PASSING NOTES: Key change after the second verse

“I can’t change my mold / But I'm a million different people from one day to the next”—“Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve

If you follow me on Facebook (and, of course, everyone who’s anyone does) then you already know the news I was alluding to in my column last week.

It’s time for a change, and as soon as a massive amount of paperwork and a lot of administrative and bureaucratic details are tidied up, I will be the new 11th grade English teacher at Knox Central High School, home of the Panthers.

My friend Susan is fit to be tied. Her youngest is a senior on the Corbin High School football team, and Corbin and Knox Central apparently play in the same Class now, since some sort of reshuffling, so the game has higher stakes, I guess. I understand football enough to cheer at the right times, but I don’t follow all the rankings, rivalries, and revisions. That’s why God made Les Dixon.

Now I do, in fact, have a “Once a Redhound, always a Redhound” T-shirt, but I made the mistake of saying to Susan just the other day, somewhat in jest, that “You have to admit I have always been more of a cat person.”

So she hit me.

Susan turns violent quickly where her kids are concerned.

It’s a big change, although if you look at my resume (which currently weighs in at four pages) it’s not as big as you might think. Sure, I’ve spent time as an actress, a writer, and a social services director, but the theme of education runs through almost all of it. Even when I held jobs that would seem to have no educational component, I’ve snuck it in through the side door.

When I was running Corbin’s United Effort, I created a program to teach life skills like home economics and financial management to families in need. And I hired certified teachers to helm it. I’ve moonlighted by tutoring writing, teaching piano lessons, and teaching families how to read to their children.

In one setting or another, I’ve been involved with the education of preschoolers, school-aged kids, teenagers, undergraduates, graduate students, and adults. I even spent a couple of years with a grant program that provided professional development for public school teachers.

I suppose this isn’t surprising. As I was reminded when I shared this news on Facebook, teaching is in my DNA. I was raised by teachers, in a home full of textbooks, grading keys, unfinished yearbook pages, and slide rules. (That dates me, I know, but I was not born before the scientific calculator, just a decade or so before they made it into high schools.)

The rhythms of the school year are the rhythms of my entire life, and I spent considerably more of my childhood exploring empty schools while waiting for my parents than I ever spent outdoors.

My mother read to me from her sophomore literature book because she often didn’t have time to read BOTH “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “Clifford the Big Red Dog,” and only the one could do double-duty as class prep. (Take THAT viral web article about teacher-parent guilt—and pay no attention to my adult obsession with serial killer shows.)

All the same, I figure if I have inherited even half my parents’ talent in the classroom, I will be a very good teacher indeed.

And while this is a big change, I don’t expect it to change my relationship with you, Faithful Reader. You may get a few more reprints from time to time than you’re used to, but since this iteration of “Passing Notes” is going into its fifth year, I’ve got a big back-catalog to draw from.

Also, there’s the new Panther pride to worry about, and I can’t just cede the Opinion page to Brian Theodore. He’s already showing me up too often.

Truthfully, given the assault on teachers in the state of Kentucky, and to some extent even on the national stage, I think the teachers at Knox Central have more in common with the teachers at Corbin than there could possibly be differences.

I think we all believe, for instance, in the value of education, in its power to change a world that desperately needs changing, in the necessity of an educated electorate and a community adequately trained in engaging in civil, compassionate, and intelligent discourse.

I think we all believe that we have the power to make the world a better place and that our students will one day have that power themselves if they don’t already, and that belief, in itself, marks us all as starry-eyed idealists in the 21st century.

And I think we all believe that America’s public schools and their dedicated teachers deserve better—better funding, better support, and better attention—and I think we agree that passing on our cultural knowledge to the next generation is the job of every single one of us, whether you are inside the classroom or not.

To quote the late Toni Morrison, “I tell my students, 'When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.’”

I always love to hear from readers. You can write to me care of the Times-Tribune or reach out on our website or social media. Or follow me on Twitter @ChristeeBentley or on Instagram at christee.bentley.

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