Kids in Need Won’t Find Help

When I was a high school student in the early 1980s I couldn’t have imagined having police officers or Department of Human Services social workers in the building. Now that I teach high school, I can’t imagine doing without them.

But it’s happening.

I’ve already discussed here how we’re down to one officer for our high school, 9th grade center, middle school, and alternative school (about 1,300 students). I’ve since learned he also covers the elementary school just north of our campus, too. This allows kids to roam freely at all hours of the school day; there’s simply nobody available to round them up when they skip class. It also allows for acts of violence like the one that occurred outside my room a few minutes after the bell signalling the start of a class yesterday.

That’s bad, but I’ve talked about that already. I learned recently that Oklahoma’s cuts to the DHS budget is costing us our social worker at the end of this school year. This is our second year to have Katrina in our building and I simply can’t say enough about what she’s done for our students.

I have gone to Katrina countless times about students who need help because a parent, step-parent, boyfriend or girlfriend was physically or emotionally abusive. I’ve taken her kids who were bruised, who were hungry, who needed clothes, who were homeless, who were thinking about suicide. She’s gotten help for them. She literally has been a life saver.

And now, as we’re facing a reduction in force that will lead to bigger class sizes, more work per teacher, and less individual attention per student, we need someone like Katrina more than ever. It’s likely she won’t be there, though. What will happen to those kids? Who will they turn to? Who is going to have the time and energy to care for them?

Not the legislators who refuse to end subsidies for petroleum and wind energy companies. Not the congressmen and women who are considering deregulating schools so cash-strapped administrators can do away with high-priced teachers (who are now the lowest paid in the nation) and hire minimum-wage-earning ex-convicts to save money. The governor won’t be reflecting on their fates as she stares into the new reflecting pool that will be built at the Capitol.

Every seat in the Oklahoma House of Representatives is available this November. About half of the Senate seats are, too. We cannot afford to allow the same kind of people to continue to run our state. Vote for candidates who will diversify our budget and who see the value in a strong system of public education.

Letter to OK Senate and House

I’m actually getting kind of tired of writing only about education issues. It’s Spring Break. I should be writing fun stuff. But the fight continues, and the Oklahoma Legislature seems determined to end public education.

Here’s the text of a letter I just sent to Sen. Anthony Sykes and Rep. Paul Wesselhoft. Very likely it will do as much good as farting at a tornado, but I had to try.

Sen. Sykes and Rep. Wesselhoft,

I am sorry I was unable to visit with either of you today when I was at the Capitol with the #oklaed group. I stopped by your offices, but you weren’t in. I am writing now to ask you to begin supporting public schools and public school teachers and students in Oklahoma.

As a public high school English teacher, I am asking you to support the new Oklahoma standards that were created by Oklahoma educators. One of the complaints I heard about the English standards was that they do not include reading lists for each grade. This is ridiculous. Schools very well may not possess the books listed on the standards, and Lord knows we can’t afford to buy new books with what the Legislature has done with the state’s money. Further, many inner-city school children are not reading at the same level as kids at, say, Southmoore. Did you know that OKCPS high school English teachers are not even allowed to teach novels? Having a required reading list wouldn’t do much good when the largest district in the state isn’t even reading long works.

I am also asking that you stop supporting the deregulation bills, SB 1187 and HB 3156. It pains me that I would even need to explain why. Do you really want to give cash-strapped school administrators the chance to fire experienced (and thus more expensive) teachers and replace them with uncertified minimum-wage “adjuncts” who could be felons since background checks wouldn’t be required? How about if we deregulate the Legislature, cut your pay and retirement and insurance, and let the people replace you at will? It shames me to know that members of my political party voted in favor of these two bills.

I suspect that, once again, I will get no response to my e-mail and the will of the people will be ignored. Perhaps Mr. Wesselhoft will even call me “ignorant and arrogant” again like he did on Facebook a few days ago. Still, I am making an effort to tell you what a voting resident of your district wants from you, his elected representatives. I think you’ll find that the majority of people in your district feel the same.

Steve Wedel
Moore, OK

Yes, Wesselhoft really did call me (and several of my friends and a former student who is smarter than he’ll ever be; and he misspelled her name) “ignorant and arrogant” when we criticized him for admitting he had not heard about SB 1187 and the controversy it was stirring up. Here’s the proof:


What’s funny (in a very sad way) is that I was ignorant. I had no idea Wesselhoft had already voted yes on HB 3156, which does exactly the same thing as SB 1187. Thank goodness he’s term-limited out this year.

