My first class in public high school had been sitting out in the hallway for two months, unsupervised, until I was hired. They gave me a mentor. She collected four hundred and fifty dollars for this task, which was automatically withdrawn from my paycheck. An eighty something year old former first grade teacher was assigned to a high school Latin teacher to offer advice on teaching skills. She made sure that I told the students to keep their book bags out of the aisles.
One day I asked my Latin I class if they knew the story of Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome. A very shy boy tentatively raised his hand. My mentor, at the back of the room, shot up her hand.
“Oh, oh, I know this!”
“Um, that’s nice, but I was checking to see what the students remembered”.
I pointed to the boy. As he was on his third or fourth word, she shouted,
“Romulus and Remus were twins and were set adrift in the river and the she wolf saved them!”
I looked at my student. He looked at me and shrugged his shoulders with a “ what the hell?” expression on his face.
In an upper level class I was discussing the possibility of offering an advanced placement poetry class. There were six students in the class. Suddenly my mentor piped up from the back of the room,
“Yep, that Bill Gates, he started Microsoft from a garage and now he’s the richest man in the world.”
I looked down at my students. They were all sitting bolt upright, hands on desks, eyes wide open fixed on me and carefully averted away from my mentor. Lips tightly, tightly compressed. I started up again on Latin epic poetry.
“Yep, that Bill Gates, he started out in a garage and now he’s the richest man in the world. He sure showed those Harvard boys a thing or two.”
She beamed at me. Non sequitur. Latin for it does not follow. Although non compos mentis fit also. I started to laugh.
Biting my tongue until I tasted blood, I switched to digging my nails into my palm. Why did my students have so much more facial control than I had? It was almost like they planned this.
Eventually her tenure of supervision was over and I was left to muddle through on my own. She graciously offered to come in anytime to help me out because she had enjoyed herself so much.