Friday, September 18, 2009

The Way We Were

Each year teaching gets harder. We are inundated with mandates, paperwork, meetings and conferences. When you have been around as long as some of us you cannot help but remember the way we were.

My first year of teaching, I remember the excitement when they gave me my KEY to the school, not the classroom the school.

Each day there would be a student waiting to come inside and help me ready up the room. That doesn’t happen at today’s school because there are training meetings every morning and also, having children in a room alone with you is discouraged.

We decided to be teachers for the relationship time with the children. Those early morning sessions went a long way. The most treasured job in my class was “Mr. Coffee” this student set up my coffee pot for me. I always picked the most active child for this responsibility. The A.M. chats were so revealing and nurturing for my at risk students. (Think Maslow)

Coffee pots, microwaves, little refrigerators are all fire hazards and definitely not allowed. In my many years of teaching, my room has been sited by fire department no less than a dozen times. My infractions…. posters on walls, mobiles hanging closer than 18 inches from ceiling, boxes on top of my cabinets, paints opened, extention cords, my favorite was I had a small wooden crate to hold library books and was told it might bring termites.

If a child had a birthday mom would send in cupcakes. This is a big NO NO now because everything must be store bought. So sadly, there are no more cultural cover dish experiences either.

We used to have spontaneous reward picnic lunches at the outside tables. New rule, the children cannot take their lunch tray out of the cafeteria and if you want to take your children out for a picnic, fill out project activity forms two weeks prior.

The student's classes start at 9:30 and their day ends at 4:00. By the time they arrive home it is dinner. Then they have baseball, karate, and a religion class, dance and the list goes on and on.

Parents response: "How dare we give required homework reading? They have no time to be children." Well, long ago there were 57 minutes per period (currently 45 minutes), we could teach at the pace best for the children and we did not lose 5 weeks of learning for pre testing and testing and still have to finish an entire text book.

On a positive note, I like whiteboards instead of chalk dust, copy machines instead of the ditto machine with the smell and purple ink. (It destroyed many a wardrobe). Gone are the 8mm film loops, tangled reels, and filmstrips. They gave way to television, CD’s, DVD’s and computers… all wonderful. Most of all, Google is now my very best friend.

Lastly, there are some guidelines I refuse to follow. I will hug my kids when they need a hug, or for that matter, wipe a tear (even without a plastic glove).


  1. Please retire soon mom. You sound so negative, like one of those old crochety teachers I steered away from my first year as a teacher. They were such a downer. Maybe it is just the natural cycle of a teacher's career. I don't know. I know that you have joy in the classroom. Is it hard to focus on that?

  2. I think Annie, your mother has much joy in the classroom. I can certainly identify and understand what she is blogging on this entry. Let me tell you a story..... You have been in the classroom but I taught Elementary grades in the last 25 of my 33 years of teaching. I could "quick pick" a story when ever I had the time in the classroom for a nice circle time with the kids. "Gather your snacks, sit in a circle and Mrs. Sterling is going to read to you "Green Eggs and Ham"" I would read the story, laugh with the kids and talk about that Cat. Now, according to protocol, Lesson plans have to be developed for read alouds now in my school district. State standards implimented at all times for the principal I had. So now I had to write down perspective questions I would ask after each page or passage. Write down anticipated answers of the kids. What state standards are co-ordinating with this story, yada yada yada. When that was finally completed,(four typed pages) I wrote a lesson plan that took longer to write than reading the story itself. Crazy wasn't it?. No lesson plan, no reading of a quick pick. I was a good teacher if I must say so myself-- but at that moment in time, I recognized that it was time for me to retire from teaching when I could not see the logic. Don't get rid of the good teachers, have some logic in the educational process today. In otherwords, COMMON SENSE!!! Laurie, you stay in the classroom because you are one of the few remaining who remember when we used to have good common sense in the schools. I am not above improvements by no means. Who wants to go back to those ditto machines??? But have good common sense so you don't have teachers becoming "downers". Laurie, I still hugged my kids till the day I retired. If some parent would have complained, I certainly would have been called in about it. Annie, you have just begun having a multitude of activities after school with your precious three. Wait until they come home with a multitude of homework at 4:00 just like your mother said, running them to their practices, trying to get dinner in and THEN they are up until 11:00 or midnight trying to get homework in because the teachers have to cover and complete so much in a semester. It is a "catch twenty two". I am hoping that perhaps it will not be that way for you. It was that way for me. On a side note, when we did have those snacks in circle time, I had to make sure they were healthy snacks. Now I am hearing that parties such as Valentine parties etc are being monitored. All healthy snacks for parties must be purchased through the school. Homeroom mothers are forbidden to bring anything in edible for the kids and allowed snacks are dictated on the approved list. Again, Common sense!!!

  3. Wow! You girls are OLD! I don't remember that purple ditto stuff. I only remember Xerox!
    Now... State Standards! I can understand why they are in place, however I do not agree with the fact that a good teacher who has been with the district for almost twenty years, should not be dinged on evaluation because that day the lesson did not match the goal which did not go with the standard.... That is when I will get on my unionized soap box and demand that the nonsense be stopped.
    I just went through that and was prepared to get an attorney because an overzealous asst. principal thought he was going to save the world. Your windows better be spotless before you criticize another's dirty windows. one is that clean! except me of course.
    So I teach high school in a very well-to-do neighborhood, and it is a beautiful brand new school. I have a lovely classroom that sits at the back of the property with three ceiling to floor windows that look out on the flora and fauna of the desert. I love it! I love what I teach! I teach junior and senior language arts. British lit is my absolute favorite, and I am starting Chaucer's Canterbury Tales on Monday. (Not the whole thing-just my favorites) The Wife of Bath, The Pardoner's Tale, and The Knight's Tale. I will be doing The Crucible with the juniors. Doesn't that sound like fun? or I am like really "boring"?
    I love going to school every day with the kids, although they drive better cars than I do.
    I love getting my pictures taken every year, and going to pep assembly's, and living my day through a series of bells.
    Sometimes in the summer, I really miss it; and then I wake up.
    Hey Laurie, we should talk sometime! But it would have to be on a weekend with my phone plugged in.... I have no land phone--hard line--whatever it is....
    just mobile. I am just finishing up two classes for literature and I have been focusing on those and not even getting online.
    I took a mythology class that was so much fun, except for the 100 pages or so that I typed.

  4. Oh BTW,
    you haven't lived until you experience one of my double hand-pulled latte's. My sister got me an exquisite Breville espresso machine. If there was a fire in my house today, I would grab the puppies and that machine. ; - }