True Stories of Real Army Wives: My First Teaching Job

my very first teaching job. True Stories of Real Army Wives during deployment

Sun., Aug. 10, 2003

Alan,

Hey Babe! Tomorrow is my first day of work. In case you haven’t yet gotten my previous letter, I got hired by Graham Elementary School downtown yesterday! Yay!!

I’ll be making $32,000 this year. It’s a state charter school serving mostly low-income students, but it’s located in a church. Yeah, it’s different, but I’m excited about it. I’ll be teaching 3rd and 4th grade in one classroom, all subjects.

It’s going to be tough. School starts the 18th, but teachers start tomorrow. I have to be there at 9:15 am, and from now on, I have a full-time job! It’s exciting and yet terrifying at the same time.

Last night, I cooked dinner for 8, mostly our neighbors: Elsie, Cloe, Annie, Kayla, Katherine, Jay, Phan, and myself. After dinner, Jay left and all the girls stayed and talked while I cleaned up, joining them occasionally in the living room.

I’m glad you met Kayla’s husband. She’s a real sweet girl. She’s enrolled at Central Texas College.

I got those three cameras developed today. I cannot believe you managed to use up 3 cameras in 1 month. And almost all of them are landscapes! Take pics of you and your friends, geez. Just do the method we use to take pics of ourselves, hold the camera in your right hand and click. I do it.

 

my very first teaching job. True Stories of Real Army Wives during deployment

Not all of Alan’s “landscape photos” were uninteresting. This one is of the Tikrit Palace Compound, which became 4th ID Headquarters during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Alan!! I’m so nervous!! How can I be a teacher??

I’m so scared! But it did hurt my feelings in one of your letters when you said you didn’t know how I’d be with kids because you’ve never seen me with children. Hello! Kid’s Klub! And did you ever notice Laura Ellen and Matthew like me? I know you didn’t mean to hurt my feelings, but I couldn’t help it.

It’s so weird that I’m starting a new job tomorrow, and you don’t even know about it. I hope you call or email soon so I can tell you. I love you so much, and I hate not being able to share stuff with you. But I’ll deal.

I keep having these dreams that we’ve lost touch, and in them I’m always sad because you never call or visit.

In the dream, I’m all confused, and I don’t understand why we aren’t together. Dream April doesn’t know that you’re in Iraq. Many times you’re just in another state, but always we’ve lost touch, and I’m so hurt.

Depressing, huh? I guess my subconscious knows you’re gone, misses you, and feels abandoned, like a cat in a box on the side of the road. Ok. Ok. Sorry. I’ll stop.

I MISS YOU! I miss you so much I just want to cry! And if I keep thinking about it, I will cry, so I better move on to another topic.

Your family has been really helpful with the teaching job. Your mom and Ellen gave me lots of good ideas, which will help. I’m glad there are lots of teachers in the family.

I love you so much, Alan. Keep praying for me. The first year of teaching is super hard, but add that to the stress of a year-long deployment, and the thought is foreboding. I’m just thankful I’m a Christian. I couldn’t do anything on my strength alone. All credit is due Him.

Thank you for marrying me, Alan. If you were here, I would climb up in your lap and hug you so close and just have a good cry, while you tucked my hair behind my ears and told me everything will be okay. How I wish you were here. I know you do too.

I love you, you big stud muffin.

Forever Yours,

April

 

************

Was it a bad sign that I hadn’t even started my job yet, and already I wanted to cry?

Starting a full-time job like teaching was exhausting, and I was still trying to be a good housekeeper and a faithful friend. The funny thing is that once you have a full-time job, whether you are a man or a woman, something has to give.

No one can do ALL the things. Even without kids, we have to delegate things to give ourselves space to breathe.

When I was in high school and college, I worked, but I had certainly never been a school teacher before. To this day, I will tell you that all teachers are underpaid, and I have all the respect in the world for them!

 

***********

Tues., Aug. 12, 2003

10:48 pm

Dear Alan,

I just have too much to do to get to bed early! And I’m sleepy! But I guess you know what that’s like.

I had in-service training from 9-3. I stayed after and talked to Mrs. W. I can’t remember her name, but it starts with a W. There were so many questions I still had unanswered. Mrs. W. was very helpful, and she will be extremely easy to work for.

