Life teaching

Why I’m Happy School is Starting Again

Ah, back-to-school time.  That season of the year when store shelves are brimming with shiny new pens, markers, notebooks, and lunch boxes, and clothing racks are stuffed with fashions for going back to school.  Parents groan because of the expense of equipping the kids with everything required for the new school year–but those shoes fit in May!  Kids groan because their summer is too short, and the reminders start in July with back-to-school sales–can’t they at least wait until August?  Teachers groan because their summer is too short–wait, I need more time off!
The rest of the world–civilians as I used to call them–gives a sigh of relief that life will finally settle into a familiar routine of the kids being off the streets, out of the shopping centers, and in the schools for at least eight hours a day.  Sorry, teachers, I feel your pain.  After all, I was one for 30 years myself.
That is the number one reason I’m happy that school is starting. . .
1.  I’m retired!  I don’t have to worry about endless staff development meetings when I would rather be in my classroom preparing for the first day of school.  I don’t have to spend money buying extra school supplies for the students in my classes who won’t have them.  I don’t have to wonder when I’ll find the time to prepare my lessons, grade papers, schedule meetings, call parents, and worry about ARDs, LEPs, IEPs, STARR, ADA, AEIS, RTI, TEKS, TELPAS, STEM, BS, and CRAZY!
2.  Fall is around the corner.  Sayonara, summer, with your 100-degree temperatures (I shouldn’t complain–we’ve only had one day of those so far this year!). . .bring on those dead leaves, pumpkin spice lattes, boots, and sweaters!
3.  I can go to the store during the day and every aisle won’t be filled with parents and children getting in the way. . .IF I go before 3:00 p.m.
4.  I won’t have to compete for doctor and dental appointments with teachers and students.  I’ll be able to get an appointment for whenever I need it. . .maybe.
5.  Those school facilities I pay enormous taxes on will again be in use.  (How many times did I hear this when I was teaching?  Ugh.)
6.  Tax-free weekend happens in August (at least here in Texas), and you don’t have to be a teacher or student to buy clothes or supplies minus the sales tax.  But it’s crowded.

7.   Back-to-school shopping means a sneak peak at the new fall fashions. 
8.  After the back-to-school season comes Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, the good, better, and best parts of the whole year.
Those are the reasons I am glad school is starting back up again.  I’ve always been happy to see school start, ever since I was old enough to start getting new clothes and school supplies.   I guess I have teaching in my blood.
What about you?  Is back-to-school a good thing for you?
Life teaching

10 Things Your Child’s Principal Wants You to Know

Much attention is given to the first day of school from the child’s or parent’s point of view, but have you ever stopped to think about what the principal might be thinking when it’s time for school to start?  I had the opportunity to be a campus director in my career and here are some of the thoughts I had.

1.  I have first day jitters, too. What should I wear?  Will the schedules–classes, duties, parking, drop-off/pick-up,etc.–run smoothly?  Will my staff like me?    

2.  I am responsible for all the students, teachers, and staff on this campus. Is my campus as safe as it can be?  Have I planned proper procedures for emergencies?  Does my staff trust me?  Will I be able to make the right decisions in an emergency?

3.  I support my teachers. I trust them to make the appropriate decisions in their own classrooms, and I consider them an extension of myself throughout the campus.  We are a team and we stick together, not against you or your child, for FOR you and WITH you.

4.  If your child has a problem with the teacher, please try to resolve it with the teacher first.  Bringing a complaint about a teacher to me before consulting the teacher puts me in a difficult position and is unfair to the classroom teacher, who knows much more about your child and the situation than I do. The teacher deserves the opportunity to work with you and your child to find a solution.

5.  My number one priority is the safety of my students, teachers, and staff.  Our safety procedures have been carefully thought out and planned to keep everyone safe and is not meant to be an inconvenience to the parent, although sometimes it may seem so.  Your cooperation is absolutely necessary to keep everyone safe in a dangerous or threatening situation.  Please don’t be that parent who comes to the school during a tornado warning to pick up your child!  They are safer with us, and we will not let them leave with you!

