Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Yearning to Teach

My mother taught elementary school for six years from the fall of 1943 to the summer of 1949, when she married. Immediately after their June marriage my parents moved to Florida, which did not recognize Virginia's teaching certificate. It would have required additional years of college to become licensed in Florida - at that time Virginia only required two years of college in a teachers program to become licensed. So instead my mother became a full-time homemaker, and after less than a year of trying found herself pregnant (with me).

It was quite clear to me, even as a young child, that my mother did not like being a "homemaker." She truly hated housework, and did as little of it as she possibly could. She did like cooking, especially baking, and she loved gardening. When my parents bought their first home in 1955, my father constructed a raised bed that covered more than half of our huge backyard and had a couple of tons of top soil trucked in to fill it. Mama had grown up on farms among farming uncles and older brothers.  She raised tomatoes, beans, carrots, spinach (yuck!), corn, artichokes, rhubarb, and many other things in our garden.

But Mama missed teaching, and she took it upon herself to instruct not only my brothers and myself, but all the nearby neighbor children in the games and activities she'd learned in the teacher program at Martha Washington College. The other children's mothers were more conventional 1950's housewives, who spent their days cleaning and watching soap operas, and did not want noisy, dirty children tromping in and out of their houses disturbing them. So our house and our yard was the place to play because my mother welcomed the children - most of the kids found that it was a small price to pay to have my mother instruct them in how to play various traditional games ("Red light, Green light," "Duck, duck, goose," etc.) and supervise the play.
My mother may have looked down at women who watched soap operas, but she would save up her ironing to do weekdays at 1:30 PM when the "Dialing for Dollars Movie" was on (no, Janice did not make that up, it really existed in the S. F. Bay Area).  She would watch the black and white re-runs of movies from the 1930's and 1940's that she had originally seen in the movie theatre as a teenager and young working woman. During the summers I would watch these movies with her, and longed to be as elegant as Carole Lombard, or as feisty as Barbara Stanwyck.
Mama also threw herself into being Brownie leader, Cub Scout Den Mother, and Sunday School teacher. Positions in which she could put to use all her training in arts and crafts, music, and be teacher for a time each week. She spent much more time planning activities for her brownies, Cub Scouts, and Sunday School classes than she did dusting, vacuuming, or scrubbing.

In 1961, the year my youngest brother Frank entered school, Mama decided to try substitute teaching. She loved it.  She was well liked as a substitute, so much so that she was given a long term substitute job - a couple of months long - for a teacher who'd gotten ill or pregnant.  But she didn't return to substituting the next year. For one thing, she felt very guilty about not being home when Frank came home from school. She felt she was harming him. The other reason, I think, was that because the money she earned was entirely discretionary and went to pay for luxuries and extras that we children really appreciated, my father was angry and jealous. We children did not properly appreciate his roll in paying the mortgage, the car, the food, etc. Instead we were effusively enthusiastic about the store bought (rather than rummage sale) clothing and toys we got because of Mama's income.

1 comment:

Maggie May said...

Thank Goodness there were people like your mum who put children first.
I'm not too keen on housework either.......!!!!!!!
Maggie X

Nuts in May