Wrapping Up A-Z

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2015] - Life is Good

Wrapping Up A-Z

I chose to blog on “Tales Out of School” because, eight years into retirement, I was feeling nostalgic about my teaching years.

I loved the opportunity to reminisce about teaching and my students. I can’t imagine what life would have been like if my wonderful kindergarten teacher had been less so.  No other work gave me the satisfaction of teaching, and no other work was as challenging, truly (to borrow from Peace Corp) “the toughest job you’ll ever love.”

Storytelling became part of my life in connection with my teaching, and it made teaching much more fun and successful. I was disappointed that I haven’t done more storytelling, but then realized it had already helped me with the career that was my dream from the age of four. (I started kindergarten before my fifth birthday. I don’t think they allow that now). I had most trouble with V so did it last and a little late, but it did nag at me until I completed it.

I enjoyed this April A-Z Alphabetical Challenge even more because of my participation as a “minion,” visiting and commenting and passing along messages. I just barely scratched the surface of all the interesting blogs out there. It’s reassuring, as it is with books, to know that we will never run out of good reading. I also got some ideas for future blogging, on storytelling travels and maybe some family stories.

The end of the challenge coincided with the beginning of the St. Louis Storytelling Festival (and one stressful afternoon when I had to go buy and install a new router for my modem — thanks, Valnet tech. support for walking me through it). I’ll put in a bit of musing on the Saturday concert . . . just for fun.

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Stories Saturday night were wonderful . . . and I made it home safely despite staying a bit past dusk.  
It was so good to hear Lynette Ford and Heather Forest . . . and just my imagination, or was there a love and marriage theme going through that concert?

Dinner at Spiro’s was wonderful, too . . . great conversation, excellent food!   
This interview with Jane Yolen was on NPR as I was driving to Spiro’s  http://www.npr.org/2015/05/02/401015636/author-hopes-holocaust-themed-picture-book-will-prompt-conversations

Dinner conversation included everything from engineering to students to stories (of course) to books:

Hinton’s _The Outsiders_ “Stay gold”

J.B. is a 1958 play written in free verse by American playwright and poet Archibald MacLeish   (Wiki info)
(I’ve requested it from our library 😉

Now remembering another . . . with a Garden of Eden theme
R.U.R. is a 1920 science fiction play in the Czech language by Karel Čapek. R.U.R. stands for Rosumovi Univerzální Roboti(Rossum’s Universal Robots).[1] However, the English phrase Rossum’s Universal Robots had been used as the subtitle in the Czech original.[2] It premiered on 25 January 1921 and introduced the word “robot” to the English language and to science fiction as a whole.[3]

Next Monday, 5/11, Story Swap McClay Library   – 6:30 p.m. Second Monday every month at 2760 McClay Road, St. Charles 63303
Join area storytellers Mary Garrett and Michael Bennett and others to hear and tell stories for all ages. Folk tales, personal stories, tall tales, myths — all welcome!

As for today, “May the 4th be with you.” AKA “Metaphors Be With You”   A super day have! ❤
http://www.cakewrecks.com/home/2015/5/3/sunday-sweets-more-star-wars.html

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Violence/ Values / Tales Out of School

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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2015] - Life is Good

Violence/ Values / Tales Out of School

I found this one harder to write than I thought it would be, so it’s late and woefully incomplete, but at least fills the empty spot in the alphabet.

I tried to emphasize good values in literature and stories, and to show my students that they were valued, and was so glad never to witness much violence in school.

One of my first diagnosed ADD students was best reached by letting him help. Once I saw him after school, on his way to fight another boy, but when offered the option of helping his favorite principal put shelves in the locker of a favorite teacher’s daughter (whom he also liked), it was no contest . . . peace won!

A young man whose problems stemmed from mistreatment I’m not sure I could have survived needed escort from class to class because of fights. When no one came for him, and I had a planning period next, I offered to be the escort, which gave us a chance to talk. He said sometimes people just pushed him too far and he would get angry. I told him that it would upset me too much to have him fight in my room, so could he please just let me know, and I’d get him safely out of the situation. When tested, he did exactly that. There were a couple of other teachers who had won his confidence. We did our best to have one of us in the picture and he did his best to control his anger.

One student, convinced that I “hated” him, settled down when I took him aside, looked him in the eyes and said, “I don’t hate you. No one should hate you. You are a good person.” I added, “I still won’t let you disrupt class, though,” and he smiled.

Reading and hearing stories and writing one’s own can help see the world more positively. I left because of illness, but I was in a certain assistant principal’s sights. She had targeted specific people and managed to get rid of several, so my time might have been nearly up anyway. The situation inspired a short story, “The NCLB Murder.” (There were those who wanted to help with a real murder, but that’s just too messy, so I offered fiction).

