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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.

XOXO

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TEACHER TUESDAY: TST

This short week before Thanksgiving holidays can be a nightmare for unsuspecting or unprepared schoolteachers.  I know.  I was one.  No matter how well I had prepared my lessons or how good my intentions were, it was all for naught until I realized one fact.   Whether I liked it or not, agreed with it or not, condoned it or not, students checked out at least one week prior to the holidays, maybe even earlier.  In order to survive the pre-holiday party attitudes and behavior, I had to be smarter than my students, and that is no easy task.

I call today’s post TST:  Teacher Survival Training.  I am no expert, but I think during 30 years in public education I learned a few things.  I will enumerate a few. . .

1) Do not introduce new material.  If students are not receptive to reviews or activities reinforcing what you have already learned, they certainly won’t be receptive to learning new concepts.  New material can wait for the day they return from the holidays.

2)  Don’t throw away the rules.  By this time of the year, you should be able to relax a bit, but don’t stray from your basic rules of class conduct, procedures, and expectations.  You will only be providing a breeding ground for problems.  I found this to be especially true with allowing students out of the classroom.  Even if you aren’t “doing anything” students don’t need to be wandering the halls looking for trouble, even if they are only going to “check on a grade” or “see the nurse.”

3)  Put a little holiday fun in your planned activities.  High student energy can be channeled into games instead of misbehavior.  The internet is a great place to look for holiday activities related to your subject matter.  If nothing else, you can make or find a word search or crossword puzzle using your lesson’s vocabulary.

4)  Give a test the day before the holiday break.  I don’t like this one, but it does keep students quiet.  The downside is that students usually don’t do well and you have to reteach and retest after the holidays.  Also, if all the other teachers have the same idea, students will have a test in every class period.

5) Last, if you can’t fight ’em, join ’em.  Let them have the class period to catch up on missed assignments, but prepare for noise.  Just don’t call it a free day.  Good teachers don’t give free days!
Image from here
Good luck, and happy Thanksgiving!

XOXO