After work, Annie needed me to drive her to the PX so she could buy a phone card to call her fiancée, Drew, in Germany.

Then I had to drive to Copperas Cove and fill out my “I have a job” form. By the time I got home it was 4:45. I came in and changed, vacuumed the house, tidied up, and collapsed on the sofa at 5:30 or so for a brief break in which I consumed like literally 20 ounces of blue Gatorade in 2 minutes flat.

I was exhausted!

So I made myself dinner, and I was all excited about watching the Miss Teen USA pageant, but I didn’t even really get to watch it because the phone rang. It was your mom, and the call was helpful because I got some good ideas from her. Then my mom called, which was good, but they were both very long calls.

Then I had to get online and submit my application for certifications, and I got that done, and that brings me to now.

I don’t have any idea how full-time workers keep a clean house!

There is delicate laundry hanging to dry all over the place, dirty dishes in the sink, clean, unfolded laundry and school supplies everywhere! I could get much more done if the phone didn’t ring so much, but I know that it is good for me that so many people love me and want to talk to me. Even still, I did ignore three other phone calls.

Oh, Alan! I CAN’T WAIT ’til you get back! I need you! That would help my busy-ness because you can take over the laundry. You’re better at it than me anyway.

 

my very first teaching job. True Stories of Real Army Wives during deployment

Me, in teacher classes. Yes, I used to be tiny, but I promise I do have a right arm. That was an odd angle.

 

I also learned more about the school and my room today. This school is fine arts oriented. Many children miss out on opportunities for piano, dance, those types of lessons because their parents can’t afford it, like when I was little. I wanted to take dance but couldn’t because it was too expensive.

This school has several fine arts teachers to provide those services. They have chorus, piano, violin, ballet, etc. Really! Pretty cool, huh?

Yet they have no media center…not so cool…But I think it’s a good school, and I’m excited about working here.

I love you, Alan, and I miss you so much. I get letters from you constantly, almost everyday. It means so much to me! You know that though because I’m sure you feel the same way about me.

I know I’m complaining about getting too many phone calls, so allow me to clarify. I am thankful that I am loved. It is a blessing. Calls from you MAKE my day. I love it.

So you just call ANYTIME.  I love you so much, and I always will. Hang in there. It’ll be winter, or at least fall, before you know it!

I love you,

April

*************

I didn’t even get to go into my classroom until the third day of training, and there was such an overwhelming amount of cleaning, decorating, organizing, and planning to do in there.

My friend Sarah was a life-saver. She rescued me day after day, organizing my things, filing my papers, helping me move desks. I couldn’t have done it without her.

We poured ourselves into setting up that classroom, which left little time for planning the actual lessons! I was left furiously scouring the internet for good first-day-of-school ideas the very night before school was to start.

And I’ll tell you all about the first week of school, and the mother I called “the Toothless Wonder” — Don’t worry. Only in my head I called her that– next week!  😉

 

Want to catch up? Click here for last week’s post and here for the very first post in this series.

 

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Mil Spouse Problems: 13 Months, The Illegal Question, & the Cat

This post is part of the series True Stories of Real Army Wives. To read last week’s post, click here.

Mil Spouse Problems: 13 Months, The Illegal Question, & the Cat

Before they rode into Iraq, they camped in Kuwait….where Alan shaved his head. You can see the tent city they slept in behind Alan in the photo.

 

Alan was good about taking photos with a disposable camera and mailing me the cameras later on. I’m going to include a few of those pictures in today’s post.

 

Wed., July 23, 2003

11:32 pm

Oh! Well, I went to choir practice tonight. I left in tears.

At the end of practice, Bruce announced that he saw on Fox News today that plans are made for year-long deployments and that 4ID is scheduled to come back in April.

Granted, I have heard this several times, but not on the news! This made it feel so much more official to me. Something about it just caused me to instantly turn on the water works. I tried to fight it, but I couldn’t.

So I got hugged many times on my way out of the room. It was just that feeling where your heart hits your feet. Alan, I just love you so much.

After choir I dried my tears, still feeling blue. But I know I have a life to get on with, so I drove on post and found Smith Middle, where I’m interviewing for a middle school science position tomorrow. That way I won’t get lost.

