She’s had a hard life. I can tell. Her skin is rough, she’s got wiry brown hair, and if I’m not mistaken, false teeth.
She’s on class break, standing on the sidewalk. She offers me a smoke. I decline.
The closest I’ve ever come to being a smoker was sitting with my grandaddy while he lit his pipe.
I ask her why she’s here.
She flicks her lighter and tells me, “Because I’m a flunky.”
Her first marriage ended when her husband got hooked on painkillers. One day, she found him unconscious. He almost overdosed. That’s when her life changed.
She took her kids and left.
“I tried to find a good job,” she says. “But there ain’t good jobs out there for flunky losers, that’s something I learned real fast.”
The first thing you should know: she’s no flunky. In fact, she’s the opposite. I don’t know her, but I know her sort. She descends from a long line of South Alabamians who work like mutts.
“Two days after I left him,” she says. “I signed up to take GED prep classes.”
School was hard. Hours were late. She was no spring chicken, and working a day-job makes a body tired. To make matters worse, she had a bad instructor.
“He was a jerk,” she remarks. “He talked too fast, and didn’t care if we understood things.”
So, she took charge. She self-taught. Once she’d learned the material, she wandered from desk to desk, helping others diagram sentences, memorize multiplication, and solve for X.
“Listen,” she says “That test is tough, took eight hours to finish.”
“Had to break mine up into two days. I thought for sure I’d failed. I flat-out cried when they gave me my graduation slip.”
Her eyes glaze.
So do mine. All that smoke.
“I didn’t think paper would matter so much,” she says. “But it was like, I mean, when you grow up thinking you’re dumb, suddenly they say you ain’t…”
So, she began taking classes at the community college. It was a long road. Sometimes, she found herself hustling two jobs just to afford daycare and groceries.
That was a long time ago.
She’s passing middle age now. But here she is, still at school in the dark. Smoking on break. And she still tells this story to anyone who listens.
I ask what she does for a living.
“Me? Guess you could say I tell people they ain’t stupid, no matter how they been raised.”
That’s the long version of her job description.
Her students just call her the GED instructor.
Carol DeLater - January 13, 2017 9:39 am
I’ve learned to anticipate the “hook”. You got me on this one. You put on paper what Steve Hartman puts in video on CBS segments. Your’re a Good Read.
By the way, do you care if I stitch your bird? The one up there in the right corner.
Have a great weekend.
Cherryl Shiver - January 13, 2017 11:21 am
One time in my life I was a teachers aid, ten years worth. I always thought GED was the easy way out. NOT ! You have to be equally matched in all subjects, which very few people are. The folks who have earned a GED worked, notice I said WORKED to get that degree.
Judy - January 13, 2017 2:29 pm
Noah - January 13, 2017 2:52 pm
I had a friend who volunteered as a GED instructor for many years. We both sang in a chorus that sang barbershop quartet music. He often had to miss our chorus rehearsals for months at a time, even though he enjoyed the singing, because of when is GED classes were scheduled. When asked why he didn’t just give up the classes, it said it was too important to him, and those taking the classes. Thanks, Charles, for also not being a flunky, but being a servant for others.
Kay Keel - January 13, 2017 5:29 pm
What a beautiful story! A person who really strives to help students understand is the true definition of a “teacher”.
Sadly too many school personnel have fallen into the “No Child Left Behind” mindset. While I don’t believe NCLB was originally intended to mean, “Pass ’em on through to the next grade whether they are ready or not!”, that is indeed what it seems to mean.
Suzanne Conner - January 13, 2017 9:04 pm
I love your storytelling! My grandaddy was from Blountstown and he was a story teller like you. His name was Cary Yates and I wrote about him on the last page of a book by Jim McClellan. ..made me want to cry when I read your posts. Keep it up, and thank you.
Shirley Hammond - January 14, 2017 1:34 am
Beautiful story!! Thanks for sharing!
Lilli Ann Snow - April 4, 2017 12:20 pm
Am I gonna just sit here all day…in my nightgown… reading your back-posts, swimmy-eyed? Heart yanked to pieces by so much Sean, inbibed so fast?
Connie - August 20, 2017 12:59 pm
I’m like one of your other fans. I’ve been sitting here reading your back posts for an hour, without even getting up for coffee. Thank you for taking time to talk to people and listen to, then share, their stories.
Barbara Bray - January 6, 2019 7:15 pm
Love your stories…..and love the people who comment on your stories….good people all.