TEACHER Tuesday: Reminiscing

I guess the bane of retirement would be the constant reminiscing–you know, always bringing up stories about your former life as a steelworker, mechanic, teacher, coach, doctor, etc.  And I suppose I should clarify. The bane is not for the storyteller but for the person trapped by him or her!  

I have come to the realization that I have fallen into that “geezer” trap myself!  It always starts with the words “When I first started teaching. . .” Or maybe, “when I was teaching. . .”  I found myself telling this story last time. . .

Last year I had a group of seniors in an Environmental Science class, which was an alternative to Chemistry or Physics.  Every student in high school is required to take four years of science so many of the seniors opted for either Environmental or Aquatic Science, which was supposed to be easier.  The kids tended to treat my class as if it was a “blow off” class.  But with my background in alternative education, these students tended to be my favorites, plus I have always enjoyed the older students.

One morning the group was especially lively and kept interrupting my attempts to teach something serious such as the nitrogen cycle, which, by the way, they learned in fourth grade or fifth, but I digress. 

Exasperated, I finally stopped talking and just looked at them.  They fell silent.  “Look, guys,” I said, “I really have to make sure you learn this.”

On cue, one of the young men in the back piped up, “We can’t learn this stuff, Miss.  You gotta understand.  We’re stupid!”

There was that classic moment, the one they call perfect timing in comedy, and then the whole class burst into laughter.  I couldn’t stop my own smile.  Of course, they weren’t stupid.  They were brilliant.  It was just where they chose to channel their smarts.  They knew it, and I knew it.  

That day I learned more than they did.  I learned that having a relationship with your students and knowing where they are coming from is worth a whole lot more than knowing the phases of the nitrogen cycle.  Too bad they don’t test those things on the SAT. . .

By the way, that young man has the social skills to make it big in business someday.  I hope so, anyway.  He already has a daughter looking up to him.  




Teacher Tuesday: Classroom Prep

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

"How are you enjoying retirement?"

This is a question I have been asked several times since May, when I retired from 30 years of teaching public school.  I actually  left a couple of weeks early due to a surgery I had scheduled before school was out so I could use up the remainder of my state leave days.  No, I was not one of those lucky few who accumulate enough days to actually purchase a year of retirement or be reimbursed from their school district.  So, I just had major surgery!  The timing was not the best for my family, though.  The surgery was scheduled the day after Mother’s Day, and had the Lord called me home, it would have made for some difficult future Mother’s Days for them.

All that said, I really haven’t felt retired yet, because schoolteachers normally are off for several weeks during the summer. It has been nice not having to attend summer workshops or do any advance planning, but I think it really won’t sink in until the first day of school rolls around and I have no classroom to return to.  It is already weird not buying new school supplies now that the stores are filling up their back-to-school shelves.  I can always buy things for the school supply train for needy children in my area.  That will help somewhat.

Some of you may be thinking that I should become a substitute teacher.  To that I reply, “No thanks!”  I have been there and done that, and the lack of respect for substitutes is not something I particularly relish.  I hope to continue writing–and perhaps start a business, or get an office job. . .but until then, I guess this coffee mug one of my dear friends gave me just about sums it up. . .

. . .because I will have my feet up for awhile!  (And sprinkle in a few home projects that I have put off for years and years and years. . .)

And before all you teachers out there start the hating, remember that you will be at this point someday, Lord willing.  I have earned it, and you will, too!  Enjoy the back-to-school shopping!