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Brains vs Brawn

Since I am on Spring Break and have no current tales to tell, I searched my mental archives and recalled this from my first year — first semester — of teaching (and the only year I worked in Adult Ed):

I was a job coach for the State of Idaho, and several ex-cons attended my class as a condition of their parole. One of them was a woman named Nita, and the first class started late because we were waiting for her to arrive. Finally, the door swung open and she stepped into the room, almost six feet tall and tattooed, she rolled in on an attitude even bigger than she was. The students already there fell silent — even the other ex-cons.

I took in her black logging boots, black jeans, chain-link belt (made from a real chain), Harley Davidson t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off, bleeding dagger tattoo, short, spiked, bleached-blond flat top and trembled in my patient leather high heeled pumps. The look on her face promised trouble. She stalked over to me and stopped. I looked up, forcing myself not to back away. “I ain’t taking your effin’ class and you can’t make me,” she snarled.

My stomach crawled into my throat. Even so, I managed to shrug and even smiled. “I can’t force you to stay,” I said, then pointed toward the door. “It isn’t locked. Feel free to leave.”

She looked surprised. “Really?” She smiled. “I am so gone!” And, laughing, she turned toward the door.

I crossed the room to my desk. As her hand touched the door knob I picked up the telephone receiver. Despite the certain conviction that I was inviting my own death, I managed to casually inquire, “You’re Nita, right? And your parole officer’s name is Mick?”

She stopped. Silence, except for the tick, tick, ticking of the clock. I don’t think anybody even breathed.

Her hand dropped from the door knob and she turned around. “Effin’ A,” she said, then grabbed a chair and straddled it. “You just go ahead with your little show then, Teach. Knock yourself out.”

So I did. If you’ve been around here long you know that my teaching style looks a lot like a stand up comedy routine. Adults seem to enjoy it as much as the kids do. Nita was no exception. By the end of the class she had switched from heckler to body guard. It was a great semester.

Quilly is the pseudonym of Charlene L. Amsden, who lives on The Big Island in Hawaii. When she is not hanging out with Amoeba, she is likely teaching or sewing. Or she could be cooking, taking photographs, or even writing. But if she's not doing any of that, she's probably on Facebook or tinkering with her blog.


  1. You have the courage of David my friend. Though when we walk with God he gives us the courage to go on when other would cower away. You will have to tell us in future posts what happened.

    Oh, when are we going to get a future installment to “The Grown-Ups Wanted Us Dead”. I am wondering if there are any more stories of your cousin Rumble, the last update was when you told us of your Sewing Prowess.

    A Blessed Easter Weekend is wished for you and OC

  2. Bill — Gram died shortly after that last Grownups Tale, so Rumble and I went on to live very separate and unfortunately distant lives. I am contemplating more tales though. Maybe.

    Donna — Happy Easter to you, too. Mine is looking to be a bit hectic. How are things shaping up for you?

  3. I KNEW it! I knew it from the minute I started reading! I knew you’d win that ol’ gal over! Yep yep yep! You just have a waaaaaaaaaay about you Quilly! And… I have to agree with Bill… the LORD is definitely on your side!

  4. I think I remember you mentioning “Nita” before…it’s a great story. It’s funny how sometimes the most intimidating people you meet end up becoming the people you most like.

  5. wow, you sure have a way with people… all kind of people! and you know how to tell the story.
    is it posible you mentioned nita somewhere before?

  6. Melli — I do think it is more God than me. I just ty my best to do what my heart (the Holy Spirit) says is right. Sometimes I succeed.

    SN — I thought I had mentiond Nita before, but couldn’t find the reference!

    Polona — I grew up surrounded by natural storytellers — AND listening to Bill Cosby’s comedy routines. He doesn’t tell jokes. He tells stories.

  7. You are amazing! She needed someone to handle her with consequence instead of brawn. I ma sure you made a devoted and repected friend in her for the rest of the semester. Good for you! I bet she still thinks of you today.

  8. Jules — I actually kept up with her through the first several months of college (then I moved). My class helped her bring her self-esteem up quite a bit, and her success in college was healing it even more. And whether or not she still thinks of me, I don’t know. I still think of her because she is the first student I helped improve the quality of her life.

    Carolyn — thanks! That’s the kind of success that keeps me teaching.

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