OK Children to be Taught by Convicts

If you think the title for this post is pure hyperbole, you haven’t read Senate Bill 1187 closely enough. Among the atrocious things this piece of legislation — passed by the Oklahoma Senate 25-20 on Thursday — does is remove the requirement for school districts to hire certified teachers or do background checks on the “adjunct” teachers they hire.

So yes, it is totally possible that your kindergartners could soon be learning the ABC’s from a convicted drug fiend. Your high school daughter could have a repeat woman beater as her PE teacher. And who better to teach Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” than a fella who’s actually cut up and hidden a human body?

On the plus side, those unchecked, uncertified teachers won’t have to worry about the stigma of having the 49th lowest paycheck for teachers, because SB1187 also eliminates the requirement for school districts to even meet that laughable standard.

Here’s a summary of what SB1187 does, provided by the Professional Oklahoma Educators:

  • Eliminate the teacher’s minimum salary schedule.
  • Eliminate the requirement for school districts to participate in the Oklahoma Teacher’s Retirement System (OTRS).
  • Eliminate school district provided health insurance.
  • Eliminate criminal background checks on school employees.
  • Eliminate teacher evaluation and due process protections.
  • Eliminate payroll deduction.
  • Eliminate due process protections for support staff.
  • Eliminate all certification requirements for all school district positions.
  • Eliminate negotiations between a school district and employees.
  • Eliminate student curriculum requirements.
  • Eliminate required continuing education for local board of education members.

I have never been more ashamed to be a registered Republican, and my party has been responsible for some pretty stupid shenanigans in the state legislature here. I have written to my local senator, Anthony W. Sykes, to tell him how disgusted I am by his vote in favor of SB1187, and to my representative in the State House, Paul Wesselhoft, to encourage him to vote against the measure when it comes to the floor of the House on Monday. Since Wesselhoft voted against tapping the Rainy Day Fund to help schools finish the current fiscal year earlier this week, I don’t hold out much hope of him doing the right thing.


Perhaps he was taught to spell “EMERGNCY” and the governor’s surname by an adjunct educator.

In the interest of being fair and balanced, you can click here to read the text of the actual bill. And here’s an editorial written by two small school district administrators (not teachers) and published by the online arm of one of my former employers.

Oklahomans, please click here to find your legislators. Write to your person in the House of Representatives and demand they kill SB1187.

Personally, I would love to see a recall of the 25 senators who voted in favor of SB1187.

Going Viral

Talk about intimidating! Sitting down here to write a new blog post after my “Open Letter to Oklahoma Voters and Lawmakers” exploded over the Internet and across the country and around the world is the most intimidated I’ve ever been when it comes to writing. How do I follow up on that?

The truth is, I don’t think I can. Probably never will. So it’s either abandon my blog, or go on as if that post was only seen by the dozen or so people who would typically read what I post online. That means that pretty soon I’ll be back to posting book reviews and updates on my novel writing or promotion. Speaking of which, I’ll be a guest at the Underground Monster Carnival at the OKC Fairgrounds again this year. Come out and visit me and many other authors, movie makers, make-up artists, and vendors. Organizers Stephanie and Art Sunday have very generously offered to collect donations for my school, and you don’t even have to pay Carnival admission to make a donation. That’s the true spirit of the average Oklahoman.

The response to my Open Letter was overwhelming in many ways. The sheer volume, of course, was staggering. I had no idea that was going to happen, and I am still working my way through e-mails and comments. If I had known what was about to happen, I might have worded a couple of things differently. For instance, it was not my intention to say that everyone working in factories or oil fields are peasants. Those are often good-paying jobs (more than teachers make!) and many people find satisfaction there. That’s great. I was a little impassioned at the time of writing and recalled my own feelings during the 10 years I worked in machine shops between high school graduation and going to college. It wasn’t for me. It wasn’t a trade I chose. I’ve since lost the ability to do the complicated math I did when I was running CNC machines, so obviously there is a level of intelligence beyond mere peasantry needed to do trade jobs. Like I said, I didn’t choose that career; cleaning high production machines was the only full-time job I could get in 1986; once I was in, I worked my way up until a shoulder injury ended that career. The whole time I worked in various shops I was looked at as an oddity because I usually had a book I was reading or parts of a manuscript to edit. I wasn’t happy as a factory worker and I committed a fallacy in the heat of the moment. A better wording to that part of my letter would have indicated that I don’t want my students to be forced into any job due to shoddy education if they aspire to some other profession. I apologize to anyone who took offense to the way that was worded.

