Categories
Memoirs

Back to school

Those three words used to create dread and excitement when I was an elementary school student. I dreaded things like getting up early, riding the bus, being in P.E., having to get to know new teachers, wondering which of my friends would be in my class, eating in the school cafeteria. Few things about the start of school were exciting, but I did (and still do!) love shopping the new school supplies, getting new clothes, and seeing my friends again.

Summer vacation meant sleeping in and waking up to Mama sweeping the floor. It meant morning cartoons on TV and riding my bike or playing in the dirt pile until it got too hot in the afternoon. It meant my sisters and me running lemonade stands stocked with Koolaid and only having one customer and that was the man who came home with Daddy at lunchtime. It meant Vacation Bible School and getting to hold the Bible during the pledge to “God’s Holy Word.”

Summer meant getting to skip a nightly bath occasionally even after playing outside until dark. It meant fireflies and family “work up” baseball in the yard. It meant trips to the lake and family vacations staying in state park shelters and visiting relatives.

But summers didn’t last forever. So, armed with a new Big Chief tablet or loose leaf notebook, new pencils or pens, crayons or map colors, and a King Edward cigar box to hold everything, I entered the brave new world of the next grade.

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I can still smell the new crayons and the janitor’s cleaning solutions. Close your eyes. Can you?

God bless the teachers, staff, and students as they enter the brave new world of school with Covid-19. May they all stay safe and well!

XOXO

Categories
Life teaching

Why I’m Happy School is Starting Again

Ah, back-to-school time.  That season of the year when store shelves are brimming with shiny new pens, markers, notebooks, and lunch boxes, and clothing racks are stuffed with fashions for going back to school.  Parents groan because of the expense of equipping the kids with everything required for the new school year–but those shoes fit in May!  Kids groan because their summer is too short, and the reminders start in July with back-to-school sales–can’t they at least wait until August?  Teachers groan because their summer is too short–wait, I need more time off!

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The rest of the world–civilians as I used to call them–gives a sigh of relief that life will finally settle into a familiar routine of the kids being off the streets, out of the shopping centers, and in the schools for at least eight hours a day.  Sorry, teachers, I feel your pain.  After all, I was one for 30 years myself.
That is the number one reason I’m happy that school is starting. . .
1.  I’m retired!  I don’t have to worry about endless staff development meetings when I would rather be in my classroom preparing for the first day of school.  I don’t have to spend money buying extra school supplies for the students in my classes who won’t have them.  I don’t have to wonder when I’ll find the time to prepare my lessons, grade papers, schedule meetings, call parents, and worry about ARDs, LEPs, IEPs, STARR, ADA, AEIS, RTI, TEKS, TELPAS, STEM, BS, and CRAZY!
2.  Fall is around the corner.  Sayonara, summer, with your 100-degree temperatures (I shouldn’t complain–we’ve only had one day of those so far this year!). . .bring on those dead leaves, pumpkin spice lattes, boots, and sweaters!

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3.  I can go to the store during the day and every aisle won’t be filled with parents and children getting in the way. . .IF I go before 3:00 p.m.
4.  I won’t have to compete for doctor and dental appointments with teachers and students.  I’ll be able to get an appointment for whenever I need it. . .maybe.
5.  Those school facilities I pay enormous taxes on will again be in use.  (How many times did I hear this when I was teaching?  Ugh.)
6.  Tax-free weekend happens in August (at least here in Texas), and you don’t have to be a teacher or student to buy clothes or supplies minus the sales tax.  But it’s crowded!

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7.   Back-to-school shopping means a sneak peak at the new fall fashions. 
8.  After the back-to-school season comes Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, the good, better, and best parts of the whole year.
Those are the reasons I am glad school is starting back up again.  I’ve always been happy to see school start, ever since I was old enough to start getting new clothes and school supplies.   I guess I have teaching in my blood.
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What about you?  Is back-to-school a good thing for you?
Categories
teaching

10 Things Your Child’s High School Teacher Wants You to Know

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Kids are back in school, and so are teachers and administrators.  As a retired teacher with 30 years of teaching under my belt, I thought I would share a few things.  Today I am talking to parents of high schoolers.

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1.  I may have up to 180 students to keep up with.  Unlike lower grades, there is no size cap on my classes.  I can have as many as 35 to 40 students in one class, which makes it difficult to monitor the behavior and work of each student all the time, although I do my best to do just that.


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2.  My work day begins way before students arrive and ends way after they leave.  I arrive up to an hour early each day in order to prepare my lessons and classroom for the day’s activities.  I may need to run copies and the earlier I can grab a copy machine, the better.  I also have to prepare and deliver lessons for students who are out of my classroom for the day, like those who are in in-school suspension or behavior adjustment classes.  After school I have tutoring or duty or I sponsor an extracurricular activity that may last well into the evening.  Then I have my own family to care for when I get home.

