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School Daze

 

I’ve taught school, officially, for 22 years now. I mean, as a contracted teacher. I also worked as a teacher’s aide, and as a short-term and long-term, substitute teacher for a couple of years, as I finished the credential program in California. I went to college, for a couple of years, fresh out of high school, but wasn’t a dedicated student. So I dropped out, got married, had five children, then decided to go back and finish my degree (because I had so much spare time). But, this second attempt at college was more successful because I’d gained more self-discipline, and better stick-to-it skills as a mother. I became a full-time teacher when my “baby” was in eighth grade. It was a really hard transition because I didn’t realize how much time was involved in being The Teacher. Wow … lots of work and time. But, it is a very entertaining profession. I’ve taught in California, Maryland, and Nevada, and have been in 4th grade for my whole career … I love them.

Here are few anecdotes:

  1. One afternoon, a father came in to pick up his son from my after-school tutoring group. Addressing Father, I explained how Son, standing right beside us, was still having a great deal of trouble focusing on work during class time, and how I was hoping that Father could help me with this. (I’d called and talked to Mom a couple of times; Son just loved to talk and mess around.) Father spoke, “Well, I’ve heard just about enough of this bull[expletive] about trouble in school. And, I don’t want to hear about it again. So deal with it, okay?” I turned to Son, and then looked at Father, and then Father spoke again, “You understand, lady? Don’t call our house ever again.” He was speaking to me … not to Son … luckily, the vice-principal was still in her office, so I just took that pair, and our conversation, right to her door.
  2. All year, I had been teaching how to write complete paragraphs that included a topic sentence and a closing sentence. We had completed our research reports on birds. Each student was assigned a different bird, and it included four paragraphs of information. Best closing sentence ever: “Vultures are a very useful bird. Without them, the world would be covered in dead meat.”
  3. In my first classroom here in Nevada, I had a population of students who spoke English only to me. The rest of their lives was lived in Spanish. I do not speak Spanish. I’ve heard it a lot, but I learned French in my high school. After living twenty years in Southern California, though, I understood quite a bit, but I still couldn’t make sentences without mixing up French and Spanish. So, I stuck to English. One afternoon, I needed my students to line up so that we could go to another classroom for some event. I announced, “Okay, you guys, it’s time to stand up and push in your chairs so we can line up.” I saw a boy turn to a girl near him, and say, in Spanish, “No, stay here, she said “You guys” –it’s just boys leaving.” I said to him, “No, todos los estudiantes — hijos y hijas.” It just came out!! It means “all the students–boys and girls.” The look on his face was priceless!! He was astonished! Good grief! His teacher understood what he said, and she replied — in Spanish! I could tell he was wondering what else I’d overheard in class.
  4. Another year in that same school, I’d worked so hard to teach vocabulary that went along with our reading program. We read the words, we spelled them, we defined them, we found synonyms and antonyms, and we acted them out (when possible). Well, we really struggled with the word “anxious” because it is hard to say, and weird to spell. And most of them had never encountered it before. Several weeks after it had been on our study list, we were discussing a new story, and I asked the students if they could describe how one of the characters must have been feeling. Crickets … then a dear little girl’s face lit up with a smile, and she shot her hand into the air. “Meeess…he was fiiilling anxious!” Yeah!!!
  5. When I was at my first-ever school, one of my high school aged daughters volunteered in my classroom one afternoon. She told me this story that evening: two little girls came over and asked, “Is your mother like this at home, too?” My daughter replied, “Like: what she says to do, she means; and no matter what you do, she’ll never change her mind?” “Yes!!” they said, in unison. Ha ha!! We laughed.
  6. One day I saw one of my students looking really sad. I asked him what happened. He replied that his dad was so mad at him for getting in trouble with me at school, and having me phone home, that Dad had announced that the son couldn’t go to Pocono to the NASCAR races that summer. (School had about nine weeks to go.) Hmmm … so I called Dad and made a deal. I’d make up a little chart, and Son would bring it home daily to show Dad how that school day had gone. If Son could get four out of five days with good reports for each week, till school was out, could he earn back the trip to NASCAR? Dad agreed … I had the best “Carrot” anybody ever had to use for the rest of the year! We had a fine end of the year, and Son learned how to be a better student.

