reported on Ted’s first day of school. He went dressed in a good shirt and bow tie and sturdy shoes, armed with pencils and pens, scissors and rubber bands and notebooks. All fresh and unscathed.

Now, nine months later, the shine has worn off, but not the enthusiasm.

Ted has had quite a year. His bookbag, once neatly packed with the aforementioned pens and pencils, the stuff of all teachers, now bulges with school papers, music scores, workbooks, old bills, articles of clothing. Who knows. It looks like it’s been through a war.

Ted also bears some scars, but proudly. Throughout the year the kids have tried his patience. They’ve caused him to reach deep into his imagination to come up with ways to engage every student. He’s brought many kids through the first painful but exhilarating experience of learning a musical instrument.

Most of all, he’s touched some young lives, made some close friends, become a mentor and, yes, a parent. Parenting is something Ted is good at. He brought that skill to the job in September and it’s served him well all year.

He’s got the patience of a saint, as my mother used to say.

Last weekend those skills were tried and proved true when he and I and three other adults accompanied 29 middle schoolers to Elitch Gardens in Denver for a music festival.

Ignorance is bliss, they say, so I had little idea what the weekend had in store when I agreed to chaperone the excursion. But I was warned.

“Take some earplugs,” one wag urged.

“Don’t sit in the back of the bus if you value your hearing,” another offered.

For openers, the bus ride from Carbondale to Denver, all four slow hours of it, was pretty fun. The noise wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It rose and fell in cycles, depending on the hunger or antsy factors. Friday night we stopped at a mall in west Denver for dinner and as we watched the kids stream off the bus and disappear into the crowd, I wondered if we would see any of them again.

They fed, and they returned. Right on time.

“Bully for them,” I thought.

We arrived at our motel, the Red Lion Inn next to Invesco Field, at about 8 p.m. I watched in admiration as two of the teachers read the kids the riot act about the 10 p.m. curfew, don’t be sneaking out and swimming in the pool at all hours, no running around the halls, etc.

I thought, “Right.”

But to my surprise, the night was relatively quiet, at least on our floor. All was quiet after 11 p.m. We got a good night’s sleep and rose at 6 a.m. for breakfast. Again, to my surprise, almost everyone was in the diningroom at 7 chowing down.

Then it was over to Elitch’s. The choir sang and the bands played their hearts out. I was so proud.

After the performance we let them go again, this time into the wilds of the rides, the steel skeleton, body-wrenching, high g-force torture chambers I would have no part of. But the kids loved it.

We told them to check in by the Ferris wheel a couple of times during the day, and they did. In the meantime, Ted and I, old fogies that we are, amused ourselves on the carousel and Ferris wheel and watched a bit of the Av game on a restaurant TV. We had a great time and so did the kids.

That day and a half was a brief glimpse for me at Ted’s experience over the school year. The drama and the chaos of middle schoolers. And the satisfactions, too. The shine in their eyes because they’re having fun. The obvious affection some of them have for Ted, bringing their happiness to him for his approval.

It was a great thing to see.

Although he’s grown a bit jaded in the past nine months, Ted’s also as gung ho as ever. He still loves it.

But for now, he’s ready to kick back for a few months until it begins again in the fall.

Have a great summer, Ted. You, too, kids.

Donna Daniels is a Post Independent staff writer. Her column appears on Mondays.


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