Then I came home. I drive up, and there’s Katherine, in her gym clothes, pouring ant killer all over the sidewalk. I started talking to her. Then Phan, their female houseguest, came outside too.

Then we all came inside our house and hung out. While we were talking, Bruce Berry called to apologize for what he said at choir about the 4ID. He was very humble sounding. I could tell he REALLY felt badly. He said something like, “I should’ve thought about you sitting back there. I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking. I’m sorry.”

Of course, I told him I am okay and not to worry about it. Poor Bruce.

Katherine and Phan stayed over, and we ate and watched tv until 11. It was so nice. I really don’t know what I’d do without these girls.

I miss you, Alan. It hurts to think about missing you until April 2004. (That means we’re 1/3 the way through.) It hurts, but I know we’ll be okay. We’ve got a long road to hoe. It’s going to be so weird when I see you again. Perhaps it will be like falling in love all over again. Now that could be exciting!

Forever Yours,

April

 

*************

Alan sent me this photo. When there are no showers, these are treasures. While Alan was overseas, I took photos he sent me and put them into a War scrapbook. He helped me with the captions later.

*******

 

 

Friday, July 25, 2003

Alan,

Hey! I’m really sorry, but yesterday was so crazy that I did not find time to write! I never even made it to sleep!

It’s 7:50 am. I’m on a plane in Dallas. It’s still boarding, and I have SO MUCH to catch you up on.

Well, Wednesday night I found out that y’all DEFINITELY have orders to remain in Iraq until next April. 13 month deployment!! Of course, the news struck me hard, but I feel so bad for you.

I mean you are spending a whole year in a horrible desert, where they speak a foreign language and many of them probably hate Americans. I am so sorry.

But I also got called Wednesday for an interview at Smith Middle School (on post). It’s a 6th grade science position. I was so excited.

The interview was yesterday.

It went okay, but I don’t expect to get the job. And worst of all, I was competing with Eric, a friend of mine from class, for the position. He just got out of the Army in April of this year. He and I are the only ones in the 4-8 class with a science concentration.

I’ve never competed against someone I know for a position before. I’m afraid he’s a better candidate for the job. My only advantage is that I have much better people skills than Eric, but I’m not sure if I really showed that in my interview because I was so nervous.

The interview only lasted 15 minutes. Well, anyway, it was only my first REAL (post-college) job interview, so at least that’s behind me!

The principal who interviewed me was pretty nice. She just kept commenting on how YOUNG I look. At the end of the interview, she actually asked me my age–which is ILLEGAL, and she knows it because she said, “I know I’m not supposed to ask this, but how old ARE you? You don’t even look old enough to be married!”

Yeah. I told her I’m 22. I really don’t think I’m going to get that job. I’ll find out Monday.

It’s weird. All this stuff is going on in my life, and my husband doesn’t even know about it. You don’t even know that I’ll be in Alabama all weekend! I’m so afraid I’ll miss one of your calls, but I doubt it because you called earlier this week already.

I was so excited that I finally had an interview that I told everybody, so when I got home from class– at like 9:30– I had exactly 7 messages to return from friends and family who all wanted to know how it went. (Your mom, my mom, Amy, Jennings, Chrisynda, Cloe, & Sarah)

I ended up talking to your sister for like an hour. Amy and I get along really well. I think we both find each other easy to talk to. I can honestly say that if I had known Amy in college, we would’ve been close friends.

So it was 11:30 when I got off the phone, and I still had to finish packing and cleaning, so it was 1:30 am when I crawled into bed.

I was so wound up, knowing I had a 6am flight and thinking about my interview and about you being gone until NEXT APRIL– I couldn’t sleep at all– not a wink.

My alarm was set for 3:45 am. At 3:30, I just turned it off and got up.

Elsie and I left for the airport at 5 am. It has been quite fun flying with Elsie. I can’t imagine this deployment without her. We’re talking about flying home together for Thanksgiving and Christmas too! That will help so much!

You will like her husband too. I know you will because he sounds so much like you. He even wrote their home church in Daleville a letter, just like how you wrote your home church. He’s a lieutenant too, but he’ll be promoted to captain in the not-too-distant future. Well, you’ve met him once. I’ve never even met him, but of course, I hear about him all the time.

Well, we’re taking off now. Remember our flight to Jamaica? I just can’t believe I have to live in memories for 9 more months. It’s not even half way over.