I’ve got a million of them … but, I’ll stop now. I didn’t know that being a teacher was going to be worth much more than just my paycheck.

Published in Education
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Members have made 18 comments.

  1. Profile photo of LC Member
    LC

    Cow Girl:#2 All year, I had been teaching how to write complete paragraphs that included a topic sentence, and a closing sentence. We had completed our research reports on birds. Each student was assigned a different bird, and it included four paragraphs of information. Best closing sentence EVER: “Vultures are a very useful bird. Without them, the world would be covered in dead meat.”

    Bahaha

    • #1
    • June 16, 2017 at 3:59 pm
    • Like9 likes
  2. Profile photo of Jules PA Member

    Oh, fabulous stories!

    • #2
    • June 16, 2017 at 4:00 pm
    • Like4 likes
  3. Profile photo of RightAngles Member

    LC (View Comment):

    Cow Girl:#2 All year, I had been teaching how to write complete paragraphs that included a topic sentence, and a closing sentence. We had completed our research reports on birds. Each student was assigned a different bird, and it included four paragraphs of information. Best closing sentence EVER: “Vultures are a very useful bird. Without them, the world would be covered in dead meat.”

    Bahaha

    Haha that one was my favorite too, though I was also every fond of the rest of them, especially #3. Cowgirl, you are a great teacher.

    • #3
    • June 16, 2017 at 4:26 pm
    • Like6 likes
  4. Profile photo of Arahant Member

    Cow Girl: He was astonished! Good grief! His teacher understood what he said, and she replied –IN SPANISH!! I could tell he was wondering what else I’d overheard in class.

    Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!

    Cow Girl: My daughter replied, “Like: what she says to do, she means; and no matter what you do, she’ll never change her mind?” “YESS!!” they said, in unison.

    Heh, heh.

    These are fun little stories.

    • #4
    • June 16, 2017 at 4:30 pm
    • Like5 likes
  5. Profile photo of Hoyacon Member

    What a welcome respite from Washington. Thanks!

    • #5
    • June 16, 2017 at 4:33 pm
    • Like10 likes
  6. Profile photo of I. M. Fine Member

    “Vultures are a very useful bird. Without them, the world would be covered in dead meat.” (I think this truism should start to appear on bumper stickers, frisbees, and shot glasses.)

    Great anecdotes; you have obviously touched and shaped many young lives!

    • #6
    • June 16, 2017 at 4:37 pm
    • Like6 likes
  7. Profile photo of Mark Camp Member

    And by “Like this comment” I mean “Like it a whole bunch”.

    One of our girls is just starting her career as a teacher…I wish she had you as a mentor!

    • #7
    • June 16, 2017 at 5:56 pm
    • Like5 likes
  8. Profile photo of Chuckles Thatcher

    You aren’t just a teacher – you are an educator!

    • #8
    • June 16, 2017 at 6:35 pm
    • Like4 likes
  9. Profile photo of Grosseteste Member

    Thanks for the post! Some great stories here.


    This conversation is part of a Group Writing series with the theme “School”, planned for the whole month of June. If you follow this link, there’s more information about Group Writing. The schedule is updated to include links to the other conversations for the month as they are posted. If you’d like to try your hand at Group Writing, consider signing up for July’s topic, Family!

    • #9
    • June 16, 2017 at 10:42 pm
    • Like1 like
  10. Profile photo of - Member
    -

    Cow Girl: One afternoon, a father came in to pick up his son from my after-school tutoring group. Addressing Father, I explained how Son, standing right beside us, was still having a great deal of trouble focusing on work during class time, and how I was hoping that Father could help me with this. (I’d called and talked to Mom a couple of times; Son just loved to talk and mess around.) Father spoke, “Well, I’ve heard just about enough of this bull[expletive] about trouble in school. And, I don’t want to hear about it again. So deal with it, okay?” I turned to Son, and then looked at Father, and then Father spoke again, “You understand, lady? Don’t call our house ever again.” He was speaking to me … not to Son … luckily, the vice-principal was still in her office, so I just took that pair, and our conversation, right to her door.

