The Woodwork

     I graduated from college in 1977 with a degree in Elementary Education.  There was an overflow of teachers at the time and I spent my first two years in the field as a substitute.  Actually it should have only been one.  After a year of a frustrating experiences as a substitute I had applied for a job with a new automobile plant that was opening.  I had decided that maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a Teacher after all.  Maybe it wasn’t in God’s plan for me to be there.  So I decided to go to work for GM, make some money to pay off my school loans and look for something else….some other direction for my life. 

      An unbelievable amount of praying went into that decision.  And then came a crossroads.  Very literally. 

      I walked out to get the mail one day that summer and found a postcard requesting that I report for a physical and a formal interview for the position in the automotive plant.  When I walked into the house my mother was holding the telephone with a call from a teacher at one of the schools I subbed in the previous year.  She was looking for someone to take a long term position subbing for her team mate in a multi-teacher classroom.   She had heard from someone else in the building that I was an excellent substitute.

      A crossroad.  Literally.

     I took the long term subbing position and discovered that there is so much that determines a sucessful day in a classroom.  I had a chance to build a relationship with students and other Teachers….to establish myself in a building.  It was the best six weeks of my career. 

     From there I finished the year as a substitute, was hired the following year for a classroom only to be established as a ‘reserve teacher’ along with along with a number of other first year hires when the district discovered tht they had OVER hired for the year.  As a ‘reserved teacher’ we were guaranteed or full salary and a classroom every day.  We were eventually slipped into long term positions and I finished half the year in a sixth grade classroom.  Laid off again, and another year of subbing, I decided to expand my job search to California and Oklahoma (where I had attended college).  I drove home from Oklahoma mulling over a series of interviews and job offers there, only tohave my Mother meet me at the door at 2 am with a telephone message from my old school district NOT to take the job out of state because they had a position for me. 

    Second grade.  Which I loved.  And it was the first group of students that I had taught from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.  Bright.  Beautiful.  And so much fun.  We discovered the dictionary together.  We would have races to see who could find a particular word the fastest….or find a word that belonged to a specific definition.  We raced through the required Math text book so we could do the ‘fun’ math stuff like…geometry.  We explored writing genres and learning centers WAY before they became vogue.  In fact, my principal asked me if I didn’t think second graders were too young to deal with ‘learning centers.’  Poor guy must be rolling over in his grave to see what is happening in KINDERGARTENS today! 

     Laid off again I spent the next year running a day care center for school aged children at a nonprofit facility.  The program added four new schools, bus pick up and drop off  and over 100 new students in the first few months of my arrival there.  It’s still my favorite job.  I didn’t have to teach anything.  Didn’t have to make sure the kids had the skills to pass any standardized testing.  I just had to keep the kids safe and happy.   I had to make sure the program would pay for itself.  I did my own billing.  I did the payroll.  I did my own hiring.  I trained the people I hired.  I started a networking group with other Latch Key programs in other districts.  We got together once a month to share ideas for activities, snack ideas and billing issues.  My aides had ‘family groups’ that they were to keep track of, to make sure they knew when spelling tests were taken, to help with homework and to serve as a bridge between school, daycare and home to remind kids what to tell their parents about school that day.  We did plays, played softball, created art works to rival the Masters and had a campout sleepover.  They had snow ice cream for snack…and purple cows….and mountains of carrot sticks.  I scrounged grocery stores for slightly brown bananas on sale, peeled them, cut them in half, stuck popsicle sticks in them, drizzled chocolate syrup over them and froze them.  We ran 6 to 9 am and 3 to 6 pm.  We were open on snow days and during school vacations.   Being nonprofit and in a nonschool facility we were able to do that.   The summer was devoted to a full day program for children between the ages of 3 and 12.  And there were two hundred of them at various times during the week.  It was glorious and turned me into a freaking work-a-holic.  Seriously.  And the next year I added a ‘Kinder Key’ program for twelve  students.  They were dropped off at lunch time and we spent the afternoon playing.  And reading.  And exploring.  My parents for this group were awesome.  They never knew what muddied, dirty, painted state their children would be in when they picked them up and they never cared.  They loved what we did.  And I took pictures to show them.  One day, after a ridiculously  heavy and short spring rain, I noticed some marvelous puddles in the parking lot.  So I blocked off the lot and set them to work creating canals, dams and waterfalls.  We made paper boats to float in them.  And after a multitude of warnings not to get their clothes wet, I turned around to find five of them sitting in a puddle as if it were a canoe, splashing their hearts out.  What a mess!  What a wonderful time.  And fortunately we had just finished a play so I was able to send them home dressed in ‘Tom Sawyer’ costumes with their soggy, muddy outfits in a plastic bag.  Too cute for a parent to be angry.   Trust me.

      After that year I was recalled to a teaching position.  I taught Kindergarten for five years, first grade for six years and then back to Kindergarten for the duration.  Last year I became the Technology  Teacher in my building.  I see 733 students a week.

 Substitute

Sixth Grade

Substitute

Second Grade.

Latch Key

Kindergarten

First Grade

Kindergarten

Technology

     After 30 +  years in ‘the  business’  this  Teacher has seen a lot of kids pass through her life.  Some kids I will remember forever.  And living on the outskirts of the community where I teach, I seem to run into them all over the place.  In the drive through windows.  In the grocery store aisles.  At church.   In the same community theater/music production audiences.  At sports functions.  Serving me at the Chinese restaurant.  Bringing their own children to Kindergarten round up.   Yeah.  That one in particular freaked me out the first time.  And it freaks THEM out when I can still pull up a correct name.  It amazes me  at times too. 

     And there are current reminders of my longetivty in the teaching field.  One of my favorite Kindergarteners is preparing to marry the son of my current school’s secretary.  Her very best Kindergarten friend is doing her student teaching in my building…in Kindergarten.   And the teacher I did that very first long term subbing position for is now the administrator in the building where I teach.  The baby that was born during that break, her son, turned thirty last fall.  I remember his name too.

 They come creeping out of the woodwork.

 And I forget that…..which is why this always makes me cry.  Always.[

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4 Comments on “The Woodwork”

  1. Janice Says:

    What a career you have had. My cousin is a teacher and the same thing happens to her. Whenever we are out and about people come up to her and tell her they were in her Kindergarten class 20+ years ago. I always wished I was a teacher. Treasure the career you have had and the lives you have touched.

  2. Mary Ellen Says:

    What a great career.
    Just think of all the kids who learned to love school because of those frozen bananas and learning adventures! That’s exactly what I would want for my girls.

  3. Donna Says:

    You told me when my sweetie was in your kindie class that she would always be at the top of her class. I have never forgotten that. She is an honor student. It was as good for us as parents to have that affirmation as it was for her to be in your class. Thanks.


  4. Wow..incredible carreer..i am studying teaching at the moment, i only hope to touch as many lives


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