But I must say, time is speeding by, which is what I want, for now. By the time we move, I’m going to be so attached to our little neighborhood, I’m not going to want to leave Texas!

However, I think we should move someplace COLDER next time. Germany or Alaska, if we still need to get in an overseas tour. But if IRAQ doesn’t count as one, that’s ridiculous!

OH!!! Does it count? Oh, if it does, can I pick the next duty station?? I want to either move back home or move to Fort Lewis. I hear it’s beautiful, and I know you liked it when you were there!

Or could we just pick a duty station that our friends are at? I’d be good with that.

…….O.K. So I hate to tell you this because I know you don’t even want a house where a cat has ever been, so let me start by saying it’s only for 3 months. Eric, in my teacher class, has a girlfriend who is TDY in Qatar and needs someone to take care of her cat until she gets back. So, knowing that you won’t be back for 9 months–which will give the house 6 months between the cat and now– I jumped at the chance.

Please understand. It’s only for a little while, and I kind of NEED this. I hope you don’t mind. I thought this would be okay.

Me and Kitty, my foster cat

Tomorrow Granny Hyde turns 90, and I will be at her party. After such a rough week, it’ll be a good time for me to be with family.

Oh! I got your 2nd package Thursday with all my letters and other letters and the Army stuff. I got doubles of the Iraq pictures you sent me in the last package, and I split the doubles between Amy and our parents. Everyone was very pleased about that.

One last thing…

What should I do about Thanksgiving and Christmas? Do I still go to your grandparents’ house and Waynesboro? Yes. Yes, for Christmas I think it would be best. I’ll just go to my side of the family for Thanksgiving though.

Y’all still make the daily news. I don’t watch it much, but I get my daily CNN news breaks. The capture of Uday and Qusay (or whatever) has really lifted hopes around here. That was indeed exciting news. How has it been received by the people of Iraq?

There’s so much I want to know about your new position in Ad Dwar and who you are friends with and what interactions you’ve had with the people of Iraq. I am so proud of you. We all are.

One of the 4-42 Coffee Group wives– I WISH I could remember her name– called me yesterday. She said there’s a group of them who get together every week, and she just thought about me and invited me. I couldn’t go this week, but I’m hoping to go next week. I do REALLY want to get to know more 4-42 wives better. The lady who called me is actually a very pregnant, cute, curly red-headed woman. I only wish I could remember her name, but it meant a lot to me to be invited.

Well, I just wanted to write you a good long letter to catch you up on everything. Sure enough this makes 11 pages. Hang in there, Alan. You’re doing such a great job. It’ll be over before we know it. (I hope!)

I love you, and I’m praying for you.

Love,

April

 

Maybe you’re wondering if I got this job from the interview I mentioned.

Well, no. I didn’t, but that wasn’t too surprising. It was weeks before I got another interview, and only 3 days before the first day of school, before I solidified a job for myself. My precious Sunday school teacher advised me against it. She said I should hold out for a KISD position, as they had more resources.

Instead, I accepted a position teaching 3rd and 4th grade in one classroom, at a charter school, in one of the poorest areas of Killeen, Texas.

I knew it would be a challenge, but I was excited that someone was taking a chance on a young new teacher like me. The only thing that concerned me was the 2 grades in one classroom thing and the fact that I wasn’t trained at ALL to teach 3rd graders, especially ones who couldn’t read well.

Was I in over my head……Come back next week to see what happened!

 

Click here for the next chapter.

 

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Kids’ Names, The Cop, & Living a Life that Matters

Real Army Wives Series *******This post is part of the series, The Real Army Wives. For last week’s chapter, click here.*************** Friday, July 8, 2003 Alan, Hey! I’m being bad. I’m in class, and we are watching a truly boring video. So I’ve been brainstorming children’s names for our future children. These are some that I have come up with. Tell me what you think, and try to think of some names to add to the list. 🙂

Girls:

Gracie Elizabeth  (my favorite) Kathryn Jennings (Call her Katie.) Autumn Faith

Boys:

Cody Alan John David David Alan  (but David is such a common name.) 🙂 I know I said we’d wait 5 years, but I hope you don’t really plan on sticking to that… 🙂 I just can’t wait for you to get back! I got a letter from you today. It was written June 23, and the CMIC had been attacked in broad daylight. : ( I’m wondering if you are in Ad Dwar yet and how that is going. I REALLY hope you like your new job. I know you’ll be great at it. You’re great at everything you do. #1 Cadet–RA of the Year–Cum Laude—You are amazing. I love you, April

*******

July was an exciting month.

