This week’s Romance Weekly’s blog hop questions are very relevant for me and my debut novel, Gemini: The Sign Behind the Crime. The questions are, ‘What is your day job? What inspired you to take this job and would you consider giving it to one of your characters?'”
To answer the first question, right now my job is this. I can play, write, do anything I want at any time. I paid my dues.
But before this, I was with the NYC Department of Education for thirty-three years. During that time I was a classroom teacher, crisis intervention specialist, staff developer, mentor for struggling teachers, and I hold NYS certification as School Psychologist. Since I cherish children and keep them close to my heart the central theme in Gemini is that ‘child abuse effects us all.’ So much so that I dedicated the book to teachers. The dedication reads, “To all the teachers out there who through blood, sweat and tears every day in their classrooms, rescue and protect children from the horrors of abuse they endure in their lives.”
You’ll see characters who’ve suffered abuse in the hands of those they were entrusted to. The effects have been devastating. Yes, I gave my first career to my antagonist, the killer, Barbara Montgomery. You’ll see in the excerpt below, the ‘me’ in her character is more than obvious.
With that being said, I’ve had a pretty messy childhood myself, not with abuse but with illness. Nearly having died at birth from parents who smoked in the house and a mother who smoked during her pregnancy, I had very sever asthma. Now it’s controlled. I was born with shorter than normal bronchial tubes. Gym class always presented problems and there were many issues with uncompassionate teachers. I remember one incident in seventh grade, where I was having an attack in class and a male teacher made me stand up. He said to the class, “Look, she can’t even breathe.” Seriously, it happened. Very sad and very true.
What inspired me to take teaching as my job is twofold. People go into education for two reasons. One is that they had horrible experiences growing up and through school and they do not want other children to experience the same hell that they did. The second is because they had such wonderful school experiences that they want to share their creativity with children the same way. For me it was the former. It was also the former for my antagonist in Gemini. I would never tolerate any one in the school treating any child with a disability in a less than compassionate way. Especially when I was in a position to manage that. Maybe that’s why I went into special education, as it called back then, in 1974, when the position arose.
I remember my first class in 1970, in Brooklyn. I had taken over the class of gifted children because the teacher of thirty years suddenly left. There I was at twenty-two in charge of thirty-six eleven year olds who were a lot smarter than me. But they suffered from more parental stress than children should know. The amount of children in this class who already had ulcers and stress related illnesses was astounding. I vowed I would never add to it. At first the parents complained that I was too young to teach their children. It took a few months for the parents to warm up to me. But they did. And I never had a child get sick in my class. I kept to my vow.
I began my journey into alternative therapies for my own healing in the mid 1990’s. As I saw results for myself, I took certification courses so I could share my knowledge with others. I gave this skillset to my protagonist, forensic psychiatrist, Dr. John Trenton.
So to answer today’s Romance Weekly blog hop questions, “Oh yeah! My jobs are in the characters in Gemini. Here is an excerpt from Gemini, with Barbara Montgomery and a disgruntled, first year teacher. It’s the first time that I’m revealing this excerpt.
“Miss Klein, actually, it’s not enough to refer a child to special education. Okay, teacher interventions. You wrote that you called the parents. But it’s not annotated here when, how many times, what the results were, and the exact verbal responses that you got from them.”
Miss Klein rolled her eyes. “You’re kidding me, right?”
“Actually, I’m quite serious. What did his parents say to you when you called? Better yet, what did you say to them?”
“I don’t even remember. I was so pissed, but they told me to fuck off.”
“Did they verbalize that or were they pissed at the way you approached them?”
“What the hell is wrong with you? They didn’t actually say fuck, but they said ‘when he’s in school, he’s your problem,’ then I got more pissed.”
“More pissed? So you began the conversation angry with them, like you’re being angry with me?”
“Well, yeah, I had to call them on my own time at night, since they both work during the day, and you’re making me lose my prep.”
Barbara wasn’t the least bit fazed and ignored the prep comment. “That goes with the job. Every successful teacher I know does work at home and a lot of it.”
“I don’t care. I’m not doing anything at home. Once I leave here at three, that’s it.”
“So, how’s that working for you?”
Miss Klein smirked and rolled her eyes again.
“Look, you have a child who isn’t behaving and, by yelling at the parents, you’ve made enemies so you blew any collaboration you might have had to help this child. And it was clear today that you didn’t have a lesson planned, so you didn’t fool me or even the children, for that matter. And they are very smart, so don’t underestimate them because of their age. Even on the eval, you left out what you’ve done in the classroom to help him.”
“How do you know I didn’t have a lesson planned?”
“In this district, visual aids are mandatory to teach the alphabet and sounds. Where were yours?”
Barbara remained quiet and let it sink in.
“I don’t do lesson plans, anymore, because whenever I do, I can’t get my plans through to them, anyway, the way this class behaves.”
“How have you managed to get away without doing plans?”
“We have a choice, to do them on line or in my plan book. I chose the plan book. Then I give Bennett an excuse, and she just walks out of the room.”
“I have a few letters in my file, but I don’t care. What can they do?”
“They can do plenty. You can get fired, for one, and leave here with a U rating. No principal will want you after that. And you’re lucky to be here. Mrs. Bennett is the fairest and most caring principal I know, and I’m in a few schools.”
“Well, she can’t hurt me.”
“Why not? You’re not tenured yet.”
“My uncle is the superintendent of schools in Queens, Sherman Greenberg.”
“Sherman? Sherman Greenberg? He’s your uncle?”
Guess I’ll have to become acquainted with Sherman Greenberg.
Her face lit up as if she was now immune. “Yes, he is.”
“I know him very well. I give teacher-training workshops for him. And I speak with him at least once a week.”
The color in her face faded. “You do?”
“And even though he may have gotten you the job, now you have to prove you deserve to keep it.”
Miss Klein rolled her lips together after Barbara’s remark.
“So, what help have you gotten?”
“Support staff in the school, staff developers, reading teachers.”
“The staff developer said I needed to attend her meetings and that would help me with everything.”
Barbara’s eyes met hers. “And?”
“They’re after school and I just want to get out of here.”
“I’ll ask you again. How’s that working for you?”
She weakened, becoming teary eyed. “Horrible.”
“All right, acknowledged. So why are you really not going?”
After a minute of silence, she caved. “I’m afraid that if I try really hard and commit to doing this job well, I’ll fail anyway, so why bother trying? I’ve failed at most things I’ve tried in my life so I’ve given up.”
“You bother trying because it’s the little lives you’re affecting, not just your own. And you can turn it around. Teaching is a learned skill, and you learn it by practicing it over and over again. Adults need to do repetitions up to twenty one times to make it a habit, so think of how long it can take little ones to grasp a concept. Winging lessons on the fly won’t work. Honestly, start putting some effort in, and you will get results, but you have to want it.”
Hell, it took me fourteen kills to get them right—quick and neat.
Where you can purchase Gemini.
Oh, and before you leave, please look at my author central page where you can view my book trailer and see my upcoming appearances.
Please feel free to leave comments and questions.
The Sign Behind The Crime,