Peter Ferry on the Importance of Teaching

I spent five years sitting in a gray, metal cubicle editing junior high school social studies textbooks.  It was dreadful, but when I went to parties, girls (I was in my twenties then) were impressed, so I kept at it.  Then I applied for an editorial director’s job with another house and thought I had it;  at least I had a starting date and a salary, but nothing signed so I went to a wedding in Washington deciding to wait to resign until I got back.  Good choice.  The job evaporated and to my amazement, I wasn’t very upset about it.  I figured I must not have wanted the job very much.  Then I started thinking about the jobs I had had and how I wanted to spend the rest of my life.  The answer, to my surprise and, well, disappointment was good old low prestige teaching.  I had to admit that it was the only thing I had ever done in my life that seemed really important, so I started applying for teaching jobs and after I got one, I was at a party where someone asked me what I did for a living.  “Well,” I said.  “I teach high school.”

“Oh,” she said, “I went to high school.”

If I recall correctly, that was the extent of our conversation.

I taught for thirty-one years.  It was my contribution to my community and I am very proud of it.  Although I have done a lot of writing, editing and publishing since, teaching is still the only really important thing I have ever done.

Peter Ferry’s story “Ike, Sharon, and Me” will appear in the 2017 edition of Best American Mystery Stories, due out in October. It was published first in the Fall 2016 Issue 19 of Fifth Wednesday Journal. His novel Old Heart was published in 2015 by Unbridled Books.

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