I thought if I ever stopped teaching it would be because of someone wonderful--"Oh, yes, well, ha ha, my mother always said it was just as easy to marry a filthy rich man as it was a poor working sap--meet my new husband, Thurston Howell Rockefeller-Gates Spielberg-Bono!"
Or because I hit a magic number of years that the retirement people say will leave me protected from eating cat food in the twilight years--"Eh? Speak up, sonny-- when you are 117 it's a little hard to hear--oh, glad you are coming to my retirement party..."
Or because of something awful--"She's dead, Jim..."
But you never think of the in-between awful stuff that doesn't quite kill you. As it happens, I have this evil condition that, if unchecked, makes it impossibly painful to say my Ms, Bs, or Ps. (Try teaching about the Missouri Compromise with that problem...) For a week and a half I was talking like a ventriloquist. If unchecked, it makes it incredibly hard to eat. I was reduced to cutting up peanut butter toast and sliding it into my face like a letter into the mailbox and chewing gently, swallowing fearfully. With an unchecked condition, I didn't want to move my face for fear of disturbing the volatile Angry Nerve.
But think about it: all I do at work is talk and smile and eat. (Yes, I eat at work, don't judge.)
Can I tell you that the kids didn't seem to care about the ventriloquy? About my frozen smile? They went right on learning. They empathized. They wished me well at the end of class. And maybe some didn't even notice, so self-oriented are some middle schoolers.
One a co-worker was so worried about me not getting proper nutrition that I had a little gift bag one morning: a delicious cold chocolate protein shake...a banana...an avocado...some applesauce...and a spoon. Soft foods for me to slide into the mail slot, to get past the Angry Nerve. And a little John Lennon quote to feed my soul: "It will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end." I cried a little, the good kind of crying.
And now that I have the right med dosage to appease the Angry Nerve, I can go back to my wondering what will really take me out of the classroom.