Friday, December 1, 2006

Sunray, TX

I moved to Sunray, TX to take my first teaching job after graduating college. For those who don’t know, Sunray is in the middle of the panhandle of TX. When I initially interviewed for the job (at a job fair in Kansas), I was given a beautiful brochure on the town showing a sailboat on a lake at sunset. Point of fact, there is no beautiful lake in or around Sunray. Talk about false advertising! However, there are large feedlots within 30 miles of Sunray so that when the wind blows, you get the aroma of cow manure. Ah Sunray!

So, I moved there in my old Ford Maverick … not that I am bragging, but this car had some amazing options (e.g., volume button on the stereo, TWO side view mirrors, oxidized paint that allowed people to use their finger to leave me messages on my car such as "wash me", "please junk me").

At Sunray, I taught, 7th grade theater arts and high school basic math, consumer math, yearbook, newspaper, speech, and debate. Yes, I was a dream come true for the administrators at the school.

Day One
My first day of teaching, the Principal heard me telling my students my class rules. Specifically, my last class rule was “If you see me standing up here with chalk on my rear, toothpaste on my mouth, or my zipper undone, please let me know.” So, the Principal called over the intercom for me to come down to his office. And here is what he said:

Principal: “Now Mr. Plunkett, we can’t have you saying the word ‘zipper’ in class. One out of a hundred students will take your talking about your ‘zipper’ wrong.

Side note: When I told my grandfather this story, he said “You should have just told that Principal that it was better to say ‘zipper’ than say, if my privates are hanging out, let me know.

Day Two
On the second day of teaching, I sent one of the female journalism students down to the football field to practice taking action shots for the yearbook. About 15 minutes later, I hear myself being called to the Principal’s office. The Principal said, “Now Mr. Plunkett, we can’t have girls down on the football field taking pictures of those boys. They will get to socializing down there, and then one thing will lead to another (he moves his hand in a forward circle) and you knoowwww.” Well, I did not know what he was talking about, until I realized that he was trying to insinuate that me sending a girl to take pictures would result in the girl having sex with the football player(s). Oh my!

So, for the rest of the year, I had to attend all the male athletic events to take pictures since (1) I could not risk a female student’s purity by sending her to be so close to those sweaty, virile, male athletes, and (2) all of my guy journalism students were athletes. I guess the Principal did not realize that guys and girls can also socialize at school, at church, and so on.

Day Three
On day three, I made the grave error of sending a male and female student to the dark room to take inventory. In my defense, the door was open and the light was on. But alas, 5 minutes after they went into the darkroom, I heard over the intercom, “Mr. Plunkett, can you please come to the Principal’s office?” So, off I go to hear what I have done wrong this time.

Principal: “Mr. Plunkett, we can not have boys and girls in the darkroom at the same time.”

Me: “But the lights were on and the door was open!”

Principal: “Even so, hands can grope, and then, you knowwwww (while he moves his hand in a forward circle).

Other Days
All I can say, is I am sure glad the first week was only three days long. Sheesh! By the time Monday came around, I had a reputation as being in more trouble than the worst students. I would like to say that I really liked the Principal (seriously), and he always had the students’ and my best interests in mind. AND, I have to admit that I did bring a few things on myself...

For example, at Sunray, there were no school dances due to the strong, conservative Baptist influence in town. One time I was walking by the typing teacher’s class, and she was having the students type in rhythm to a waltz. I am a fair dancer, so I grabbed the Home Economics teacher and went waltzing into the class as a joke. Halfway across the room, I saw the Principal sitting in the back evaluating the typing teacher (yikes). Twenty minutes later, I hear “Mr. Plunkett, can you please come to the Principal’s office?” I walked in, and before I could apologize, the Principal says, “As much as I admire your dancing abilities, can you please refrain from one, dancing on school property, and two, interrupting another teacher’s lecture. Thank you.

On another occasion, we had costume week to celebrate homecoming. I came in dressed as a punk rocker (makeup, hair done up, paper clips sticking out of my ears, etc.). The Principal heard my voice in the hallway and called me in so he could introduce me to three representatives from the Texas Department of Education. Oops!

One time, my girlfriend came to see me for the weekend. We never left my house the whole weekend, yet when Monday came, my students and fellow teachers all asked me who the girl was who stayed at my house (welcome to small town mid America). The Principal met me in the hallway and said “Mr. Plunkett, when you have a female visitor, she is more than welcome to stay with my wife, kids, and I.” I said “Thank you sir! My mom may be coming to visit me, so that will be great since I only have one bed.” Then I turned around and walked away, pretending I did not know what he was referring to (oh, I am bad sometimes).

Although the Principal chastised me occasionally, like I said previously, he was a good guy. The Superintendent, on the other hand, was not such a likable person. One time when we were driving down the road coming back from a meeting, he pointed out a young lady driving by and said “You see that young gal over there. She would not be appropriate for you to be seen with as she is DIVORCED!” He also rebuked me in public for the following:
1. Wearing my trench coat to school (it was snowing outside)
2. Having my shirt untucked at school
3. Having hair that touched my collar
4. Allowing a 22-year-old friend I made in Sunray call me ‘Scott’ at a school function
5. Making fun of Texans in response to an Oklahoma joke

With all of this said, you may think I hate Sunray or the people there. Oh contraire, I loved the students. I loved that the Principal cared enough to watch out over me and the students. I enjoyed the friendliness in the community. Would I go back? No way! BUT, I do feel that I made an impression on some of the students, and I know that they made an impression on me.

1 comment:

pjwinkel said...

Well, those were good times and you must have been a real rebel because I know that you actually started doing what you wanted to do all the time anyways. I took pictures on the football field until some idiot talked to on the field, then I had to stay on the sidelines. As far as the dark room, I don't even remember how many times I was in there with a guy. I didn't care where I was, it was just nice to leave school after lunch and not have to come back until school was almost over.