Posted tagged ‘Teaching’

The Year Begins…..five years later

January 2, 2012

This blog entered the world on January 2nd, 2007. Its amazing how things have changed….or not.

There are many thoughts on my mind as the year 2012 begins. It’s January 2, 2012 and 9:13 am. My teenagers are still sleeping in their rooms and will probably not emerge until noon. What project should I start the new school semester with. Is Dad eating and drinking today. Osama Bin Laden is dead. The war lingers but our troops are heading home….from Iraq. The fact that we still have troops in other locations troubles me tremendously. Australia. Really? I should probably finish this last fanfiction soon. Is Dad eating and drinking today. Distance sucks. Is there bacon in the freezer. Should I put another new book on my Kindle. How long will it take to put the Christmas decorations away. Why did Hersey have to invent the Cherry Cordial Kiss. Are we really ready to be hit with the pendng college registration fees. Is Dad eating and drinking today. Should I tell anyone that its venison in the crockpot. Do we seriously need three laptops. Will she be ready to actually play in her soccer game. Is there any money in my checking account. How many loads of laundry will I have to do. Is Dad eating and drinking today. Is it ever going to actually snow around here. So many movies….so little desire. Back to school tomorrow. Sigh. Petty and important stuff from my world to yours. Happy New Year.

A Little Prayer Moment

March 22, 2010

It’s Spring…….and I teach in an elementary school. 

 ‘Nuff said.

Our lack of a Winter Break has taxed us to the max.  Kids have been raring to bust out of their snow pants and mittens and hats for weeks.  If only their energy level could be collected and bottled.

  I believe we would be on Mars by now.

Every time I pass a Teacher in the hall or the workroom or the lunchroom, we roll our eyes and carry on.

But I….honestly….have a little secret.

Every morning, I sit in my car in the parking lot and say a little prayer.  I pray for a good day.  I pray that my children will be inspired to do their best and to make choices and have actions that will reflect their love of God.  I pray for my sister and her family and the trials they are dealing with in their southern home.  I pray for my parents and their life in an even more southern home.  I pray that my husband will find something constructive and healthy to do with his day while he is laid off.  I pray for the new home we are trying to find.  I pray for my colleagues and their students to make the most of their ‘learning day.’  I pray for myself.

To have patience.

To teach something worthy.

To make my students feel good about themselves and what they can do.

To make my friends feel good about what THEY do.

And then I walk inside and face the day.

With a smile.

And a sense of peace.

And it works.

I mean, who says that God can’t come to school?

I gave them a choice…..

April 20, 2009





Once in a while – in my line of work – something just comes along to tickle your funny bone.  It was a drab and rainy Monday morning today.  I had three classes of second graders before lunch and it was time to do a report card assessment piece.  They were to create a poster using Microsoft Word.  They were directed to finish a sentence, center the text, change and enlarge the font, add their name in a smaller font, insert, center and resize a picture.  They could use color and/or Word Art if they chose.  They were to print their work and save a copy to their files.  Their ability to do those things were all I cared about.  Spelling and subject matter was not really an issue.  Spell checking is our next BIG lesson anyway. 

I gave them a choice.    The sentence they were to finish was a toss up between ‘It is important to RECYCLE because…’ or ‘It is important to Save Animals because….’ 

I had 78 papers to grade.   I wanted to do them quickly because the four 4th grade classes in the afternoon had a more involved project that would need grading.  Sooo….I was flipping through papers, checking off the five things I was assessing when I came across the work of a sweet little blue eyed blonde.  Stopped my green marker (it’s an Earth Day project after all) in it’s tracks and drew a gut busting chuckle.

“It’s important to

Save Animals

because if we don’t they will all

dye and We WilL have to be




The Woodwork

March 1, 2009

     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.


Sixth Grade


Second Grade.

Latch Key


First Grade



     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.[

Loving My Internet Connections

February 5, 2009

Yesterday was a good day. 

As a part time Teacher, I have one day a week off.  I chose Tuesday.  It was an odd choice, I know, but it has actually turned out to be the best day.  It’s a quiet day when everyone else in the family is off doing their thing and I can concentrate on what needs to be done.   I can do laundry, grocery shop, fill my freezer (which is what I did yesterday…fodder for a future post), hit the multiplex for a matinee no one else wants to see, schedule appointments, sew, bake, work on lesson plans, etc.  Tuesday is a good day for me.  And yesterday was better than most.

You see, as an elementary Technology Teacher I must spend my days cautioning children from Kindergarten to fifth grade about internet use.  I must strictly caution them about high tech ‘stranger dangers’ and the flashing availability of ‘inappropriate’ web sites.   I have to restrict their use of easier, faster seach engines because of those web sites.  I have to restrain their natural curiosities – which only serves to whet their appetites – in the interest of ‘internet safety.’   I want my students to be responsible but I also want them to be fearless with the internet.  I teach them the required curriculum….but I don’t have to follow my own instructions.  I am an adult.  Yay!

