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Life Memoirs school teaching writing

Fifth Grade Follies

It was in the fifth grade that I began writing stories. I don’t recall exactly what I wrote but I shared my work with friends, and at one time, my teacher. Any feedback they might have given me is not in my memory banks, so maybe it wasn’t that good? I don’t know. I do know that I began to consider myself a writer at that age.

That is when I discovered the book Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. I must have checked it out of the school library a dozen times. I identified with little Harriet, although I didn’t consider myself a spy. She spied on people, even sneaked into their homes, to gather information to write about, until one of her schoolmates stole her notebook. It was devastating to have her innermost thoughts and feelings revealed to the world. I was very careful about what I wrote in my own notebook, and the only spying I did was on my family. But the book got me writing.

Fifth grade was still a part of J.E. Rhodes Elementary but our classes were separated from the younger grades. I changed classes for math and reading, probably, I don’t recall. My granddaughter attends J.E. Rhodes Elementary now, although not in the same building. The original building was destroyed by a tornado several years ago, so she goes to school in my old high school building. Of course, it’s all been renovated so it is unrecognizable as the old high school. I just attended her kindergarten graduation in the auditorium that I graduated in 45 years ago! How can that be? At least it’s air-conditioned now!

One memory I have that stands out is one time when we were in class sitting in desks that had been pushed together to make a large group. It was after lunch and I had been bitten by the witty bug and couldn’t keep my mouth closed in my efforts to entertain my classmates. Mrs. Pittman jumped all over me, telling me in front of the class how disappointed she was in my behavior. I’m telling you that stopped it once and for all. I was so ashamed of myself I wished I could disappear. I wish it was that easy to make kids behave today.

Fifth grade. The cusp of preteen-hood. Not quite a baby, not quite a teen, still a kid, but a big one. Next time: a visit to Neiman Marcus for an embarrassing visit with Santa.

My fifth grade school picture.
The pixie haircut grew out!

Do you have any standout memories of fifth grade? Do tell!

XOXO

Categories
Life Memoirs school teaching

Another 4th Grade Thing

I thought I had pretty much exhausted my memories of fourth grade but something came to mind the other day that I feel should be documented for my kids and grandkids if they care to read about it some day. It happened one day in my fourth grade P.E. class in the multipurpose room at J.E. Rhodes Elementary.

We girls were sitting in our assigned spaces on the gym floor when the gym teacher, or P.E. teacher as we called her, asked me to follow her into the dressing room, or locker room. Of course, any time a teacher, especially a coach, singles you out in front of everyone else, the anxiety ticks up some. For me, it ticked up a lot. I had no clue what she wanted. Was I in trouble?

“Nunn, follow me.” She always called her students by their last names. I guess that’s a common practice for coaches. At the age of nine I found it intimidating.

She stood me in front of a mirror in the quiet dressing room. At least there was no one else in there. “Look at you,” she said.

I did. I saw what I saw every day when I looked in the mirror: a pimply-faced average-sized kid on the brink of puberty.

“Your skin,” she said. “Are you washing your face every day?”

I was mortified. I wanted to disappear. I wanted to run and hide. I wanted my mama. I wanted to be anywhere but where I was. I’m sure my face went red as fire. I don’t remember. Or maybe it went white. Who knows?

“Yes, every morning and every night,” I managed to reply.

I don’t remember what else she said, but I do remember that she told me to ask my mother to get some Phisohex to wash my face with. She said that I was too young to have problem skin.

I know she probably meant well, but what she did was shame me. As if my skin weren’t already a source of embarrassment, she made sure I would be self-conscious about it for the rest of fourth grade, on up through high school, and in fact, for the rest of my life.

My mother bought me the Phisohex soap, had me start wearing makeup foundation, changed my diet, and tried everything she and I together could come up with. I eventually had to accept my acne, manage it as best I could, and accept the scarring it left. Perhaps my parents with their limited budget could have taken me to a dermatologist, but I’m not sure there was much that could be done about it in the early 70’s.

I did learn what an enormous impact a teacher can have on a student. I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten over that traumatic day in the dressing room. Did she have the right to do what she did? I suppose she thought she did. Do I wish she had approached the matter with more sensitivity, perhaps contacted my parents first? Absolutely.

But I accepted what she said, swallowed my shame and mortification, and returned to the gym to do jumping jacks, run, or play dodgeball, or whatever she had planned for that day. As if nothing had happened. . .