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Zzzzz/Alarm clocks / Tales Out of School

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Zzzzz/Alarm clocks / Tales Out of School

Classes started at 7:25, teachers were supposed to be in school half an hour before that. Those early times were hard on all of us. One student failed American Lit. three times . . . all three times he was scheduled for first period. Why he wasn’t moved to a later class, I’ll never know. Another young man quit his late-night job at a filling station in order to pass and graduate. His father made up the monetary difference for him, a good investment!

Toward the end of the final week of my teaching career, I looked at my sleepy first period students, raised my fist in the air and vowed, “As God is my witness, I’ll never set my alarm for 5 a.m. again.” They clapped. I’ve kept that vow . . . well, mostly.
There was that one early flight to Hawaii, but I fudged and set the alarm for 5:05 😉

. . . Thanks to all who organized the A-Z Blog Challenge

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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2015] - Life is Good

Young / Tales Out of School

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2015] - Life is Good11084301_10152820080385028_48227205056877781_n

Young / Tales Out of School

My high school English teacher said teaching kept him young and open-minded. He may have had a point. My students constantly introduced new ideas, music, humor, and help with technology.

Appearances are the tip of the iceberg, and visual reminder of the wisdom of picking battles and letting them express themselves.
Early on, a favorite student sported an awesome mohawk. We loved him so much, we had him walk on stage during a talent show skit, as teachers sang, “Why can’t they be like Donny, perfect in every way? Nothing’s the matter with kids today.”
Earrings become common for males, and then there were multiple piercings, of more than just ears.
Tattoos became common.
One of my sweetest students sported very imaginative hair colors, which she told me her mother helped her do. When she said she wanted to participate in Renaissance Faire, I pondered authenticity of period, and then realized she could join the Fairy Realm. She was adorable, and in far more comfortable clothing than my long wool skirt. My great-niece Moriah was also a glamourous fairy. More about the Ren. Faire at http://www.stlrenfest.mcjr.net

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Xylophone/ eXtra credit/ eXamples / Tales Out of School

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Xylophone/eXtra credit/eXamples / Tales Out of School

Xylophone must have been given away when I moved. It was a really cool one on which one could rearrange the pipes to create different patterns of notes, and children loved it. I’m sure I gave it to someone who would appreciate it, but I don’t seem to have a photo.

Irises bloomed today, though, so that’s a good photo choice. 😉

Queen of eXtra credit . . .
I had no qualms about adding points to papers that exceeded my expectations, to the point that some of my junior high students had grades of 120%. Only one student ever complained of a “mathematically impossible grade” and had me remove the extra points.

Someone once said that the problem was school scores were small compared to video games. To compensate, I told students that if they didn’t think an assignment carried enough points to be worth their while, they could add as many zeros as they wanted, as long as they added to both the points earned and the points possible.
(Math lesson in English class? Why not? The math teacher and I shattered artificial distinctions by pointing out the similarities of rules for sentences and equations).

I often gave at least partial credit for clever wrong answers, and extra credit for cleverness added to right ones. I would coach students that on standardized tests, they should give the answer they knew the testers had in mind, the “best” answer. On my tests they had the option of writing their own explanation, making a case for two or more options. Few took the trouble, but those who did usually got full marks.

Goofus and Gallant — remember them from Highlights Magazine?
After the last final, I was inputting grades when a father emailed to ask how his son had done. Now quite well enough, but close and he had been trying, so I called down to Industrial Technology and asked his teacher to have him stop by before leaving school. Message not received, but he came by anyway, to return a book. I told him to call his mom to say he couldn’t leave until he was passing, and he set to work, typing a paper on how technology had influenced his life.

Meanwhile, enter Goofus, checking his grade and launching into a rant because he wasn’t passing (had, in fact, been failing all semester). My sense of fairness took hold of me as I noted that I’d given a last minute chance to Gallant. I started looking for missing assignments Goofus could do to raise his grade, but each suggestion prompted a new rant, so I asked him to leave so I could complete my own work. Soon, though, a principal warned me to expect a call from Momma Goofus . . . who proved by her own ranting that the acorns don’t fall far from the tree.

Meanwhile, Gallant was quietly typing away on the computer in the back of the room. I read a bit of his paper over his shoulder and entered the grade as he continued to work. We printed out his work, because it was GOOD, and he called his mom for a ride home. I walked with him to the car to wish him and his mother a great summer, and wished I had a video of the two interactions as an example of how to succeed (or not) in school.