6.  Yes, I do want our school to look good, but not at the expense of your child.  I am human and I like recognition as much as the next person, but I will not sacrifice common sense or basic education for it.  My first priority beyond safety is the education of our students.

7.  If you disagree with me, please talk to me before you talk to people in the community.  Just one person going out into the community and badmouthing the school, especially if it is a small town, can be very damaging.  Please come to me with your concerns and complaints before spreading negativity around the community.  Let’s find a solution together.

8.  Other than my family and church, this school is my heart and soul.  I spend every waking moment in my identity as a school principal, and I am continually thinking about ways to improve our school and your child’s education.

9.  I want your child to feel comfortable–loved and cherished–and safe here.  I will do my best to make sure that my campus is a welcoming place for our kids and staff, and I will do my best to know every student by name and remind our teachers that each student is someone’s baby!

10.  I want your child to be successful.  I want this not only for our graduation rates, test scores, and approval from our administration and school board, I want this for you and your child.  I want each child to leave our school with the feeling of a job well done and the reality of an education achieved.

I hope this list helps you to understand where your campus principal may be coming from.  (from which he/she is coming from?) 
Just remember that his or her frame of reference is much larger in scope than yours as a parent or teacher and often there is much more to an issue than may appear.  The principal is in many ways, caught in the middle between teachers, higher administration, and parents.  Give them a break and remember that you and he/she have the same goal:  what is best for your child.

I hope this helps!  Educators, please feel free to add to this list!




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.

Teacher Tuesday: Most teachers I know would do the same.

Have you seen the news clips of the aftermath of the Moore, Oklahoma tornado?  The scenes of the parents and teachers of those elementary students are heart-wrenching.
There is the mother who finally finds her child with his teacher and collapses on her neck with happy tears of gratitude.  There is that teacher who claps his hands and calls to all fifth (or maybe sixth) graders to join him so their parents can find them.  Then there is the young teacher who covered the bodies of her small students and held on to keep them and her from being sucked away by the tornado.
Another teacher herded teachers and students out of their usual hallway shelter into restrooms and closets to get them out of harm’s way.  Sadly, another teacher was found dead sheltering several students who had also perished.  She gave her life protecting her students.

The media portrays these teachers as heroes, and rightly so.  However, I don’t believe I know of a teacher who wouldn’t do the same to protect her charges from harm.  One teacher said she was determined to hand her kids back to the parents who had entrusted them to her.


Teachers are more than disseminators of information.  Really great teachers develop relationships with their students and consider them their own children in a way.  Their concerns, trials, and successes become ours as teachers.  We are the children’s guardians by day, seeing to their mental, emotional, social, and physical needs.  We love them, perhaps not in the same sense or depth as their parents, but we do love them. Yes, even those who are hard to love!    
The Moore tornado is a horrible tragedy.  Adults and children died, more were injured, and many more lost everything they had.  But the toll would have been much worse had not dedicated teachers rose beyond the call of their profession to keep their students safe.
 May God bless teachers.  May God bless kids and their parents.  And may God bless all those affected by the Oklahoma tornadoes.


‘Nough said!  Spring break is the vacation probably the most anticipated by teachers.  Some may disagree, saying Christmas break, or as it is has been renamed for the sake of political correctness–Winter Break–is their favorite, but I stand by Spring Break.  It may be a few days shorter but there is no pressure to bake, buy gifts, and drive all over Creation to see all the relatives.
Unless, of course, Spring Break includes Easter.  Then there’s the cooking, the Easter clothes buying, the Easter basket assembling, and the relatives all over again.  Hopefully your Spring Break is separate from the much shorter Easter holiday.
Anyway, I always enjoyed Spring Break as a time to separate from my students who were beginning to drive me bananas.  The break always comes at a good time, just in time to keep students and teachers from driving each other completely crazy.  This year it will give everyone a good breather before the testing begins.  Testing.  That’s a whole ‘nother blog post there.  Don’t get me started.
Let me just close today’s post by wishing all my friends and former colleagues and students a very happy and restful Spring Break.  The roads are less congested without the school traffic.  I can’t say the same for my internet service, though.
So–enjoy, rest, get some fun, some sun, and go back to school ready to test!  My heart goes out to all of you.