Categories
Memoirs

4th Grade Fun

Fourth grade was a fun year. Mrs. Davis was my teacher but we switched clasrooms and teachers for Reading. Mrs. Reed was my reading teacher. I believe that was the first year we switched classes, except we had always done so for music and P.E., of course.

My fourth grade class picture. That’s me in the front row, second student from the right with the wonky red bow on my dress!

One of the fun things I remember about fourth grade was art. One project we did involved covering wire coat hangers with yarn. My first attempt involved red and white yarn and came out pretty messy, probably because I missed the first day of the project, so I had to catch up. Then I did another one in red and green, which turned out much nicer. I gave that one to my mother, I believe.

These are like the ones we made in art. Did you ever have or make these?
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Another project we did was for Valentine’s Day. We decorated large heart-shaped pockets which the teacher hung on the front of our desks. On Valentine’s Day we dropped our classmates’ Valentines into the pockets on the desks. My mother always made sure we had enough Valentines to give one to every person in the class. I wish I had saved some of those cute vintage Valentines. Of course, I treasured some of them more than others, like the ones from my best friends or the boy I liked.

Speaking of boys, it was customary to pass a note to the one you were interested in with these words: “Will you go with me? Check yes or no.” If the person checked yes, then you were officially “going together.” Then you would chase each other on the playground and maybe even sneak in some handholding. Ah, fourth grade.

The infamous fourth grade school picture. Fortunately the years have made me kinder to this poor little girl. What were we thinking with that pixie haircut? Sheesh!

Do you have any memories of fourth grade? Do tell!

Stay tuned for Mrs. Reed’s “Brer Rabbit. . .”

XOXO

Categories
Memoirs

Meeting Mr. Darragh

It was 1966 when I entered second grade. I was tasked with keeping up with my brother Allen on the school bus, making sure he was on it in the afternoon and that he got off the bus in the morning once we arrived at school. He and I were often mistaken for twins, but he is fourteen months younger than I am, so he was in the first grade.

Wasn’t I a dumpling?

My teacher that year was Mrs. Russell, and I fast became one of her favorites. Or at least I thought I was. Maybe every one of her students had the same thought. She chose me to help her make bulletin board pictures, placed me in reading group one (bluebirds, or something of that sort–everyone knew we were the smartest), and sometimes kept me in the room during the last recess to be her helper.

One day as I was working at my desk, a tall slender man with black-rimmed glasses came into the classroom with Principal Moore. Mr. Moore was getting up in years with plans to retire. The man who had come in with him would be our new principal the next school year.

Mr. Darragh spoke to Mrs. Russell and then knelt down by my desk. What was he doing? I’m sure my face turned red, being singled out like that.

“What’s your name, young lady?” he asked, and after I told him, he told me what a pretty little girl I was and what a beautiful name I had. From that point on, Mr. Darragh would go out of his way to talk to me and even took an interest in what I planned to do with my life later on. Once, when I was in high school and saw him in the school cafeteria, he told me he thought I would make an excellent teacher. At the time I had no intention of being a teacher, but God had different plans, and He hinted at them through Mr. Darragh’s remark.

Mr. Darragh, 1968

Second grade was a fun, innocent year of becoming a fast reader, moving to a new house, chasing and being chased by boys on the playground, and enjoying just being a kid growing up in the country. I was blissfully unaware of the Vietnam War, civil rights unrest, the shooting rampage at the University of Texas in Austin, or the marriage of Elvis Presley to Priscilla Beaulieu.

Did you have a fun second grade experience?

XOXO

Categories
Memoirs

Why I’m Surprised (but Grateful)

Spanish villas overlook the Mediterranean Sea at La Herradura Southern Spain. (Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Here I am, retired and nowhere near where I expected to be at this stage of my life. What happened to those lofty dreams of years ago when I pictured myself in a luxurious mansion sipping cocktails by a pool overlooking the Mediterranean? I guess I killed them. I didn’t choose to kill them. I killed them with my choices.

Choice #1: Going to college instead of joining the Navy. The Navy appealed to me as a high school senior because it promised world travel with a good salary and future retirement benefits. I didn’t want to leave my boyfriend, so I went to college. I also didn’t believe I could make it through basic training because I am basically a wuss when it comes to physical activities. I am not athletic in the least.

Choice #2: I followed my heart while in college. I married before I graduated, and he was young. He had to find a good job and never went to college himself. He did work hard providing for me and our eventual kids, though. He said he wouldn’t change a thing, but sometimes I think he would have been better off waiting. I would have been, too.

