building bomb shelters in their basements.
Early in the school year I heard students telling other students what a great class they had just enjoyed. I asked the students about the teacher and followed up by asking teachers if I could attend one of their classes. No one turned me down. I visited about a dozen teachers working at their craft. They were all different in their personalities and different in their approach toward the students. The subject matter was also different, but the teachers had some common characteristics. They all enjoyed what they were doing and they all liked the kids. It was so evident. This experience was one of the great learning opportunities I had in becoming a teacher.
I will always remember the last day of school before the Christmas break. Ann and I had decided how much money we needed to make so I could teach. We found a basement apartment. We couldn’t afford a television set, rarely went
to movies, never ate out, and took no vacations. We soon learned that the PX
(Post Exchange) and military medical care was a great savings. Our son was allergic to milk and we had medical bills. Our 1952 Chevy needed repairs. I took it to the Chevrolet dealer in town and the bill was a little over $100. I tried to pick the car up and pay later but the owner would not release it. The irony of the situation - I had his son in class. I had to go to a loan shark and borrow
enough money so I would be able to drive. We were not making it financially. The contract we signed stipulated that we could not have a part-time job. I asked for a meeting with Mr. Keddington and gave him the message, “I will have to leave teaching at the end of the semester, you’ll need to find a replacement for me.” “Why?” he wanted to know. I filled him in on the details and the disappointment was too much. I folded over, covered my face with my hands, and began to sob. He was a caring man and handled the situation like a
pro. He let me know that I could make it. “It is okay to have a part-time job, nobody pays any attention to that part of the contract.”
He got me in touch with Mr. Ken Workman, who taught math and sold life insurance in the evening. I was soon a part-time insurance agent, spending my evening making a living instead of preparing work for the students. I sold mainly to students who had part-time jobs or to parents who bought policies for their children. It was enough to continue teaching.
The last day of school was a real eye-opener for me. The students had their report cards and year books had been signed. The last student left the room and the door closed. It was one of the most empty feelings I ever had. What do I do now? As I reminisced about the year I had just enjoyed, a student came back into the classroom to share, “Thank you Mr. Briscoe, I have learned so much from you this year.” We chatted briefly. When the door closed, I again lowered my head slowly to the desk and wept.
Little had I realized how much I loved the students and how deeply I would miss them. I also realized that they had been my teacher every bit as much as I had been theirs.