by Larry Bradshaw
The day was August 28, 1989 – a hot Mississippi Delta day. I was going on a new job as a schoolteacher, and little did I know what the next few moments of my life would be like.
I was sitting in my classroom, a warm clammy corner of my shop. A slight breeze of sun-heated air moved through the area, interrupting the motionless silhouette of the American flag that hung above the blackboard. The morning sun shone in through the east shop door and reflected off the polished floor into my face. A faint smell of parts cleaning solvent was ever present. Everything was quiet except for the buzzing of the electrical transformers in the northwest corner of the shop.
I was ready for my students. My name, the subject title and date were on the blackboard in my best handwriting. I had my plans in front of me and had read them over and over. The clock moved ever so slowly as I sat awaiting the students’ arrival.
Then a bus pulled in on the front parking lot, and students started to unload. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach, and my palms started to sweat. Everything I had planed to say and do suddenly escaped me. My mind was a total blank. I felt as if I were a sheep in the wolves' den, and they were coming home for dinner.
I stood at the door and greeted the young people with a smile as they came in and found seats. Some were laughing and talking; others were gloomy – as if they didn't want to be there at all. As I approached my desk, the shop became quite again. I could hear my heart beat above the buzz of the transformers. I turned – and all the students' eyes were on me. They were there, waiting for the kill. Their eyes stared as I tried to speak.
"I'm Mr. Bradshaw, and I'll be your auto mechanics instructor this year," I said in a nervous tone.
Just then a young man in the back raised his hand, and I nodded for him to speak.
"Just how long have you been teaching?" he asked with a grin.
"Well," I replied looking at the clock, "about thirty seconds. How am I doing?"
The shop was now filled with laughter. The butterflies settled, and the memory bank was suddenly renewed.
After taking a deep breath, I proceeded with my plans.
Larry Bradshaw teaches auto mechanics in the Cleveland (Mississippi) Public School System. He's a lifelong Deltan who enjoys recording his stories.
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