Choice #3: Not finishing my pre-med program. I didn’t take Chemistry or Physics in high school because I was afraid of failure, and my first Chemistry class was a disaster. I learned nothing because the teacher wasn’t a good one. I barely passed the second semester under the other teacher, so I decided I would never be able to pass Organic chemistry. I also have a phobia of needles, which people say you get over, but I hate fainting in class (which I did three times).

Choice #4: Not taking Chemistry and Physics in high school. I was scared of the teachers and failure.

Choice #5: Letting fear control my decisions.

I did make other choices affecting my life’s journey, and I’m not saying I regret making easier choices, but I am in a different place than I expected to be. But isn’t that what God is all about? Taking us on new and unexpected journeys? He has blessed me with a loving husband, two beautiful children and their spouses, and three wonderful grandchildren.

My cup is full, although my mansion is a 1961 wood frame three-bedroom home and I might sip coffee or wine on my deck or front porch. Who needs a mansion on the Mediterranean anyway? I have one “just over the hilltop in that bright land where we’ll never grow old” (old church hymn) anyway!

What about you? Have you landed where you least expected? I’d love to hear from you!

XOXO

Categories
teaching

How to Succeed as a New Teacher

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I was a new teacher once.  Fresh out of college, heart and mind full of dreams and good intentions, unjaded by the educational system, confident in my leaders, bright-eyed, and bushy-tailed.

Then reality hit.  And boy, did it hit.  These were the days before TTAS, STAAR, and EXCETs.  I managed to survive my first few weeks; heck, even my first few years and emerge as a pretty good teacher, according to my evaluations and feedback from my former students. 

Maybe you can benefit from some of the things I learned, whether you are a brand new teacher, a teacher in a new school district, or just trying to have a fresh start. 

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 First, guard your joy at being in the classroom.  Don’t let naysayers and doomsdayers spread their gloom.  Focus on the positives.  You may need to remind yourself of this daily, but do it anyway.

 Along the same lines, don’t listen to what others may say about the students you are getting.  I’ve had teachers in the past ask to see my class roster so they can comment on a few of my students.  This is more difficult now with everything being online, but occasionally you may have someone ask you if you will have “so and so” in your class, and then proceed to tell you what a troublemaker/lazy bum/etc. he or she is.  Refuse to form opinions about students (or other personnel, for that matter) until you have met them yourself.  Many times I have found the problem with that student and teacher lies in the teacher’s attitude, not the student’s.

 Observe and absorb all you can from the teachers and staff but be very slow in offering up your own opinion.  This will allow you to get a feel for the school climate and how the teachers/staff interact with each other and with students.  Don’t be too quick to choose friends.  Allow time to get to know others so you can make smart choices about who to spend your time with.

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Avoid gossip.  Even if you don’t contribute, listening makes you a willing participant and aligns you with the person saying unkind things.  You don’t need that kind of reputation.   Give everyone the benefit of the doubt until you know them better.

Dress conservatively until you are familiar with what is accepted attire on your campus.  Some campuses are less formal than others, but you don’t want to start out too casual.  You’ll also carry more authority in your classroom if you are dressed better at first.  Dress like the professional you are.  If you expect others to treat you like a professional, dress and act like one, especially if you are young.  You need to establish boundaries with your students, especially high school students.  Save the capri pants and slide sandals for later.

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Along those same lines, speak like a professional.  Leave the slang and desire to be “cool” at the door.  You’re there to teach and be a role model.

Make your classroom a happy place to be.  Decorate with bright colors and include personal items (not too valuable!) so that students can relate to you as a real person as well as their teacher.  I liked to post motivational posters around my room (you can order online or visit a teacher supply store such as Mardel’s), and I included a table lamp, knick-knacks, and framed photos around my desk.  The table lamp came in handy when the lights had to go out for slides or film clips.  Students liked seeing pictures of my family as well.  Don’t let your room be referred to as “cell block 101” like one teacher I worked with! 

 Establish your rules and procedures the first day of school and keep practicing and reinforcing them until they become habits for your students.  I strongly recommend The First Days of School:  How to be an Effective Teacher by Harry K. Wong.  You can order it here.  Dr. Wong provides proven strategies for classroom management and discipline.  Also don’t be afraid to ask experienced teachers what works for them.

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Prepare your first week of lessons.  Make a cheat sheet, especially for your first day, so you don’t forget anything or get anything out of sequence.  Get a good night’s sleep if you can, eat breakfast if you can, and walk into your first day with all the confidence of a superhero.  You’ve got this!

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What about you experienced teachers out there?  Is there anything you would add? 
Please post your comments!  We’d love to hear from you!


XOXO
Categories
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