When I graduated from college my first teaching job was not in a situation I particularly liked, but teaching jobs were not easy to find at that time, so I was glad to get it. I taught 8th grade science all day long, without any help. They gave me a textbook and an empty classroom and said teach. That was it. I felt totally isolated, as this was long before new teachers had mentors or any help at all.
So I jumped at the chance the next school year to get out of my contract two weeks before school started to take over as Chemistry and Physics teacher at the school where I had done my student teaching. I was already familiar with the lab and the textbooks, and I knew my way around the school and liked the faculty. So what if school was just two weeks away. I was tickled to death. And the year passed very quickly, with no hitches at all.
The next year, however, had a slightly different start. When we had the faculty meeting before the students came, I found out that, because I taught college prep subjects, I would be one of the teachers to have the first Black students to ever go to a White school in this city. This particular country town was one with a strong KKK influence, and everyone was expecting trouble. Mind you, I had finished college in a hurry, and had only been teaching two years, so I wasn't much older than these Juniors and Seniors I was teaching. This was quite a responsibility they were putting on my shoulders, and I was very nervous about it.
I had some very good reasons to be nervous, too. The plan was that at each class change, every teacher would step out into the hall, to watch for any problems as the Black students moved from one room to the next. That worked fine for most classrooms, but it didn't help me at all. The Chemistry classroom was on the second floor of the old school, on a wing that only had one other classroom on it, with its own stairwell, stuck way off on the backside of nowhere. To make matters worse, there was an outside door at the bottom of the stairs. It was decided that the outside door needed to be chained shut. I was not to let the Black students out of my sight for any reason at all while I had them in my class, hall, or stairwell, so there were a few times that I actually wet my pants!
The four students I inherited were all the top of their class and could handle the work with not problems at all. They were scared out of their skulls most of the year, and as I recall, none of the white students spoke to them the whole school year.
The police were able to deal with the trouble makers outside the building, and we were able to continue on with the business of education inside the building, but it was anything but a normal year. It was certainly a year I won't forget, and once again I was there when the clash of the old ways and the new ways met full force.