I must add a postscript. I grew up and became a contributing member of society. I taught school for thirty years, raised two children into responsible, caring, and giving adults, taught Sunday School classes, wrote two novels and many articles and blog posts, and am now tutoring kids in English, writing, and math. I didn’t let that incident, which was earth-shattering at the time, ruin my life. It is what it is, and I’m a firm believer that God uses life events to shape us into what He wants us to become. What about you? What hardship has helped make you into who you are?

Blessings to you!

XOXO

Fourth grade me. The acne hadn’t shown up yet.
Categories
Being a Grandparent school

School on my mind

Today I dropped my beautiful grandson off at his elementary school for the first time ever. My heart swelled as he instructed me where to stop and let him out and as I watched him walk with the other children to the front doors of the school. His backpack secure on his back, wearing new Nike shoes and a new outfit from Gap, he seemed ready to take on the world.

Yesterday I asked him what his favorite part of school was. He replied, “I don’t know.” “So you like everything?” I asked. “Yes!” You can’t get better than that. I hope that positive attitude stays with him. I pray it does. I pray he always has today’s confidence and spirit. As a former teacher, I pray he carries that love of learning and being with friends throughout his life.

Today was my precious granddaughter’s first day of school, her first day of kindergarten. She doesn’t attend the same school as my grandson does, and I wasn’t able to be there, but her mom and dad and little sister dropped her off this morning. I wasn’t needed anyway. I did receive photos of her wearing the new outfit I bought her that said “Ready to rock kindergarten.” She posed proudly with her new lunch box and backpack, and later I saw a photo of her sitting in her classroom talking with her teacher. I pray today will be a good one for her, and that she will love school like her cousin does.

I hope soon to be able to pick her up from school, or maybe even to drop her off. These sweet and beautiful children make this grandma proud. I just wish their Pop was here to see them, but I suppose he is watching from Heaven and is as proud of them as their Coco is.

I will be like Mary, the mother of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) Time flies, and I don’t want to miss a thing.

Speaking of school, my heart goes out to all the teachers, administrators, school staff, parents, and students. You are doing the best you can in very difficult circumstances: the threat of Covid 19, increasing regulations, and increasing pressure from all sides. May this school year be as free as possible from high stress and overwhelming frustration, and full of satisfaction and success. You deserve it!

XOXO

Categories
teaching

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

 
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.
 
 

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.

 

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.
 
 
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.
 
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.
 
 
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.
 
 
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!
 
 
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.
 
 
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.
 
 
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.
 
 
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. 
 
It may be cheesy, but it is oh, so true.
 
XOXO
Categories
teaching

Teacher Tuesday: Admitting you’re wrong

What?  Wrong?  Me?  But I’m the teacher!
Laughable, isn’t it?
But sometimes we teachers are afraid to admit when we have made a mistake.  After all, we are people, too, and people generally have a hard time admitting when they are wrong.
But, and this is a biggie, it is even more important for a teacher to admit mistakes.
Why?
 
Because kids can spot a phony a mile away.
I have found that it is better to ‘fess up when you make a mistake than it is to try and cover it up.  If the outspoken students of today don’t call you on it in front of everyone, they will at the very least become distrustful of you as a disseminator of information and possibly as a person.
 
Case in point:  you misspell a word on your Powerpoint slide and a student questions you about it.  Instead of covering up with a little white lie such as “I must have been in a hurry,” it is better to just go ahead and admit that you misspelled the word.  The reason isn’t important to the kid.  What is important is that they see that you are human, you make mistakes, and you own them and learn from them. 
“Thanks for the catch, Joey!”
That kind of response will not hurt your credibility at all, and it will raise your esteem in your students’ eyes as well as giving the student who caught it a little boost.
 
  
Yes, I know that was a minor example.  What about this situation?
You advise a whole class to take Chemistry the year after Biology only to have several of the students come back to you and tell you the counselors signed them up for another science course such as Physics instead of Chemistry.
Do you save face and give them an excuse or just go ahead and admit that you didn’t know what you were talking about?
Telling them the truth–that you were mistaken–will help them see you as a human being who sometimes makes mistakes.
 
Of course, it’s not a good idea to constantly make mistakes in the classroom.  After all, you are supposed to be the educated authority.  Make sure you know your subject matter but don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know the answer to a specific question.  
 
“But you’re the teacher!” is a response I heard a lot over my career.
My answer?  “Yes, but teachers can’t possibly know or remember everything.  Let’s find out together and we will both learn.”
 
So. . .go ahead and admit when you are wrong.  It’s okay.  They already know you aren’t perfect.  But now they will know they can trust you, and you will earn their respect.
 
XOXO