The internet – and it’s websites  – has been a very lucky thing for me.  And the reason why yesterday was such a good day for me. 

First thing in the morning I logged in to check on some of the blogs that I follow on a regular basis.  I checked out my friend Mary’s blog, The Eleventh, and it put a smile on my face for the entire day.  Mary and I connnected about a year and a half ago because we are Bloggers who are raising daughters with a similar history.  I love reading about Mary and her little Rabbit.  Oops.  I am smiling again.  Then, on a whim, I checked another friend’s blog.  D left barely a week ago for a study abroad semester in Croatia. Our friendship has evolved from fan fiction writing critiques to occasional texting and fandom sharing.  She is young, has the same issues I do with writing implements (I never took an exam or did homework without a clutch of freshly sharpened #2 s on hand…unless you want to count the period when I could only write anything functional with red ink on a yellow legal pad…heh), has a biting sense of humor…and , as she was leaving for Europe, sent me one of her three copies of the recent  ‘Improper Bostonian’ with Maura Tierney on the front cover.  Totally made my day.  Yay!  D has internet service in her host home after all.  Now I can live vicariously through her adventures in Zagreb.

Later in the morning I had a FaceBook chat with another friend – the mom of my daughter’s Kindergarten best friend.  As hard as we tried to keep it, THEIR friendship went by the wayside of different interests and different schools.  But ours didn’t.  We maintain contact through e-mails and a rare phone call. ….and now Face Book, via the internet.  Yesterday we compared ‘notes’ about using cilantro in our recipes and my love affair with canned green chilis.  I slipped a note onto the wall of another ‘friend’, comparing our interest in an actor she has recently worked with.  I also answered a lengthy email with a friend in New York City.  We met on line at an “ER” message board THREE years ago.  Our friendship has evolved way beyond our interest in ‘ER.’  So much so that when I ran away from home last fall to see Maura Tierney in ‘Three Changes’, my friend bought tickets for the same performance and took me out for dinner beforehand.  Our first face to face meeting after two years of emailing each other.  It’s the kind of thing that can make or break an on line long distance friendship.  But our friendship continues.  We live very, very different kind of lives and continue to enjoy hearing what they other is doing….and thinks. 

I sent a long, newsy email to my Mom in Florida.  We hadn’t connected by phone is a while and I enjoy writing when I know she can get it in the same day.  I answered notes that had been sent to me through my work email system from the comfort of my home computer desk.  I checked my bank account and transferred money into a woefully low checking account from the same spot.  I logged into Compassion International to see if there was any news about about the little boy we sponsor in the Dominican Republic.  I opened one of my favorite blogs for recipes, The Pioneer Woman, to doublecheck  something I was planning for dinner.  And I checked in with my friend, Pam, another blogger with whom I share step-parenting issues with.   I checked in on Mary Ellen’s blog….about her adventures with her three little girls that I totally want for my very own.  Seriously.

Later in the day I received an email from a blogger friend with a job I envy.  He and Liz are sending me something…and ‘ER’ surprise.   Needed my snail mail address.  I am very intrigued and very, very suspicious of these two.  : )  I love their wit, their sense of humor and his love of all things Disneyland.  A ‘surprise’?  That one is going to keep me thinking for a while.  I shared that with my sister in South Carolina via an ‘instant message.’  And my last internet task of the day… set up another taping of my cable show with the director of the school district’s television studio.  It’s an afternoon ‘shoot’ on the 24th.  I love television production talk.  And I love working out the logistics via emails.

So after a day’s worth of internet and web activities I am still smiling.  And preparing to go back to school and caution my students about the ‘dangers’ of the internet and being responsible.

Naw.  I think we will ‘play’ today.  There is and and to contend with.

Thanks to the internet.

The Gold Star

January 29, 2009

     It was one of those interviews where you knew a line was being walked.  I had been laid off for two years and now recalled to an elementary school teaching position.  I was being interviewed by an unfamiliar principal.  A principal that I had been warned was not always up front with her feelings and views.  A principal who had been around for a good long while.  A principal who was very hung up on the fact that I have a hearing impairment.

     How did I feel that I could be a good role model in teaching Kindergarteners about letter sounds when I had a speech impediment?  Speech impediment?  And she asked it with a very pronounced lisp herself.  I remember being told by the personnel director that I would be working for her and telling him that she very nearly crossed the line with regard to handicap harassment by an employer.  It wasn’t something that I generally had concerns about but this one threw up a red flag.  He said not to worry but to make sure I keep in close contact with him in regards to the matter.  

    And so I began my Kindergarten Teaching career.  I was a nervous wreck….but not for long.   Once she saw how I taught and I saw how she appreciated creative approaches, everything was fine.  She would come into your classroom, unannounced, sit in the back and watch, leaving a handwritten note on some kind of interesting note paper and then quietly leave.  When it came time to read your professional evaluation, bits and pieces of those observations were always included.  And I still have all of those notes. 