Another criticism I saw concerned my mention of Michelle Obama. I stand by that one. School meals are not filling, and under the Smart Snacks guidelines kids cannot get second helpings. If you’ve ever had teenagers in your home you know that they eat a lot of food. In our district, the school meals are the best a lot of kids get, which is why we continue to feed them during the summer. They need to be filled at school because there often isn’t enough food at home. Further, Smart Snacks gutted our most reliable fundraisers, which were selling hot dogs, pizza, chicken strips, or nachos from our school concession stand. Under this initiative pushed by the unelected first lady, we cannot sell alternatives to the Smart Snacks approved meals. Kids are not even supposed to be selling those old stand-by Worlds Finest Chocolate candy bars during school hours. All that said, Mrs. Obama was not the point of my letter and the fact so many people focused only on that mention of her says something about their perspective, in my opinion.

I would also like to point out I was careful not to name the school or district where I work. When I agreed to meet with local reporters from KFOR Newschannel 4 and FOX25 they both agreed beforehand that they would not mention the name of my school or district. Chelsea Washington of FOX25 violated that agreement. It could have been learned, anyway, by people who read some of the early comments to my letter, comments made by personal friends who know where I work and mentioned the school name in their responses. I did not try to keep the school’s identity private because I’m ashamed to be part of Western Heights. On the contrary, I’ll be forever grateful to the administrators who took a chance on a long-haired 40-year-old first-year teacher with alternative certification. I’m proud to be a Jet and proud of my kids. I tried to keep the school name private because I do not speak for the school or district. The views on my blog are my own and are not endorsed by or a reflection of the views of the administration. As expected, once the name was out, there were calls of complaint.

Let me say this: Not every student at Western Heights lives in the conditions I described. Not every parent of a Western Heights student uses drugs, ignores their children, or abuses them in any way. We have some of the best parents you’ll find anywhere. I’ve been lucky enough to have older and younger siblings go through my class and I’ve gotten to know families and count them among my friends and they are excellent parents. But the bad stuff is there, too. The stories about parents who can’t answer their phones are real; a girl who was not the object of my original story stopped me today in the hall to tell me her parents were too wasted to answer the phone sometimes. The story about the boy sleeping on a neighbor’s back porch is true; that was the incident that first opened my eyes to the plight of some of our kids in my first full year of teaching. And yes, I had a female student who was beaten with a cane by her grandfather because I let him know she was failing my class. These are things that never should have happened. Once you see that they do, you don’t forget them. They do not only happen at Western Heights. Those things are happening at your school, too. If you think you are the parent I was talking about in one of those examples, please turn yourself in at the nearest police station.

One last thing for tonight. Many, many, many thanks to everyone who expressed support for what I wrote. The response, as I said, was unexpected and overwhelming. People have brought me boxes of food, a case of copy paper, poster paper, and one kind soul send $250 to my PayPal account to use to help my kids. Several of my former students shared the post with personal notes about our time together, and more than a few of those put a lump in my throat and a mist over my eyes. I didn’t write the letter to get free stuff, or to goad my graduates into stroking my ego. Those things were as unexpected as the 85,000+ views the Open Letter currently has. Spiritually, there is no better profession than teaching and no reward greater than when a successful young adult tells you that you made a positive impact in his or her life. It doesn’t keep the electricity on, but it fills the heart and reminds us why we put up with all the negatives of being a classroom teacher. Thank you all!

I’ve rambled. Tomorrow or Friday I’ll share the modified version of my Open Letter that I sent to the state senators and representatives for my district and the district where the school is located. So far, I have not received a reply from them, or from Gov. Mary Fallin. In the meantime, I’ll leave you to ponder the most recent lunacy from the Oklahoma legislature: Mandated anti-abortion instruction.

Therapy in 88,404 words

So, yesterday was a good day. I finished the first draft of a novel tentatively titled The Teacher.  This is the first new novel I’ve completed in three years. Needless to say, finally getting over some issues that kept me from writing and actually finishing a new book felt really, really good.

Back when After Obsession was published in 2011 I thought I was finally going to get the break I’d been working toward for so many years. Yeah, Carrie had already made the NY Times bestseller list and was a name, but I wrote half the book, so surely a publisher would be interested in a solo book from me, right? Who knows? The agent we shared for a while seemed dead set against me writing anything with paranormal elements. I wrote two young adult novels, both of which he had me revise more than once, only to tell me he didn’t think there was a market for them. He never sent them anywhere. This led to a lot of self-doubt that really just crippled my creativity. I started a novel last year, but gave it up halfway through because I figured nobody would be interested in it, either. That was my only writing project until I started writing The Teacher in jerks and fits this past spring.

