“…because the story that claws at my brain and keeps me awake nights has to be told.”
- Vera Harriss
Vera Harriss, Deidre Fletcher, Mark Pettingill, and Stu Martel are elementary school teachers in the fictional town of Blevins, Maine whose secret, private lives change dramatically as you read.
Vera, who is about to retire, vents her anger during a Board of Education meeting with a speech that brings the audience to its feet. Why does Deidre, an exceptional teacher, leave the job she loves to become a corporate trainer down South? Then there is Mark, the perennial job hunter looking for
a corporate position with more prestige and pay but then turns down the perfect offer when it finally comes through. Stu, one of the most popular teachers in the school, struggles with a deep, dark secret that he can only share with Deidre. What causes Stu’s untimely death?
Vera Harriss, Dee Fletcher, Mark Pettingill, and Stu Martel are eager to share their intriguing secrets and entangled lives with you.
Prologue ~Vera’s Message to the Reader
This is not the book I intended to write. After thirty years of teaching, I had planned to write a scholarly report on the dilemma of the elementary school teacher.
Something I have witnessed and lived for thirty years.
It was going to be a documentary that the National Educators Association and the American Federation of Teachers would acclaim as insightful, necessary. Book reviewers and talk show hosts would applaud it as the answer to what has been termed “crisis in education.”
It might have even led to invitations to lecture across the country. Elementary school teachers would cluck approvingly that at last their side of the story had been told.
That’s what my husband Preston and I would talk and joke about every time I mentioned that someday I was going to sit down and write that book.
For years I had collected notes and clippings which illustrated the major problems in education today: parental apathy, lack of materials, class size, inadequate teacher salaries, the perennial lament over non-teaching duties.
It was a stunning array of issues and concerns. A candy shop assortment. And I had only to pick and elaborate. It would have been a snap. After all, you don’t survive thirty years in this business of children without acquiring some expertise; some sense of what is right and what is wrong in education.
My up-coming retirement would provide me with time to ponder; to gain a true perspective on things. Like great generals and ex-presidents who write their memoirs in order to document historical events from their point of view, I felt it my mission to set the record straight on the plight of elementary education. Three decades of classroom teaching certainly entitled me to say something, especially after I had maintained a respectable silence for so long.
But everything changed this year.
The year of my retirement.
The year when, after we watched the Challenger blow up, Dee said to me, “Christ, Vera, there it is – the ultimate shaft of teachers.”
The year we lost Stu.
The year when Mark said to Dee, “Dammit! If you care enough, you’ll stay and fight!”
The year when our teachers’ union won its biggest gains ever.
The year when I learned the biggest lesson of my professional life.
Yes, I could have written a scholarly thesis on the plight of the elementary school teacher. I could have written in neat, concise terms just the way I did for my Master’s thesis (Boston U. 1960), but I know now that I’ll never be able to do that because the story that claws at my brain and keeps me awake nights has to be told.
The problem is that I am not a writer of stories. I’m just a puffy-eyed, overweight retired fourth grade teacher who should know better and just keep her mouth shut.
But I can’t.
Not after what happened to Dee or Mark or Stu. Not after what happened to me.
So if you’ll bear with me, I’ll try to tell you what happened.
This isn’t an easy story to tell.