Recap: Libby and Avi meet his parents in the pizza store and break the news about Avi leaving medical school to go learn. His parents are upset and say they will no longer help them financially.
I drove to the place I like to go when I want to connect to Hashem and when I really need help. I drove to the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s kever. I pulled up and parked. I had this calm feeling I always get when I cross the threshold. Here, I’m in a holy place where I can feel the presence of a tzadik. We’re not Lubavitch, but I so respect what the Rebbe accomplished and I feel his kever is a very holy place.
I sat down and wrote down all the things on my mind. I asked Hashem that, in the merit of the tzadik and his wife Chaya Mushka, to please give my husband and me guidance. Help us smooth over this difficult decision. Help me decide if I should take this new job. And then I added a special prayer at Chaya Mushka’s kever. In the merit of the Rebbetzin, please help us have a baby. If we have to have a foster child first, please help us find the right child. Please send a brachah to my husband’s learning. I davened for good health.
That night, Avi came home looking more serene and resolved. “The Rosh Yeshivah said it will all be all right. We have to give my parents time to absorb this new situation. He suggested that I take on some tutoring, and if you don’t have a day job, then I should take on a part-time job at night to help support us.”
“Avi, you don’t have to take that job at night. I still have the flight school job and I was offered a teaching job.”
“Oh, baruch Hashem.”
I told him about the school. I mentioned my concern about teaching the second-grade class that had gone through three teachers.
“Hashem sent it to you, Libby. That must mean you can do it. You’re such a creative person.”
That night I had the dream again. I was soaring high into the sky. Suddenly there was a loud noise like thunder, and I was shaking and freefalling from the sky. I was screaming, covered in sweat.
Avi turned on the lamp next to our bed. “Libby, wake up. It’s okay.”
I opened my eyes. “I’m sorry. I woke you. It was so real.”
“The same dream?”
“It was so real this time. I was falling…falling. I felt it in the pit of my stomach.”
“Libby, it’s three a.m. Go back to sleep.”
I lay in bed thinking. Why do I have this recurring dream I’d had since I was a little girl. It wasn’t every night or anything like that. It was usually at a time of stress. Well, it made sense that we were dealing with stress now with Avi’s parents. But why the falling from the sky. I felt it was connected to my fear of flying. I’d once asked my grandmother when I was a teenager: “Did I ever have a big, horrible fall? Why do you think I keep having this nightmare?”
She didn’t like to analyze things or try to find deep meaning. She was a very live-in-the-present and do-your-duty kind of person. There was a beat when she stared at me and I had a feeling she was debating about telling me something, but the moment passed. “It’s just a nightmare.” She’d turned away before I could ask her anything else.
On Monday morning, I packed some hummus, carrots, an apple, and popcorn. I grabbed a notebook and a few pencils. Kids always needed pencils with good erasers. I then headed to my car.
I parked near the entrance of the school. I took a deep breath, locked my car door, and strode resolutely towards the school. I mouthed a short prayer: “Please, Hashem, partner with me. Help me to do a good job and make a kiddush Hashem. Please help me give a gift to the teachers and students. Help me to reach them.”
I hoped the teachers would be receptive to me coming into their classrooms. In school, we’d learned how you have to win over the teacher and show her how you can add to her language arts program. You model and slowly release responsibility. I could hear Professor Johnson’s voice in my head: “Your goal is to have the teacher incorporate strategies and ideas that you teach her – not for you to become the language arts teacher.”
The principal greeted me when I walked in. She handed me a schedule. I had 30 minutes in each class and an hour and a half in second grade.
“It’s a long time in one class.” I pointed to the schedule.
“Yes, well, as I mentioned, we don’t have a second grade English teacher, so we appreciate you helping to close that gap until we hire someone.”
The first class was a seventh-grade class. I was surprised when I saw boys and girls were in the same class. This was not how I pictured it. The school was small, and they didn’t have enough resources to split the classes.
Mrs. Finer called the teacher into the hallway. Miss Dellman was a petit young woman with fiery red hair and friendly green eyes. “Hello,” she said. “I’m excited to have a literacy coach. My students need your help.”
“Mrs. Perlman will come into your class for this period for half an hour.”
“I’ll show you the reader. Did you want to start teaching today?” she asked.
I cleared my throat. “I’d like to watch today, and I want to explain my role. I will model lessons, but eventually you will take over and I’ll be like the coach.”
“Great! I can use any help you can offer.”
When I stepped inside, the students were chatting. One boy was throwing crumpled papers across the room, trying to make a basket into the trash can. Two girls were cheering him on.
Miss Dellman clapped her hands. “Please take your seats. We have a guest today, Mrs. Perlman. She will be helping us with our language arts.”
The students stared at me. I tried to look confident and look like a literacy coach. I wasn’t sure what that should look like, but I made it up.
I sat in the back and watched Miss Dellman teach a lesson from the reader.
The lesson was boring. I jotted notes. They needed a class novel. This reader didn’t engage the children, or me for that matter. I could think of a novel they might like. I jotted down some ideas. The Westing Game, or A Bridge in Time. Maybe The City of Ember…
After the lesson, I met with Miss Dellman. “Tomorrow, I’ll bring a novel,” I suggested.
“Great,” she said. “This reader is old, and the kids don’t really like it.”
Next, the principal came and led me to the second-grade class. She handed me a class list. There were six seven-year-olds seated at desks. They looked innocent enough.
As soon as the door closed, a tall boy rose up and started running around the room.
“Sit down,” I said.
He ran faster, and another boy stood and started chasing him. They ran around and around in circles. Two girls began giggling and chatting with each other. Another girl was sitting with her hands folded, watching me.
For one minute, I considered just walking out. I had no idea how to settle down this group.
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of Please Be Polite (Menucha Publishers 2022), A Bridge in Time (Menucha Publishing 2021), Secrets in Disguise (Menucha Publishers 2020), Denver Dreams, a novel (Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials and features in Binah Magazine and Binyan Magazine, and “Moon Song” in Binyan (2021-2022).