Sometime during the writing, though, the old fire came back and, if you followed my Twitter or Facebook you know that I was hitting pretty respectable word counts for the last couple of weeks of the project. I’m sure it annoyed my wife and kids that my head was always in the story, even when I wasn’t sitting at the computer. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and really only wanted to be unspooling the tale until it was all told.

It was also therapeutic in that it was an opportunity for me to deal with things, through characters, that have bothered me lately. Things like having a daughter become a woman and not needing her daddy so much, spending so much time on the job that you neglect your family, and losing friends due to various circumstances. This isn’t a horror novel. There are no werewolves or ghosts or anything paranormal, and the only person to die is someone we never actually see “on stage.” It was definitely a new experience for me.

I have a couple of weeks before school starts again. In that time I’m going to try to hold on to the rekindled fire I have and finish that Western novel I began last year. There are syllabi to create or update and lesson plans to begin, but … I have to write!

What Grandpa Saw on Route 66

The following is a story I wrote for my AP Literature class’s 4th quarter benchmark test this year. It makes allusions to every novel and play we read in class during the school year (except Fahrenheit 451, which I forgot to work in) and they had to answer questions to identify the source.

How many can you recognize? Put your guesses in the comments.

My grandfather was a truck driver based in Oklahoma City during the Great Depression. He had a favorite story about a run he made from Oklahoma City to the Santa Clara Valley in southern California. On that run he was delivering a Scotch shepherd bitch to some rich judge named Miller to be bred with his giant St. Bernard, but it wasn’t the female dog in the back of his truck that was the interesting part of Grandpa’s story.

“I come up on this fella lookin’ in the hood of the longest, shiniest yellow car I ever saw,” Grandpa said. “This was just east of the Oklahoma-Texas state line on Old 66. He heard or saw my old truck whining as it came up a low hill and he popped out from under the hood of that car. It was a yellow Rolls Royce, by gawd and he started wavin’ his cap at me.”

At this point Grandpa would usually pause, take a pull from a silver flask he kept in his hip pocket, wipe his lips, and look off into the distance. Then he’d shake his head and continue his story. “I didn’t like to stop. There was a time I’d a stopped without even thinkin’ ’bout it, but that was before I picked up that queer fella outside of McAlister. Wasn’t supposed to pick up hitchhikers, but I let this guy talk me into it. Just got outta prison, he had. Homicide. Put me off pickin’ up anybody for a while. But this other fella … it was a Rolls Royce as sure as hell. So I pulled over.”

Grandpa said the man was from Minnesota, a bondsman, who inherited the car from a deceased friend he’d known during a short time when he worked in New York City. They went on to Texola, where the man sent a tow truck back for the long yellow Rolls. To thank him for helping him out, the man offered to buy Grandpa dinner at a local hamburger stand.

“I usually only stopped for a cup of java and a slice of pie and to shoot the bull with the broad behind the counter, but who am I to turn down a free meal from a rich city fella?” Grandpa would always say with a chuckle. As they were eating, the mechanic came back with the news that the Rolls needed parts that would have to be ordered. The owner got all upset because he had to be in California in two days. He asked Grandpa if he could continue on with him.

“I knew it’d mean my job if the company ever found out about it, but I just didn’t like getting pushed around by people who make me carry a sticker on my truck,” Grandpa said. He agreed to take the man on.

“We was drivin’ across the Texas panhandle and the Dust Bowl was still in full force. Well, this fella looks over at a field that was half full of dead corn stalks. The farmer was out there plowin’ those dead stalks under, probably hoping to plant something else. This city fella looks over at me and he says to me, he says, He’s plowing that field twice.”

Grandpa snorted with disgust. “I told him off, sayin,’ ‘Your mama’s a twice-plowed field.’ I read that in a old book once. He didn’t know what to make of it, but it sure shut his hole for a few miles.”

They drove on until well after dark, when they pulled into another little town Grandpa didn’t even note the name of. They went into another diner to eat before looking for a place to stay for the night.