    Such a coward, not a man at all. How pathetic.

    • #10
    • June 17, 2017 at 6:27 am
    • Like6 likes
  11. Profile photo of La Tapada Member

    What great stories! Keep up the good work of bringing good things into children’s lives! I’m going to share this with my step daughter who just finished her first year of teaching (7th grade English).

    • #11
    • June 17, 2017 at 7:10 am
    • Like1 like
  12. Profile photo of Full Size Tabby Member

    I like #6 as an example of teacher and parent working together to use student’s interests and motivations. I’m sure you also have stories of working with parents to identify things like the student’s learning style.

    • #12
    • June 17, 2017 at 7:39 am
    • Like3 likes
  13. Profile photo of Front Seat Cat Member

    Wonderful profession- thank you for your service to education – loved the stories!

    P.S. I’ll appreciate vultures more now, except those in Washington….

    • #13
    • June 17, 2017 at 8:06 am
    • Like2 likes
  14. Profile photo of Doug Watt Member

    Loved the stories, I still remember some of my teachers from my days as a student in a boy’s Catholic high school. One teacher used to place the San Jose phone book in the oven and bake it until it became brittle. On the first day of class he would tell us how hard he expected us to work and he would not stand for any nonsense. As you can imagine the San Jose phone book is pretty thick, he would pick it up from the desk and then tear it in half. When we found out how that feat of strength was made possible we all admired him for his trickery and cleverness, as only young heathens who were filled with mischief of their own could.

    The other was Brother Angel Sierra, what a great name for a Catholic Brother. He taught chemistry. He was diminutive in stature and had grown up on the wrong side of tracks in the barrio. He had been a very successful Golden Gloves boxer as a young man and none of us were willing to find out how much of the boxer remained in Brother Angel. He was as the Irish would say, a lovely man, and an excellent teacher.

    Thanks for a great essay.

    • #14
    • June 17, 2017 at 8:46 am
    • Like4 likes
  15. Profile photo of EDISONPARKS Member

    RE anecdote #1:

    Whenever I hear about bad behavior in my kids school (ie: usually bullying) my stock response is “the apple don’t fall far from the tree”.

    While it may not always be the case, it usually is a learned behavior from one parent or the other (or both!).

    • #15
    • June 17, 2017 at 9:46 am
    • Like2 likes
  16. Profile photo of Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl Post author

    EDISONPARKS (View Comment):
    RE anecdote #1:

    Whenever I hear about bad behavior in my kids school (ie: usually bullying) my stock response is “the apple don’t fall far from the tree”.

    While it may not always be the case, it usually is a learned behavior from one parent or the other (or both!).

    I often discovered this fact when I’d schedule a parent conference! I was not surprised, however, at how many parents had done poorly in school, themselves, but wanted their child to succeed. But, the parent reaction to school was an unspoken negative to their child, so it inadvertently rubbed off on the kid. Some parents were sooo uncomfortable sitting down in a classroom, and just being there. I tried hard to help them to see me as just another person who cared about their child, and we were a team working together for that kid. It helped change the dynamic when the child started to realize that it was us adults, linking arms, and the kid’s success was a mutual goal.

    • #16
    • June 17, 2017 at 11:33 am
    • Like5 likes
  17. Profile photo of Chris O. Member

    Warm fuzzies on #4. Thanks for sharing!

    • #17
    • June 18, 2017 at 12:38 pm
    • LikeLike
  18. Profile photo of Susan Quinn Contributor

    Wonderful! And what a gift you are to the children! I hope you have many more years ahead of you to bring blessings to your students–and knowledge, too!

    • #18
    • June 18, 2017 at 12:52 pm
    • LikeLike