Richard Goffman spent the 1970s teaching high school English in Long Branch, NJ and in Dover, NJ. He spent the ’80s, ’90s, and half the ’00s in marketing, mostly in the home entertainment industry. In 2005 he returned to teaching, in Paterson, NJ, where he once again taught English, Creative Writing, Journalism, Public Speaking… After retiring from public school teaching in July 2014 he was soon hired as an adjunct professor of English at Montclair State University in Montclair, NJ.
What would that be like? I thought of several generations of students, and their families, and his intense interactions with them. I thought about all the people he would come to know, in many cases very intimately. What reputation would he have? What kind of influence would he have, and how would these change and grow over time?
From this kind of dangerous thinking emerged William Bachman. I didn’t have to think too long about where to set this teacher and this school. I had worked the first eight years or so of my career in Long Branch at the Jersey shore. That town had beauty and ugliness, it had familiarity and magical strangeness, and it had enough racial, ethnic and economic diversity to yield no end of characters. It was “about a mile down the dark side of Route 88,” so I said, “let’s try it,” to quote a different local hero. Of course, our Mr. Bachman teaches in “Atlantis, NJ,” not Long Branch.