“There was the queerest collection of folks yer ever like to see,” Grandpa would exclaim at this point. “As soon as we got in there was this fella at the counter tryin’ to pay for the food he’d already ate with a bunch of glass animals. Glass animals! He pulled a fistful of them out of a beat-up jacket pocket and stood them up on the counter while the broad stood there watchin’ with a pot of java in her hand and a expression on her face like she was seein’ a five-headed billy goat.”

At this point Grandpa would hold out his hand, palm up, as if he was the one who’d displayed the pieces of the menagerie. “He held up one critter with a neck like a pencil and called it a giraffe. Stood it up on the palm of his hand like this.” He’d wave his shelf of a palm. “He did that for a bunch of the little things, a squirrel, a fox, a whole herd of horses. Well, the broad behind the counter and the cook, they wasn’t havin’ none of it. I thought the cook was about to bust the fella in the nose, but that’s when Carraway, that’s the name of the fella with the Rolls, he stepped in and offered the guy a cool silver dollar for the whole collection. Damnedest thing I ever saw, at least for a few minutes. The guy sold the little animals, paid for his food and left, and Carraway scooped those animals into his own jacket pocket.

“That’s when things got downright unholy,” Grandpa said. At this point he’d always reach up and stroke the silver crucifix I’d never seen him without. I’d always have to urge him to continue, and sometimes he’d have to take several more pulls from his flask before he could tell the next part of his story.

“Well, I’ll tell it, but it ain’t a good story,” he’d say. “I heard a commotion at a table behind us and when I looked over, I saw this tall, pale fella at a table with three women. Now, this fella, he had the longest white mustache I ever saw and he’d jumped up outta his chair and was leaning over the table and yellin’ at the women. They was real purty women, too, but something about their eyes. All of ’em. They’s like animal eyes, all fierce and hungry.

“’How dare you touch him, any of you?’ the man screamed at the women. He went on, sayin,’ ‘How dare you cast eyes on him when I had forbidden it? Back, I tell you all! This man belongs to me! Beware how you meddle with him, or you’ll have to deal with me.'”

Every time I would have to prompt Grandpa at this point with a question. “Who was it? Who was he talking about?”

“Only the biggest damn crawdaddy I ever did see,” Grandpa would answer. “The thing must have weighed upward of ten pounds and was as red as a summer cherry. It was just layin’ there on a platter with the steam comin’ off it. One of the women had put a hand on the thing’s tail and she snatched it back when the old fella glared at her. Then one of them, the one with red hair, answered back at him.

“’Are we to have nothing tonight?’ she said with a low laugh, as she pointed to a bag the old guy had thrown down on the floor. The bag was movin’ like they was somethin’ alive in it. For answer, the fella nodded his head. One of the women jumped outta her chair and opened it.

“She pulled out the biggest channel catfish I ever saw, still shiny wet and flippin’ its tail,” Grandpa continued. “All three of them women let out a squawk and fell on it, right there on the hamburger stand’s floor, fightin’ and a-hissin’ and a-scrappin’ with one another like a bag of cats. They ate that fish raw and alive while the old fella sat down and started eatin’ on that big ol’ crawdaddy thing.”

Grandpa said he and Mr. Carraway decided not to stay at the diner, but got back in the truck and drove on through most of the night. They drove until Grandpa couldn’t stay awake, then pulled off the highway and slept in the cab of the truck. They awoke to the sound of barking. Grandpa took care of the animal he was transporting, then noticed that Mr. Carraway was looking up the hill beside the road to where two trees stood out against the morning sun.

“One of ’em was obviously a willow tree,” Grandpa explained. “T’other one, though, seemed to have some kind of fog movin’ round it. After what we’d saw in the hamburg stand, I wasn’t too keen on exploring, but Carraway’d already slipped under the barbed wire fence and was climbin’ the hill, so I follered him.”

At the top of the hill they learned that the second tree was a pear tree and the fog they’d seen was actually bees pollinating the blossoms on the tree. But the strange part was that under the willow tree there was a long, thin man in dusty clothes and an old floppy hat, while under the pear tree sat a pretty middle-aged black woman in a yellow dress. They were both singing, but didn’t seem to be singing to or even with each other. The black lady kept running her hands through her hair, which Grandpa said was very long and straight for a woman of color.

“Say, what is this?” Grandpa shouted to be heard over the singing. The people stopped singing and the thin man leaned forward and scratched between his toes as he studied Grandpa and Mr. Carraway.

“They’s just one big soul, and ever-body’s got a little piece of her,” the man said in a very smug tone. “They ain’t no sin and they ain’t no virtue. They’s just stuff folks does. Some’s good and some ain’t so good, and that’s all anybody’s got a right to say.”