She would bring total strangers, prospective  parents etc. into your classroom unannounced as well.  I remember once I had reeled out a long piece of butcher paper and my Kindys were stepping in paint and walking the length of it as part of a Language Arts project.  I was mortified at the mess we were making and flustered and blustered my way through the conversation.  She thought it was hilarious and sang my praises to the people she was with.  One time – on ‘W’ day – I had real worms, rubber worms and gummy worms in various activities around the room.   She stuck around for most of the morning on that day just to see what the heck else I was going to do with a worm.  Her note said that my ‘W Day’ activities were ‘Wierd’ and ‘Wonderful.’

She never failed to make me feel like I was being given a big gold star for my work.  At least that was true if she liked you.  There were lots that couldn’t deal with her.  But I, fortunately, had become one of her favorite teachers.  She said so…all the time.

She was only my administrator for two and a half years.  She retired mid year and moved out of state.  She never really tried to keep in touch much.  And for some odd reason she had given me a small metal frog before she left.  Not sure why.  I still have it.  Kept it on my desk for years and years.  And today I thought about it alot.

     Julie Sajo died this week….somewhere in Kansas after a lengthy illness.  She gave me a priceless gift when I needed it the most.  She gave me acceptance and pride and permission to be ‘wierd’ and ‘wonderful’ in my classroom…something I hope I have never lost.

4th Graders….gotta love ’em

January 6, 2009

Because of the way another ‘specials’ teacher handled the report card madness last year, we have new guidelines.  Every grade on the specials report card needs to be backed up by TWO assessment grades.  Official assessments.  And that’s a little daunting when you have SO. MANY. STUDENTS.  Count ’em up.  723 now.  For 45 minute sessions.  Once a week.  Heh.

Anyway, a handful of my students neglected to save their various technology projects and when I started working on their assessments from their saved work (a skill I also needed to assess), there was nothing there.  Hence their report cards reflected that.

Unhappiness abounded.  Emails from parents were exchanged.  One, in particular, I was especially concerned about.  I KNOW the kid was a good student.  I KNOW the kid could do what was assigned.  He was bright and VERY excited about what we were doing in technology.  I had seen his work.  He had taken home printed versions.  But they weren”t in his saved folder.  By all reports he was very disappointed in his grade.  His self esteem had taken quite a hit.  And that’s hard to deal with when it happens to one of your favorites.   I didn’t see him in class  again after report cards were sent home.

Knowing how upset he was, I worried about what his demeanor would be when we returned from our two week holiday break.  I thought about it often myself.   Stressed about it actually.  Wondered how to get him rolling again.  Wondered if his interest in my class would be sustained.  Wondered if the excitement would still be there.  But I needn’t have worried.

Three classes of 4th graders filed through my computer lab this afternoon.  Each student set up a four page power point project.  We added a title and a background, inserted a picture and a question about the picture….created both a positive and negative response slide and then….wonder of wonders….we learned how to add an ‘action button’ to make it an interactive project.  Holy cow!  It was the coolest thing ever!  Excitement was burbling from every single computer station.  I love a lesson like that!   We just had to applaud because everyone’s first action button worked….just as it was supposed to. 

And then we ran out of time.  Had to save those projects to finish next time.  I warned them all.  Told them the new rule in the Tech Lab was to save everything.  I glanced over at my buddy when I said that.  Got a sheepish, cockeyed grin and a knowing nod of  a tow head as his eyes met mine and then he punched all the right keys to save the project.  Everything was just fine.

Amazing how forgiving a 4th grader can be. 

Just gotta love ’em…..

Used To Be

November 25, 2008

Used to be that my family would run and hide when they saw me coming with all the papers and records and stickers and pens that meant it was report card time.  Imaginary tails tucked between their legs they would huddle together and slink away when I was holed up with my records and files during report card time.


Used to be that I would have to spend DAYS pressing through four layers of carbonless sheets that measured 18 X 24 to  record fluctuating assessments for each my Kindergarten or first grade students.


Used to be that I would have to spend hours agonizing over comments to fill the little box for them on each report card.  Then I got ‘smart’ and discovered full sheet sticker paper for my computer!  Type ’em up, print them, save them, cut them apart and stick ’em on.  Progress!


Used to be that I was recording assessments for forty five or so students….two sections of Kindergarten.  I taught 25 – 28 first graders each year for five years and then went part time with 26 Kindergarteners – just one section – again. 


Last year I became a Technnology Teacher.  I see my students for 45 minutes, once a week.   Each report card has 5-6 items to be assessed during the course of the year.  There are 24 – 28 in each class.  Times that by twenty sections of second through fifth graders whose report cards must be graded….twice.  That’s 520 report cards that I have to mark….twice.  And that doesn’t count the eight sections of Kindergarten and first graders that do not have technology requirements for their report cards but DO have a required  curriculumn to follow.  That’s 712 students that pass through my lab every week.


Used to be that I didn’t feel I really needed to get  flu shot in the fall.