From July 23rd of 1998, an essay that I wrote for the Independent News.
Reflections of My Days of Teaching
By Richard Mabey Jr.
In June of 1990, I was 36 years old. I was working in the public relations department of the big granddaddy telephone company. Something called to my heart. Not a roar or a holler, more like a whisper. It was a gentle call to my heart and soul, to teach. So, I applied to teach creative writing classes at the local adult education program, which was held at a neighboring high school. I got the job and in September began my moonlighting career as a creative writing teacher.
Teaching creative writing classes at a local high school, was a real learning experience for me. At first it seemed so strange, after all those years, to enter the hallways of a high school.
I will never forget the feeling that came over me when I first entered Pequannock High School, to teach my first creative writing class. It had been a long, long time since I had last walked through the hallways of a high school. The banners, almost shouting out positive acclamations to win Saturday afternoon’s football game. The display case, showing science projects completed by the genius kids. All of it, seemed so eerie, as if I was going back in time to another era of my life. One which I had pretty much forgotten the details of.
Upon entering my assigned classroom, it all seemed so haunting. The desks neatly arranged in perfect rows, the bulletin board, the blackboards, the chalk, the blackboard erasers. All of it, brought me back to another time and another place.
I will never forget that moment when I first entered my assigned classroom. A part of me, felt this feeling of coming home to a long lost place. A place where destiny called me. A place where I was to serve a purpose. A place away from the insanity of the corporate world. The neatly arranged desks, the bulletin board, the blackboards, even to the chalk sticks; all of it brought me back to another time an place. I felt like I had purpose here.
My first student to enter my little classroom, was an older man with white hair. He smiled and said hello to me as he crossed over the doorway into the classroom. Something deep inside me told me it was an effort for him to smile.
What calls a moment to occur? Is it destiny? Is it fate brings two souls together, to help each other, at just the right moment in time? Such a moment came, when my first student entered that quaint and charming little classroom. He was an older man. He had white hair. He smiled at me as he entered my classroom. Something inside me told me that it was a forced smile. That it took every effort of his being to put a smile upon his face.
This man was to be such an inspiration to me that I wrote an essay about him, years later, in the Independent News.
In time, I came to appreciate this dear old man’s writings. His name was John. He was a kind man, but it always seemed to me that he was burdened. One time after class, he came up to me as I was putting my notes in my attaché case. John told me that he was a retired salesman. I never asked him what he sold. He told me that he wanted to get at least one article published before he passed away. John’s request touched my heart.
I was a most sincere and earnest teacher. I did my utmost best to relay the basic elements of creative writing. Also, I worked hard to create a spirit of enthusiasm for writing, to my students.
I remember that John also told me that he loved to go fishing in a local river. He told me that he made his lures. An idea flashed into my head, as I talked to this kind old man. I suggested to John that he write an article on how to make fishing lures. A step by step, cookbook, kind of article. I remember that John liked that idea very much.
A close-up of a paragraph from the article that I wrote about my student, John. There was something in his eyes that burnt with desire to get at least one article published, before he passed from this earth.
Well, John did write that article about how to make fishing lures. It was written plain and simple. Even if you never went fishing in your entire life, if you followed John’s clearly written directions on how to make a fishing lure, you would have had no problems. The bottom line was this: the rest of the students loved John’s articles. One students after another, gave him compliments on this well written article.
A photo of dear old John, cropped from a group picture.
My creative writing class ran from the beginning of September till the end of December. It was a great class. I had a lot of fun teaching my first class. After the class was completed, I formed a creative arts support group. John joined the group. He was a great inspiration to his fellow writers.
John, standing in a group photo, from one of the many prose and poetry readings that we presented at local bookstores in northern New Jersey. John is standing in the center of the back row, directly behind me.
John did get his article, on how to make fishing lures, published. He was so proud. He was a good man, a determined writer and a friend. I think of him from time to time. Mostly, I think of the fury that burnt in his heart, a fury of determination to get his fishing lure article published.