A couple of years ago I taught elementary school. I was issued a temporary teacher’s certificate and found a position as a full time substitute teacher for a lady who was out with an injury, all within a week of deciding to give teaching a go. With no teaching experience, no preparation, I was thrust before 30 eight graders and told to prepare them for their FCATs.

I had a blast. The kids were a handful, to be sure, but man, kids are just fun. Not that I wasn’t worn out each evening when I got home, not that I wasn’t a walking zombie for the first couple of months, or that there weren’t times when I wanted to not teach the same material for seven straight classes. Equal parts exhausting and exhilarating, I truly enjoyed it.

Unfortunately the economy caused the school to cut teachers, and as the most recent arrival I was let go. I was touched when the kids collected hundreds of signatures to keep me, but the principal didn’t care. No money = no Phil.

Since then I’ve done a lot of freelance writing, different things, but I’ve always remembered how rewarding teaching could be. So today I went in to a family shelter up the street to volunteer some time as an after-school tutor.

Strange how different worlds can be tucked out of sight just around the corner. I’d driven one block over from where the shelter is located a thousand times, and never guessed that it was there. The head administrator was a grave, precise but quietly passionate lady, and we spoke for a couple of hours about the shelter, its mission and philosophy, the fifteen families that are in residence and what my role there could be.

They have a room that was once the computer room but which they want to convert into a study area. If I become involved, I might be able to lead the kids in painting and designing it in their own way.

I’m suddenly reluctant to speak about it. To go into details. Suffice to say that after my background check tomorrow, I might become involved with this wonderful shelter up the street, and might soon begin helping some eighteen kids who have had it rough. Some are refugees from Haiti. Others simple come from tough backgrounds. All of them need some attention, some help, some encouragement, and I’m thrilled to be able to offer a few hours a week to give them just that.