The black woman rose from her sitting position and walked toward them, her hips swaying and her smile inviting as she lifted her hands to offer Grandpa and Mr. Carraway each a freshly picked pear. “You ain’t got the rabies, does ya?” she asked.

“No, ma’am,” Mr. Carraway answered. Both men took the offered pears, but Grandpa didn’t bite into his right away. Mr. Carraway did, though.

“His eyes got real big like and he looked at that woman in a different way,” Grandpa said. “Kinda like I think Judge Miller hoped his St. Bernard was gonna look at the bitch I was haulin’ to California.”

“I’d fill ’em with the sperit, then I’d lay with the women in the grass,” the lean man under the willow tree said. “They was holy vessels and I was fillin’ ’em.”

Grandpa said Mr. Carraway and the woman started down to lie in the grass. He didn’t want to watch, so he went back down to his truck to find a place where he could turn it around to get back on the highway.

“Once I sat down in the cab I went to take a bite o’ that pear, and the thing was all shriveled up like it was a hunnert years old,” Grandpa said. “I looked at it for the longest time, then I chucked it out the window, drove up to the next mile section and turned around. As I was comin’ back I saw Carraway in the road, but he was weavin’ and a-staggerin’ like a workin’ man on Saturday night. As I got closer I saw why. He was holding that glass animal, the giraffe, in one fist and, my hand on a stack of bibles, boy, I watched him stab it into both his eyes.

“All the time he was stabbin’ his own eyes out he was yellin’ ’bout that woman. He was sayin,’ ‘She’s dead! She’s dead. I lay with a dead woman!’”

Here Grandpa would lean close and whisper the ending of his story. “I’d had about enough of that. I figgered he musta killed that woman after he lay with her. Well, he was a-staggerin around, anyway, so I just gunned the engine and run him down. Then I got myself back on the highway and didn’t stop again until I’d dropped off that dog with the old judge. When I got home from that run I took a correspondence course in radio repair and that’s what I did until I got the palsy too bad to keep workin’.

“You take my secret to the grave, you hear me?” he’d ask, and I’d nod my head because I knew a trip to the ice cream store was next.

(c) 2015 Steven E. Wedel

My Legacy

For their fourth quarter benchmark I required my Leadership students to write and present an essay about what they hope to leave behind as their legacy. Some asked me about my own. This is what I would have liked to have written/said to them.

For many decades now I have hoped to leave a literary legacy, to be remembered for my written words if not like John Steinbeck or Charles Dickens, perhaps like Bram Stoker or Charles L. Grant. Time will tell whether or not such a thing will be; one thing I’ve discovered is that writing success depends too much on luck to rely on literary fame as the foundation of a legacy. So there’s my children, but that’s a cop-out. I fertilized an egg and raised a human to adulthood, trying to instill values and responsibility. It’s too common. So what would I leave as my legacy? The answer is simple enough.

My students are my legacy. I have touched all of their lives in some way. Sometimes I only offended them enough to change classes. Other times all they remember about my class are some of the jokes I told or that we laughed a lot. But sometimes they tell me they were prepared for college because of me. Or that something I did or said, or simply being there when they needed someone probably saved their life. Too often those moments come without me even realizing we are in them. Too many of my kids are living in circumstances I couldn’t have imagined at their ages.

They leave my class. They go to college or they go to work. Maybe they don’t squander their paychecks because I taught them how to recognize rhetoric or maybe they ace a college English exam because I taught them how to recognize the purpose of a symbol in fiction, or maybe they ease into a new work community be repeating a joke I told them for the amusement of their new co-workers.

If I’ve helped them in any way, great or small, I have left a legacy. And, while praise from on high for my next literary offering would be sweet, I already know that wouldn’t be a substitute for having someone visit years after graduating to say, “You made a positive difference in my life.” What better legacy could there be?

Since February I have made it known I am looking for a new job and what drove me to this decision. My students know it, and those kids who would be my students in the next year or two know it. And they understand. But still they come to me with, “I’ve been waiting three years to be in your class. Please don’t leave now. Stay one more year.” Or worse, “My cousin told me you’re one of the only people I can trust to listen to me when I need to talk. Please don’t leave.” This has complicated the job search a great deal. It’s very hard to leave people who want you to stay, and even harder when you know those people often don’t have any support or encouragement at home or anywhere else they are likely to go.

And so I’m left to wonder where and how my legacy will continue.