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3.  There is much more to do during my 45-minute conference period than I can physically accomplish.  Often staff development meetings are scheduled during this time.  My to-do list rarely gets completed and may include the following tasks:
  • call parents about behavior and/or grades;
  • consult with other teachers;
  • check and gather supplies;
  • prepare activities;
  • meet with administrators;
  • write lesson plans;
  • prepare power point presentations;
  • record grades;
  • prepare progress reports;
  • learn new technology;
  • fill out paperwork on special needs students;
  • attend meetings;
  • read and answer emails;
  • grade papers;
  • etc.
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4.  I would love for you to be a fly on the wall or peek into my classroom door window to see how your child is behaving during class, especially if I have contacted you about his or her behavior.  Most parents have no idea how their children behave at school, and they tend to believe what their children tell them, rather than what their teachers tell them. Many parents would be embarrassed at the behavior of their children.

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5.  Just because you send supplies with your child doesn’t mean he or she will make it to school or my class with them.  I can’t tell you how many pencils, pens, and sheets of paper I have given to students who show up to class without them.  I have tried everything I can think of to help them be more responsible, such as making them pay for supplies, making them trade personal items, sending notes home, etc.  Holding their personal items in exchange for supplies seems to work the best.

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6.  I can give a student a pencil every single day and he continues to come to my class without a pencil!  One day I got so frustrated I emptied an entire box of pencils on his desk and told him that he now had enough to last for awhile.  Did it work?  It made me feel better, but he still came the next day without a pencil!


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7.  I don’t hate your child or anyone else’s. Teenagers love drama and they will tell their parents that the reason they are failing or have detention (or whatever) is because the teacher hates them.  Don’t fall for it.

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8.  I would protect your child with my own life if it came to that.  The news media is continually amazed that teachers will put themselves in harm’s way to protect their students from gunmen or storms or whatever.  I know of no teacher I ever taught with who wouldn’t do the same thing.  Your children become our children when they enter our schools and classrooms.

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9.  I spend my own money on student supplies, classroom supplies, and decor.  If activities require scissors and glue sticks and journal notebooks, I will purchase them myself to make sure every student has them.  I decorate my classroom to make it a welcoming and comfortable place for me and my students, and I spend my own money and time to do so.  There is no money in the school’s budget for decor and very little for supplies.

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10.  I did not choose teaching as a last resort.  I chose teaching because I wanted to  be a teacher.  I wanted to be a positive influence on the world, and even though it is frustrating, maddening, exhausting, and draining, it is the most rewarding career I could have chosen.  I am proud to be a teacher. 

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It may be cheesy, but it is oh, so true.

XOXO
Categories
Uncategorized

Teacher Tuesday: Classroom Prep

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It’s August and “back to school” season in stores and on school campuses.  School buildings have sat almost dormant all summer–except for summer school–allowing custodians to do heavy cleaning, maintenance to rebuild and repair, and administrators to catch up and plan for the coming year.  Summers are all too short for educators for whom the end of May was slow coming.  

But it is weird because after a couple of months off (if you don’t count the workshops and staff development), most teachers will tell you that they wish the summer was longer, while secretly their heartbeats quicken at all the new school supplies beginning to line store shelves.  I believe that is the mark of a truly dedicated teacher, that renewed enthusiasm that returns every August.

There is nothing quite as exciting as seeing all those new notebooks, lunch totes, writing utensils, and assorted gadgets.  As soon as those shelves begin filling up in my local Walmart, my shopping cart (or as we call it in Texas, my buggy) heads that way as if it has a mind of its own.  As a teacher, I HAVE to see what’s new and what I MUST have for my classroom and students!  Can I get a hearty “Amen!” on that?

This year is slightly different, though.  I retired in May so I have no classroom to fix up and no supplies to buy.  It’s not as sad as I expected, though.  I am saving money I didn’t realize I usually spent!  I will still peruse the merchandise and, against my husband’s wishes, I will put a few things in my buggy to place into the store’s school supply donation box. But I will not be sad!

Just for old time’s sake, though, here are some photos of my last classroom, my science classroom from last August (please excuse the phone photos). . .

Of course, things didn’t remain so neat and tidy, and I added things to the top of the shelf unit in the back, as well as more stuff to the walls.  Since I knew that retirement might be an option at the end of the year, I tried not to accumulate too much, but I still ended up with more than I intended.  Such is the life of a teacher/junker/decorator!

Have fun, all you educators out there, shopping, spending your OWN money (we ALL do it), and anxiously preparing for the first day of school.  It’s a new year, a new start, and a new opportunity to impact a child’s life.  It’s a calling.  
You must answer that call.  Godspeed. . .
Ap ril  xoxo