If I Survived Thirty Tears of Teaching, So Can You

This is an excerpt from my memoir IF I SURVIVED THIRTY YEARS OF TEACHING, SO CAN YOU. It will be published as an audio book before the end of 2014.

One year in New Braunfels, Texas, I was teaching sophomore, junior, and senior English, and I was going crazy with planning lessons and grading papers for all three levels, in addition to rereading all the novels I assigned the students so I would remember any little detail they mentioned.

One day to give myself a breather, I ordered a film from the Texas Education Service Center to show to my juniors. It was an American short story, and they were studying American literature. Perfect choice, right? Wrong.

This was back in the days of reel-to-reel movie projectors. For those who are too young to remember them, I will explain exactly what that entailed.

We would put the spool of film on the post at the top of the machine, thread the film through slots in front of the lightbulb inside the projector, and then thread the film on the sprockets of the bottom, take-up reel. Then we had to adjust the length of film on top and on bottom over and over to get rid of the flutter if the film was not exactly placed.

I started the film, and everything was fine for a while, except that there was almost no dialogue, which I thought was odd.

Then the camera started at a woman’s hand, traveled up her wrist to her elbow, then up to her shoulder and started across her front.

I thought, “Surely she has on clothes.”

Oh, no. Suddenly all that was on the screen was two huge breasts. They filled the movie projector screen.

I said, “Ack!” and jumped in front of the projector.

Then a student said, “Now they’re showing on your back.”

He was the son of the president of the school board.

After class, I begged him not to tell his mother. He said he would not, bless his heart.

When I was putting the film back in the canister, I was muttering about those stupid people at the Education Service Center who would send something out to teachers that had nudity in it. You would think they could have at least marked it or something.

Then I realized that the container had a big red label warning teachers to preview the film before showing it in class. I learned a good lesson that day. I also asked the center to remove the film from their catalog. I certainly hope they did. I can only guess why they kept it on the shelf. Removing it from inventory would require someone to admit they had made a mistake.

Years later I played bridge with his mother, and I asked her if he ever told her. He never did. Enough time had passed that we both had a good laugh.

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