Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let the page come out of you-
Then, it will be true.
I presented the above poem to my English classes on the first day of school. I went home and also wrote a page that night to be read to my captive audience the next day. Intended as an ice-breaker, it prompted several volunteers to share what they had composed. For those who had not done the assignment, it proved to be the impetus to put them to work right away.
Warning: Read this very carefully as there will be a test on it.
For the first few years of her life, Melinda thought her mother was Donna Reed. She grew up in a happy home in Kew Gardens, New York. “Happy” is the operative word and that is perhaps the reason she’s had so much trouble publishing her memoir.
Melinda attended some fine schools prior to college, and admits, “All I really need to know was not learned in kindergarten, but in college and beyond.” She studied to be an English teacher at Southampton College of Long Island University (later earning her Master’s degree at St. John’s University) and vowed on the very first day she stepped into a classroom that one day she would write a book. With her trusty notepad by her side at all times, she prepared what you will read in Take Off Your Hat and Spit Out Your Gum – A Teacher’s Memoir. Melinda embraces much of what life has to offer, regarding it as an ongoing learning process. If the day had more than twenty-four hours, she could fill them all. She taught English, Film and Journalism at Richmond Hill High School, an academic high school in Queens, from 1981 until she retired in 2005. Before teaching at “The Hill,” she honed her skills for eight years at William H. Maxwell, an all-girls’ vocational high school in Brooklyn, where English wasn’t taken too seriously. In spite of that minor detail, she had a wonderful time teaching those Maxwell girls – once their hair and nails dried.
As a teacher, Melinda tried to inspire confidence in the kids by being fair, funny, demanding, and approachable. She called it TTLC – tough, tender-loving care. She often told her students, “I find humor in mostly everything, so if you make me laugh, you get extra credit.”
She especially loved teaching the works of Shakespeare.
After what she thought was an inspiring lesson, she would ask, “Are there any questions?” and those who didn’t ask to use the restrooms (aka “baffroom”) asked, “What’s up with that earring? Is the dude gay?” A perfect entree to the sonnets.
Married to Kenny (her athletic supporter and mentor) for over 35 years, she now relishes off-season traveling – as long as it isn’t during school vacations. A competitive athlete, Melinda has skied and played tennis since she was a kid, but added running to her repertoire in 1984 and hasn’t stopped since. She plays tennis till her partner drops and has become addicted to golf (more appropriately “flog” spelled backwards) over the past year.
Melinda describes herself as “extremely goal oriented and disciplined – probably more obsessive-compulsive than anything else and people who know me can vouch for this. I celebrated my 60th birthday with a week-long trip to Paris with my husband and four other friends, followed by training for my 15th marathon.”
Some of her essays have been published in national magazines and newspapers in Queens and on Long Island.