My house was an active hub where we came together when we were tired of being alone. The house next door was also a hub because it seemed like Katherine and Nick’s (The Beefcake’s) house was always hosting one or several long-term house guests. First, Nick’s cousin Jay moved in. Then there was Phan. Jay stayed the whole year, but Phan was only there for a few months. Later they also introduced us to Tegann and Josh. Between Katherine’s house and my house, our little corner of the street was a regular YMCA for 20-somethings.

Those duplexes were an unbeatable support system.

On the flip side, Shelby, on the other half of my duplex, was not handling the deployment so well. By this point she was having an obvious affair, with her new boyfriend’s car always parked in the driveway. I remember saying, “Well, if it’s any comfort to her husband, she fights with her boyfriends just as much as she ever fought with her husband.” I never got to know Shelby. I did help her out with the cops once.

It was in the middle of the day when a lady cop knocked on my door.

“Do you know the people who live next door? I keep knocking, but no one answers.” “Yes, I know them. She’s at work right now, and the kids are at school.” “We received a complaint, and do you know if these kids spend a lot of time at home alone?” Oh, boy. “Well, usually if they get home and Shelby’s not there, they come over here, and I watch them.” This was true. “Our caller said that there’s a two-year-old and a baby?” “No. no. They are like 10 and 7. There’s no babies, and I would know. You can hear everything through these walls. That is so weird that anyone would say that. It’s not a perfect home, but I don’t believe there’s any neglect, and I know there are no babies. They are home alone sometimes, but not for long, and the oldest is very responsible.” The cop was satisfied and left. Yes, I watched those kids sometimes, but as their neighbor,  I felt like that made me part of their ‘village’, their built-in support system. I wasn’t about to start buddying up to Shelby, but I was happy to help her children. That afternoon, Shelby and her two children knocked on my door. She apologized for the cop showing up and explained that her dad was crazy and was trying to get back at her. He was the one who called the police. I’m sure Shelby knew that I knew what a wreck her life was, but I knew in my bones that for some reason I wasn’t meant to be the person to help her, even though I did want to. I focused more on the children.

*********

I also had my own, much less troubling, problems to sort out. I was talking to Elsie about how I’d missed Granny Mary’s funeral, which kind of put me in the dog house with my family. I was thinking about going down on July 26th weekend for my other Granny’s 90th birthday party.

Elsie thought quickly, “Fly down on the 25th, and we’ll be on the same plane!!”

We got Elsie’s flight numbers and I booked it. Up to that point, I had flown a few times, always by myself, except for our honeymoon. Elsie and I were so excited to get to fly home together! I wrote Alan all about it, and I told him, “How cool is it that there is a girl–my age–across the street–who I like being around–whose from my home town–and whose husband is deployed too????? That does NOT just happen. That’s God working. And you know, during this deployment, I’ve only seen Elsie get teary-eyed once, and that was the day she was here, and you called me while she was here. It wasn’t jealousy or sadness or anger. It was just pure emotion because she was happy for me. It’s so weird when you know EXACTLY what someone else is going through.”

************

Meanwhile, I began interviewing for teaching jobs and continued my teacher classes, and I felt happy. I didn’t need Ambien to go to sleep anymore.

In my letter to Alan, I explained,

“Our relationship has just put my life on such a—an unusual course, but you know what? I wouldn’t trade it for anything!! Not only do I have a man who I know loves me more than anyone, but I have a life that matters. It matters. It matters to the kids next door. It matters to the kids I will one day teach. It matters to Sarah, and Cloe, and Elsie. And of course, it matters to you. Isn’t that what we all want? To know that we matter? The FRG (Family Readiness Group) people are telling us not to expect y’all home until next March, though nothing is official yet. I’m choosing not to believe it because it is still up in the air. So I’m okay. For now, I’m better than okay. I’m happy. And you are still such a big part of that. Your letters–wow–your letters are a lifeline to me. Keep those bad boys coming.”   Last week’s chapter

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