Throughout my first week
of teaching,
which went about as well as a first week on any
job can, I kept getting asked the same question:
You’re going to the football game Friday, right?”
I nodded while visualizing the mounting
stack of papers I had to grade, and the lesson
plans to write and initial parent phone calls to
make. But I nodded, since it was easier than ex-
plaining why I didn’t think I had the time.
Then Friday arrived, and I gave in to the
gravitational pull of football in southern
Arkansas. As I walked through the stadium gates
with a couple of other new teachers, the band—
which had its own covered section—let forth a
chorus: “Mr. Walter! Ms. Anderson! Mr. Luther!”
We waved back and made our way to the
main section of bleachers (in the background,
I swear I heard someone yell, “Look! They
own normal clothes, too!”), just as the kickoff
brought the entire crowd to its feet.
Nestling into one of the few nooks of space
left, I watched as our Redbugs marched up and
down the field, scoring at will, but I also was
fascinated to see how the entire community
participated. From the enthusiastic band to the
well-rehearsed cheer squad to the standing-
room-only crowd, all of Fordyce seemed to
breathe collectively. Looking back, I should have
known that it was only a matter of time before
I figured out the pattern to that breathing and
joined in.
We all are subconsciously
writing our
own narratives, and, especially going into an
experience such as this, it is tempting to cast
oneself in a generous, selfless role. Time and time
again, however, I have been amazed and hum-
bled by the people I’ve met, from students to
parents to coaches to community leaders. Their
hospitality, their generosity, has taught
the other way around.
A couple of months ago, a day after a class
discussion that briefly visited the question “Why
do bad things happen to good people?” [in the
context of Shakespeare’s
Julius Caesar
against Hurricane Katrina and the Newtown,
Conn., shooting], I found one of my students
waiting outside my classroom door before the
first bell.
Mr. Luther, I was thinking about our discus-
sion all afternoon and night, and I couldn’t sleep,
so I just wrote down what I was thinking.”
What she handed me—a piece of prose I will
never forget—was a brilliant, honest, self-discov-
ering explication, ending with, “Maybe things fall
apart so that later they can fall together better.” I
was floored.
This experience has been everything
I could have hoped for and then some, and the
gratitude I felt for my four years at Puget Sound
has kept right on overflowing through my first
year as a high school English teacher in southern
Writing this on the jostling bus ride to our
baseball team’s state championship game, as
my players anxiously—hopelessly—attempt to
get some sleep, I realize that it has been almost
exactly a year since I shook President Thomas’s
hand and received my diploma on Peyton Field.
What a year it has been.
President Thomas welcomed us to Puget
Sound assuring us that after four years we would
come to call the place “home,” and he was right.
A year ago I had two homes, one in Newport
and another in Tacoma.
Now I have one in Fordyce as well.
Marcus was assistant coach for the Fordyce
High baseball team, which had a 26-3 record
this past spring, won the district and regional
championships, and lost in the finals of the state
championships. Marcus says that in a football
town, it was great fun to see thousands of fans
make the four-hour drive to Fayetteville to
watch the championship game.