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2015] - Life is Good

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Walden Pond/ Weird / Tales Out of School

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Walden Pond/ Weird / Tales Out of School

Henry David Thoreau said: “In winter we lead a more inward life. Our hearts are warm and cheery, like cottages under drifts, whose windows and doors are half concealed, but from whose chimneys the smoke cheerfully ascends.”

When I watch the little pond, which I have named Walden, freeze and then thaw to welcome geese, I think of Thoreau. I do feel warm and cozy, with much to do, some “have to” and some “want to.” Three guesses which get priority . . .

I used to tell students that if they really understood the unit on Transcendentalism, they’d all probably walk out of the school. Then the reality of consequences would rear its ugly head, and we’d all stay in the classroom. Pass me some more Soma please. https://skipmendler.wordpress.com/2010/12/04/education-should-be-dangerous/

Thoreau said to distrust any enterprise that required new clothes. My friend Chris Crow said he chose shoes with the goal of still being able to smile at his last-period class. Comfort is a necessary component of such active work, “on” non-stop all day. A parent once described some of our teachers as looking like “aging hippies.” I’ll accept that, if it leaves me able to focus on the students instead of my self, and “You’re weird” ranked as the highest possible compliment from the most discerning students.

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New Year’s Change and Resolutions

Maintain health, friendships, and enjoyment of life to the best of one’s ability . . . goals for 2015.

** On New Year’s Day the Y will have an open house.  I’ll do a short tai chi class at 11, open to all who would like to come by.  Early arrivals have been known to receive free t-shirts and there will probably be snacks.

(but not probably as fancy as these cakes  ❤  http://www.cakewrecks.com/home/2014/12/28/new-year-new-sweets.html

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Change?  A rambling remembrance of change and decisions . . .

I don’t leap into change, tending to hold onto the known and comfortable until nudged toward the brink of a new decision.  Generally, after the leap I find myself in a place I like . . . and settle into a new, comfortable routine.

A story once made the rounds about a man praying vociferously, “Please, Lord, just let me win the lottery.  It would really make a difference in my life.  Please, just let me win once.”  From above, a booming voice, “Meet me halfway.  Buy a ticket.”

I bought one lottery ticket when I heard that story, just in case there was a Plan and I needed to do my half.  I didn’t win, I hadn’t really expected to, and there went my dreams of travel and hiring a chauffeur . . . I couldn’t think of much else I’d like to change.

I bought another lottery ticket when I was trying to decide whether or not to retire.  Winning would be a sure sign.  Instead, I received a much more clear sign; sarcoidosis, probably from the mold in our school, impeded my breathing and made it clear that I needed to leave.

I had also expressed a desire that year to “meet some nice men in the coming year.”  Mom used to warn us to be careful what we wished for.  I hadn’t specified “men to whom I won’t owe co-pays.”  To be fair, all the “ologists” were very nice men, and they did get my health back on track after I left that building.  I did also give myself a trip to Hawaii as a retirement present . . . no chauffeur yet, though.

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Retirement was foreshadowed if I’d paid attention.  A couple of years earlier, my doctor made me stay home for the whole month of November (pneumonia). Much as I loved my students, and teaching, I found it surprisingly easy to stay home reading and resting (and lesson planning and grading), and my students appreciated me when I decided to “come back and save (us) from this horrible sub.”  As a preview of retirement, I discovered it was rather pleasant and relaxing to have fewer responsibilities.  I’m feeling the same way now about retirement . . . once I got over the guilt of not “reinventing myself” with a new work load . . .

Lessons in dreams . . .  while still teaching, I had a recurring dream that I couldn’t find my classroom and it was time to teach a class.  I’d end up in an office building and then a park . . . as I neared retirement, my dreaming self decided to stay in the park, “They’ll be okay.”  Thanks to lovely new teachers, they really are.

A student who expressed dismay at my plans to leave was just fine once I reminded her that she would be graduating at the same time as I retired . . . graduating forever.

I recently came across my official Certificate of Credibility, issued after a student, denied some concession, told me that was “why you have no credibility with your students.” Colleagues signed it, and then most of that class asked to also sign.  Take that, ornery student!

 

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One more memory:  I taught one of my high school students to knit during lunch.  I had brought in my knitting as a visual for our reading of “House Taken Over.” Afterward, she had wistfully shared that she hadn’t wanted to learn to knit when her grandmother offered, too young to be interested, “and now I want to learn and my grandma is gone.”  I said I could fill in for her grandma, and she learned quickly!

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May your new year be filled with love and laughter, health and happiness, the familiar and some new, all in pleasing proportions.  Hugs!

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