I earned my teaching degree a semester early, graduating in December. I had received a degree in elementary education and special education. I was offered three jobs in special education and settled on one in a rural community near my college town. I was to have the primary students in Mrs. Ryan's class. She had first through sixth graders and the state would pay for an "extra" teacher. So I graduated in December and began teaching in January.
Mrs. Ryan welcomed me in her own way. She allowed me to call her Mrs. Ryan while the students called her Aunt Ruth. She allowed me to use the back fourth of the classroom with the coats, extra clothes for anyone in the school that might need them, a bed, old basal readers that I would have had in the first grade and yet, I was thrilled. I was a teacher!
The first day was finally here and I would meet my students. The school started six days after it should have because of the snow that would not allow the buses to pick up the kids in the rural community. I remember little of the morning but my memory is clear beginning with lunch.
The students are lined up to walk down to the cafeteria. Mrs. Ryan is the lead and I am at the end, but am elated. Teachers eat in the teacher's workroom and once lunch is over we go back to the cafeteria to pick up our students. Mrs. Ryan is in the lead and I am at the end. The principal comes up to me and hands me a note that is folded in half. I unfold it and read, "Walk the children out of the school, cross the street to the bus barn, get on a bus. There has been a bomb threat." I quietly and quickly walk to the front of the line and hand the folded note to Mrs. Ryan. She opens it, reads it, and states, "Not until we have had our hot chocolate." At this point I notice all the children have a carton of milk in their hands.
We enter the room and the students stand in line by the hot plate with a pan on it and Mrs. Ryan takes each container opens it and pours the milk into the pan. She adds cocoa and we wait for it to warm. The children get up from their desks and come back with their cartons. She pours the hot chocolate back into their carton They sit down and enjoy their hot chocolate. This whole time I am amazed, scared, appalled, baffled, and feeling like a true novice with no power.
As they finish their hot chocolate I ask them to stand in line by the classroom door. This time I am at the head of the line although, I am not sure where the bus barn is but I am determined to get them out of the building safely. I also am thinking this is either my last day on earth or I will be fired for not doing what the principal instructed me to do.
We are the last class to get on a bus and then we sit of it two hours. We are let off once the day is over and it is determined that a student called in a bomb threat to extend the start of school. I was not fired nor was I ever questioned. I realized the principal understood the power of Mrs. Ryan. And so began my thirty years of teaching. Fortunately I spent only a semester working with Mrs. Ryan, a woman that taught me quite a bit!