glamping teaching

Not quite ready to die. . .not just yet!

A student once asked me if I wanted to die.

“Pardon me?”  I looked up from my desk where I was grading papers to see him standing in front of me.
“Do you want to die?” he repeated.
“Is that a threat or a rhetorical question?”
“I’m just asking because you’re older and you couldn’t possibly have as much fun as you did when you were young like us.”
“Oh, really.  (Insert name here), you will be surprised to know that I have more fun now than I ever did when I was your age.”
And that’s the truth.  Just check out these photos. . .
Barbie Bash Birthday Camp Out
Silly me as Junk Gypsy Barbie
Two friends as Surgeon Barbie and Sleepytime Barbie
Fall Festival Camp Out
Several of us attending a local fall festival.  That’s me on the right.
One of the attractions was a performing pig!
Me and my dollhouse!
Mardi Gras Camp Out
My Mardi Gras costume!
Me with a friend and a jester found at a thrift store!
Me with Dixie, our fearless leader!  Love her purple wig!
Some of my glamping decor. . .

Luck o’ the Irish Camp Out

All the petticoats line up for a photo.
Me in the center with two wonderful new friends.
Ready for the celebration.
Who says middle-aged adults can’t have fun?  Girls still just want to have fun, even at our age.  At our monthly campouts we get to dress up in costume, and we get to decorate our dollhouses (campers).  
What do you do for fun?  Teenagers haven’t cornered the market.  Fun can be had at all ages.
Memoirs teaching

Out of the blue. . .

I’m minding my own business, doing my weekly grocery, etc. shopping at our hometown big box discount store.  I pass the sporting goods department where my husband is perusing hunting supplies when I meet a nice-looking man who nods and says hello.  Thinking he is more friendly than most, I nod and say hello and give my shopping cart–buggy, in these parts–a little push when he says, “You’re Mrs. Coker, aren’t you?  You don’t recognize me.”

At that moment I realize–the “Mrs. Coker” is always a dead giveaway–that he must be a former student.  I ask him his name and he proceeds to tell me how he had me as his science teacher over 30 years ago, and I was and still am one of his favorite teachers.  Wow.

My first year teaching high school yearbook.

Another affirmation of the career I left three and a half years ago, and somehow can’t seem to speak positively about.  How in the world can I not believe in my career choice when I have been so blessed to have so many former students who still insist that I was one of their favorite teachers?  And still others who chose to become teachers because of the example I set as their teacher?  What a privilege and honor it is to realize what an influential part I have played in so many lives!

I always felt I learned more from my students than they learned from me.  This day, the day I met Steve again after 30 years, I learned something else.  I learned that the career I chose is nothing to complain about, to be ashamed of, to denigrate, or to discourage young people from pursuing.  I learned again what a holy calling it was and still is.  God keeps showing me, even in retirement, how His purpose was fulfilled through my obedience to His calling to become a teacher.

Me as a tender young first-year teacher back in 1983.

So I am proud that I spent my working years as a public school teacher.  I am proud of each life I touched, and not only the ones who are easy to remember because they misbehaved or were very outspoken, but the quiet ones like Steve, who I didn’t even realize was watching me so very closely as a young teacher just starting out.  

Message left on my eraser board by my fun and crazy seniors the year I retired.

I am so grateful that he saw me and spoke to me.  What a blessing I would have missed if he hadn’t!  

How about you?  Do you remember a favorite teacher?  Waste no time in letting them know what they mean to you.


