workzine

Jan Priddy, 7/25/10

Current occupation: public high school and college English teacher

Former occupation: Art teacher, quilt store clerk (best reverse income), baker, architectural draftsperson, freelance designer, dog magazine columnist, direct delivery junk-mail rep (most disreputable), record store sales clerk, abused Taco Bell employee

Contact information: My work has earned an Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship, Arts & Letters fellowship, Soapstone residency, Pushcart nomination, and recent publication in CALYX, Raven Chronicles, and North American Review.  An MFA graduate from Pacific University, I live in my great great aunts’ house on the north Oregon coast where I am not completing a novel, but do irresponsibly rant and thoughtfully rave on my “Quiet Minds” blog: http://janpriddyoregon.blogspot.com. Also find me at andpride@gmail.com

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You cannot walk straight when the road bends.—Romani proverb

MY AIDE
for Sue Hogarty

The smiling classroom aide—usually a mother
of older children who needs insurance—works
for hourly wages, a few dollars over minimum.

I do not deserve her. She is more diligent than her pay
demands. Every day she tracks her assigned charges
from class to class, taking notes. She murmurs

to her students; answers weary questions before
they become barriers, retrieves papers scattered
like toys across the lawn. She takes home their books

to study, stops by before class to verify a deadline,
understands more than they about Math and English,
and sighs over the passionate secrets of teenagers.

The aide uses her cell phone only outside, is absent
only when she is ill. She never talks back in class
or refuses to follow directions. She accepts responsibility

for her actions and for the actions of others. Here:
She folds their minds into tidy shapes, smoothes crumpled edges,
feeds the hunger of these girls and boys a steady diet

of encouragement and admiration. They preen, they glow,
these half-starved cubs, yet unable to feed themselves.

The classroom aide notes behaviors I overlook, repeats

instructions, reasons over their excuses, celebrates
every triumph. Her steady work—that we cannot earn—
reminds me to slow my busy hands to gentle

work, measure the child who walks into class this
day, track his progress, reward each step, and finally
gift smiles to whoever they are when they walk out.

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  1. […] Issues on July 25, 2010 at 12:00 am Why is it that the most diligent works seem to be paid less?  Jan Priddy shares her experiences with teachers aides; those groomed and thoughtful underpaid caretakers of […]

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