when classrooms had no computers
before chalk was overthrown
and whiteboards were black.
Later he was always just “ Mr ?
Mr…? – the man who taught Kathryn when she was seven.”
She was new to the school and he about to retire
It was uncommon even then
for a man to teach such young children
the system still a swarm of Misses
even as Ms became ubiquitous.
At a meet the teacher evening some biography.
He had been a principal down south
was three months short four decades of service
and full pension
but thought it less disruptive
for his replacement to commence with the school year.
So now just filling in for a woman on maternity
Kathryn said he told the class he was a hundred
but they knew he was really only ninety.
His pension time began with training at seventeen.
On the first day of the new year
after the schoolwide assembly
the filling in forms,
the checking of enrolments
he told the class a little about himself.
He had started in the old days
when all new teachers were given a strap
to be used on children who didn’t follow instructions
of course the strap was banned now
but he thought the class might like to see one
so he had brought his along.
And since he had it with him
perhaps he could show how it worked.
He placed a piece of chalk on a desk
and struck it with his strap
and said Kathryn with eyes widely dilated
“it turned to dust.”