miranda lambert teaching writing

Small Town, Big Impact

“Everybody dies famous in a small town,” sings Miranda Lambert in her hit tune.  Small towns dot the landscape of Texas and every other state, and rarely get the attention they deserve.  You won’t hear names like Van, Lindale, Mineola, Gladewater, Big Sandy, Mabank, etc. as often as you hear Dallas, Houston, and Austin, but those small communities are every bit as important as those big cities.  Even more so.  After all, Miranda Lambert herself hails from the small East Texas town of Lindale, Texas, population 5000, more or less, “population plus one minus one,” as she sings.
It is the small town that forms the backbone of America, safeguarding the values and mores of our society.  It is where city people go home for the holidays or move to retire from their bustling city lives.  Being from a small town is a big deal these days; small town folks are proud of their roots, thanks to celebrities who sing the praises of the towns they grew up in.
Like Kacey Musgraves, who grew up in Golden, Texas, and went to public school in nearby Mineola.  LeeAnn Womack and Neal McCoy hail from Jacksonville, Texas.  Blake Shelton is from Ava, Oklahoma.  Sissy Spacek grew up in Quitman, Texas, while Tommy Lee Jones was born in San Saba, Texas.  Former President Bill Clinton was from Hope, Arkansas.  The list goes on and on and on.  There’s something about a small town that breeds greatness in some people.
I saw it here in East Texas a couple of Saturday nights ago in Gladewater.  Founded in 1873 at the intersection of state highways 80 and 271 by the Texas and Pacific Railway Company, Gladewater experienced a population boom when oil production began in the 1930’s, growing from about 500 to over 8000.  After the oil boom the population decreased to between 4000 and 6000, where it remains today.  Lumber, agriculture and a thriving antiques business have made the town what it is.  The people of Gladewater are a dedicated bunch, obvious Saturday night during their annual downtown Holiday Open House.
Lola Beth May, an antiques store owner and camping friend of mine, invited me to set up a book signing in her store Saturday night.  I agreed, not really expecting much in the way of sales, but wanting to spend time with my new friends in her store.  I was not prepared for what I witnessed.
As I drove into the downtown area, I was greeted by festive lights and bundled up pedestrians crowding the sidewalks of historic buildings.  I turned down the side street where The Screen Door Antique Mall is located, and wondered if I would be able to find a place to park.  The street was packed!
After I set up my table with my book display in the front of the antique store, I greeted visitor after visitor who dropped in to shop or just to say hello to the shop owners and taste Lola Beth’s homemade potato soup.  I was surprised and honored to sell several books to folks who wanted to support a local author with their pocketbooks.
Lola Beth May and her (and my) friend Marilyn Johnston.  Love them both!
Other small towns could learn from Gladewater’s annual Holiday Open House.  What a wonderful way to promote small businesses and foster community spirit!  Hosting the event into the evening lends a magical atmosphere with all the lights and gives families a fun night out.  Being situated on a busy railroad provided a thrill to children and adults alike every time a train barreled through, blasting its familiar horn.  Carriage rides and a giant Christmas inflatable provided photo opportunities as well.  Lola Beth even had a lighted Christmas village set up in one of her front windows, allowing me to witness the wonder of small children who passed by.
Thank you, Gladewater, for your welcoming spirit and wonderful support.  Thank you, Lola Beth and Mark May, for welcoming me into your store and your hearts.  I look forward to getting to do it again!
That’s me at my table!  Photo by Lola!
What about you?  Do you hail from a small town?  Please share!
Life teaching

Please forgive me, Neil. . .

When I was working full-time, it always seemed that getting up and going on Tuesday was much harder than it was on Monday.  Maybe it was because the adrenaline required to get everybody to school and me back to work had run out by Tuesday?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that tomorrow is the second day of school for many people, and if not, then this is still the first week of school.
This adaptation of the 1975 Neil Sedaka hit, “Breaking Up is Hard to Do,” is dedicated to all the educators and students out there.  We won’t mention how old you may have to be to know the tune. 
Just Google it, okay?
“Waking up is hard to do.
Don’t take this bed away from me
And make me get up in misery.
If you do, then I’ll be blue.
‘Cause waking up is hard to do.
Remember when you said goodnight
And you tucked me in for the night?
Can’t think of all that I must do.
Waking up is hard to do.
I say that waking up is hard to do.
Now you know, you know that it’s true.
Don’t say my sleeping has to end.
Instead of waking up I wish that I was turning in again.
I beg of you, don’t make me greet the day.
Can’t we come up with some other way?
Come on, baby, it’s not you.
Waking up is just hard to do!”
Hang in there, my back-to-school friends. . .only 35 weeks to go!  And my apologies to Neil. . .
miranda lambert teaching

For My Girl Miranda

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have heard about Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton’s divorce after only four years of marriage.  As one of Miranda’s former high school teachers and one of the two teachers she chose for the Teachers Count poster campaign and invited to the sold-out Nashville Rising flood relief concert and her private engagement party in 2010, I have been asked several times about my reaction to the news.
That’s me on Miranda’s left.
Like everyone else, I couldn’t believe it at first.  I had hoped their relationship was different from the usual celebrity marriage.  I know her parents, who have had a solid marriage for over thirty years, and I know that Miranda’s expectations were to have a similar relationship to theirs.
Me and Miranda at the Texas State Fair in 2009.
 But the pressures on celebrities must be great, and even greater for celebrity couples, especially if both are superstars who have responsibilities and appearances that keep them apart for weeks on end.
Me and Miranda before one of her concerts at Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth.
I’m not surprised, but I have to admit that I am disappointed.  I had hoped Blake and Miranda would prove the doubters wrong, that others could look to them as an example of true love and commitment as their marriage endured, and as they rose above the chaos, criticisms, and challenges of their careers.
My son Matt and I after her first concert at Billy Bob’s Texas.
Miranda with another one of my students in my classroom in 2002.
Miranda with Blake at Cause for the Paws in Tyler, Texas.
But no matter.  I still love you, Miranda.  I love your music, which I will continue to listen to and purchase, although many of the songs are bittersweet now. But how much more difficult are they for you as you must continue to sing them night after night?  I am still very proud of you and the way you have handled yourself under the microscope of public life.  I pray for your happiness and continued success, and I am confident that you will get through this and become stronger than ever.  Of course and as always, I am here for you if you ever need me.
“Mama, I’m okay out here, I’ve seen how hard the world can be.  My step is sure and I know my name.  I’m strong just like you prayed I’d be.  I’m strong just like you prayed I’d be.”  from Miranda’s Kerosene album