The first year I taught was 1981.  Except for a five year stint of taking off time to raise little babies, I have started an August assignment 24 times.  On Thursday, I start year 25 as an educator.

Most people reflect on the school year at the end of the year, but this time of year always makes me wistful as I remember the many faces and places and names of unique students and colleagues…and I attempt another stab at teaching kids how to have wonderful lives.  Honestly.  That is my goal.  And, in order to have a wonderful life, you must be able to read, write, communicate…

So this is that time where I lose sleep.  When I wonder who I will meet on Thursday.  When I wonder what challenges I’ll face, and if I can weather the tough calls that all teachers need to make.

And I remember me.  In 1981.  I was a 23 year old girl, teaching 6th grade right out of college.  I didn’t really know what I was doing…but I had this master teacher…Mrs. Murray.  She erased her name every morning and re-wrote it.  Along with the date.  Every day.  And I do that still.  I am aware also, that English teachers aren’t supposed to start sentences with the words, And, But or Because…


When I blog, I think aloud, and I have random thoughts as I start this school year.

Sixth Grade:

  • Year 1. Brick in the Wall.  Pink Floyd.  My first year as a teacher. We could smoke in the teacher’s lounge.
  • Year 2. The Principal was also the Fire Chief and his brother owned the bar.  Do the math.
  • Year 3. All black school.  Called an “Old White Honky” by the boy who turned out to be my most favorite student
  • Year 4. The Principal asked me to move with him.  I made a life sized eagle on the ceiling.  Kids thrilled.
  • Year 5. First influx of Hmong in Fresno.  We had no idea what to do.
  • Year 6. Taught sex education co-educationally for the first time in the district.
  • Year 7. Trying to have babies, getting fertility shots at Science Camp!
  • Year 8.  ESL finally on the scene in Fresno. Write first AIDS curriculum.  People & friends dying.
  • Year 9.  Getting my Masters Degree in Counseling.  Ready to leave teaching for awhile. 1990

School Counseling

  • Year 10.  Setting up a counseling practice in the school Library. 
  • Year 11.  Working with kids who’ve been abused.  Dads who were alcoholic.  Motel Drive.  Fresno.
  • Year 12.  Mid year move to Stockton Unified …elementary schools.  Play Therapy.
  • Year 13-15 Moved around to different schools.  Nothing really happening.  How could it? I was never at a school long enough.
  • Year 16.  Pregnant.  Finally.  High School Counseling Career…a dream cut short…for another dream…

Junior High

  • Year 17 is 2002.  I’ve taken a 5 year break.  I cannot get a job.  I have never heard of the word *standard* …I finally get a job as a 7th grade teacher.  At a Catholic School.  The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.  Meeting Tom Gordon.  He signs my book “Stay out of the woods” Random baseball game.  Students are in shock.
  • Year 18.  Jr. High Science and PE and Math.  Dissecting cow’s eyes, fish, ducks, whatever I could get.
  • Year 19. More PE.  English Credential.  I am in Who’s Who in America’s teachers.
  • Year 20 PE teacher.  Couch to 5k …my whole Jr. High competes in a 5k.  Inaugural school year. I leave for greener pastures.
  • Year 21-22-3-4.  Sketchy.  Bouncing around, full time PE teacher, land Continuation High School gig, High School English.  Can’t get a foothold in my career.  Lose job.  Find Twitter.  Ask Schwarzenegger for help.  He does.
  • Year 25.  To be determined …On schedule to teach Freshman & Sophomore English.  College Prep. 

And in all of this, the regret, the I wish I hadn’t done that…The boy who wouldn’t take off his vulgar shirt, and he ran away from me, the kids I berated because I had to be right all the time…the parents I fought…the control and the kindness, the joy and the pain.  Hearing someone read English for the first time, and watching kids walk away from education.  Watching faces light up as they do long division, and it’s right.  Excitement in reaching a goal…dissecting a heart, getting that coveted 9:00 minute mile.  Taking a piece of clay and making it into something wonderful.  Watching the Space Shuttle explode, hearing the DARE “just say no talk”…over and over until I could repeat it myself.  Getting cards and letters from students.  The love.

It’s this time of year that I reflect.  Because.  Because I want to do it better.  Different.  Be kinder, be more loving.  And then some wisecracker will come into my room and I will bite a hole in my tongue and try not to be his mother, but I want those pants pulled up, and stop cracking that gum, and is your head cold?  no?  Then take your hat off.  And please accept this education as a gift.  Don’t end your sentences with the word *at*.  Stop texting in class.  No…Text in class. Please do.

And I see Scott.  He was a 6th grader my 2nd year of teaching.  And after school got out that June, we had to have a teacher’s meeting.  Immediately after school.  After an HOUR of this meeting, someone says to me: “Mrs. Musto, there’s a student waiting for you outside”.   I walk out, and there was Scotty.  He had waited for me the whole hour.  Because he didn’t want to get on the bus.  Because I was his favorite teacher.  And he was crying.  And I started crying.  And he hugged me.  He simply waited for me to come out so that he could hug me and say goodbye for the summer.

And then I remember.  The girl in the English class who was given a novel.  Who loved the story, who got lost in it.  And heard the teacher call her name, and she got it right.  And she. got. it.  Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out…that girl was me. 

And I hope I can give her a fair shake come Thursday.  Year 25.  Here I come.

3 thoughts on “Life’s Second Chances

  1. My daughter will start her senior year in HS this fall. She has enjoyed alot of success through the years and I owe her motivation, drive and talent mainly to her teachers, who have instructed, inspired and kept her focused through the tough times. She looks up to them and respects them–and now that she is looking toward her future (i.e.: college and a career), realizes how valuable they have been to her life.

    IMHO, teaching is probably the single most important profession in the world–next to parenting–and yet it is so horribly devalued in our culture with low salaries and in some cases, disrespect from parents–and worse, from the administration for which they work (the situation in the Philly school district is just heinous and getting worse every day).

    Linda, keep on inspiring and moving–you are to be saluted and honored.

  2. OK…I was doing good until the Scotty part. After having taught for 8 years myself, we all have a “Scotty.” They are the ones that tug on your heart strings…the ones you’d take home to raise…the ones who leave an impression on you rather than you on them.

    You are going to be amazing today! You have the world by the tail…I wish my kids were lucky enough to have a teacher like you. Be sure to teach them about run-on sentences, comma splices, and fragments. Make them understand that different audiences require different writing styles. Just make them write. Make them learn how to express themselves through written word. Find books that light them on fire.

    Linny…all ya gotta do is just show them all the fire and passion for life that you have…and they will have a great year…it’s contagious!

    Love ya girlie! Knock ’em dead today!!!

  3. thank you. this post was amazing to read, as im sure its been amazing to live/relive. i wish you much luck and happiness this year.

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