TEACHER TUESDAY: Reminiscing. . .

Whatever happened to classroom discipline?  Remember when we had to be in class on time with all our supplies, homework in hand, ready to learn?  Remember what happened when you weren’t on time or didn’t have your supplies or homework?  You may have come in contact with the dreaded. . .dare I say it?  The PADDLE.

This horribly torturous relic of the past, in case you don’t remember, were too young to have experienced the practice of–ooh–“corporal punishment,” or have blocked the painful memory of actually having had it administered to your own body, was a plank of wood used by a stern disciplinarian to apply misery to the misbehaving student’s tender backside.

image from here

Unfortunately, the paddle has gone the way of chalkboards and textbooks, and school discipline, in my opinion after 30 years in public schools, has gone out the window.  When the paddle was a real consequence for misbehavior and disrespect, students had a healthy fear of their teachers and administrators, which was reflected in their willingness to learn.  Teachers didn’t have to spend half the class period trying to get their students to listen to instructions.  They knew if they disrupted the class, there were real and instant consequences out in the hallway, often delivered right outside the door where the other students could hear.  How politically incorrect that would be these days!  I shudder to think of the uproar THAT would cause!  Amazingly, students respected teachers for being consistent and fair in meting out “licks” or “swats,” as we called them.  The paddle was often signed by the receiving student, as you can see in the photo above, becoming a type of badge of honor, but one not coveted by most students.

Not that I enjoyed giving those swats.  I despised it.  My blood pressure would go up, my hands would shake, and I feared an accident.  Believe me, I had heard horror stories of teachers taking out their frustrations on kids and leaving marks or missing the target and striking a tailbone or spine.  But I set my classroom behavior limits and administered the consequences as promised.  It never required more than two or three sessions with the paddle before students knew that I meant business.  

My science classes, including labs, were orderly, quiet at the proper times, controlled noise at others.  And students had respect for me and each other.  Where have those days gone?  I am convinced that the banning of corporal punishment in schools is directly responsible for the breakdown of school discipline.  

image from here

Last school year I and the other teachers around me spent more time dealing with tardies, disrespect, bullying, lack of supplies, and disruptions that we did actually teaching or facilitating learning.  We spent valuable time defending ourselves to administrators and parents when we should have been planning lessons or tutoring.  Add all of this to the increasingly tougher standards for students and teachers set by the state and federal governments.  My highest regards to those who are preparing to brave the battlefront for another year.  

You go, people!  Teachers rock!  Hang in there, and have a wonderful school year!  Discipline hasn’t completely gone out with the paddle. . .be creative and find ways to engage those kids. . .you will make it!

Ap ril  


Random Friday: "Sometimes I wish I lived in an Airstream. . ."

. . .Homemade curtains, lived just like a gypsy. . .”  Familiar lyrics to one of my favorite Miranda Lambert songs.  Have I mentioned that I was one of Miranda’s teachers in high school?  I ran the program that allowed her to graduate early so she could pursue her music career.  Operation Graduation not only allowed her to finish her high school credits while working late night gigs in East Texas, it was also responsible for graduating Mark “Tex” Adams, who built motorcycles for motocross superstars Travis Pastrana and James Stewart.  Sadly, Mark died earlier this year after being struck by a car while aiding a friend stranded on a highway in Florida.  Best friends Miranda and Mark graduated in 2002 and were also classmates of my son Matt’s.

Miranda snapped this photo with my phone at a Teachers Count photo shoot in Nashville!

Mark “Tex” Adams (image from here)

Many other students who might have dropped out of school were able to graduate under this alternative program, which I developed and directed for 19 years at Lindale High School.  Among my 300+ former students are nurses, business owners, college graduates, and also my own daughter and future son-in-law!  Alternative education is near and dear to my heart, as you can tell.  I have also been heavily involved in the Texas Association for Alternative Education, in which I am a past president.

This post was supposed to be about my love of Airstream campers, but I guess I will discuss that another time. . .my students matter so much more!

True love. . .(image from here)

April  xoxo

Teacher Tuesday: Classroom Prep

image from here

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

Teacher Tuesday: Once upon a time. . .

. . .a long time ago, a young woman finished college and ventured into the world of public education with a desire to change the world, one teenager at a time.  Like most college graduates, this young woman, ME, was anxious to secure a teaching job.  I was lucky that the high school who allowed me to student teach offered me a job for the next school year.  I was elated, even though I would be teaching physical science instead of the biology or English I was certified to teach.  No matter, back in 1982, schools were allowed to place teachers in subjects they were not certified in for up to two years before they had to be certified.

I was excited to have my own classroom, though I had very little to bring to it other than my planning and organizational skills. I was given a teacher’s edition textbook along with some encouragement and thrown to the wolves–in this case, about thirty 14- and 15-year-olds.  It might as well have been an enemy army.  Only thing is, they didn’t have any weapons other than their freshman silliness.

Fortunately, I had two wonderful mentors who modeled classroom discipline and building relationships with students, so it was easy for me to build a proper classroom climate and good rapport with students.  In 1982, in Texas high schools, corporal punishment was not only allowed, it was expected.  So I set my expectations and used the wooden paddle on transgressors.  

At only 5’2″ and 110 pounds, I was not very intimidating.  I will never forget the look on one young man’s face as I gave him everything I had.  The other teacher who witnessed the paddling said the boy’s eyes widened in shock and appreciation.  After that, he became my biggest ally.  Sadly, he passed away this year.  I wish I could have said goodbye.

One thing I have always demanded of my students is good classroom behavior.  I always expected my students to behave themselves and treat me and each other with respect.  These are some things I have learned in my 30-year career:

  • Students will respect you when you show them the respect you expect from them.
  • Listen to each student as if he or she is the most important one in your classroom.
  • Never belittle students.
  • The student is more important than the grade.
  • Students want to succeed.  It is up to you to find a way for that to happen.
  • It is okay to smile, laugh, and have fun.  But students must know when it is time to be serious as well.
  • Never participate in gossip about students or staff members.
  • Treat all staff and students with respect.  Be friendly to everyone.
  • Remember that you are a role model inside and outside of school. . .including restaurants, bars, and Facebook.
  • Do not expect rewards and appreciation but be pleasantly surprised when they come your way.
  • If you are not in it for the kids, then you are in it for the wrong reason.
  • Have fun!
My first year of teaching yearbook. . .


"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!