Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Back to School

The signs on the street lights let us drivers know that children are out and around again and headed back to school now that September has shown its fall-like head. I started teaching when I was twenty, taught for thirty years, and am now retired for fifteen. I guess that makes me old. 

From age five through fifty of my sixty five years, I lived by the seasons. In the beginning I was the student and then the teacher. With fall leaves, followed by trick or treat and turkeys, Hannukah and Christmas ornaments, winter snow flakes, Valentines Day hearts, St. Patrick's Day shamrocks, spring flowers, and finally goodbyes "It's been a great year" my yearly story was told.

My gayly decorated bulletin boards helped tell the school year story along with posting shared student writings, poetry, art work and other student projects scattered around the classroom. With the students, I yearned for winter break, spring break, and chased downhill towards summer vacation but also relished each day I spent in the classroom with my students.

When I look back at my teaching career I have many wonderful memories as well as memories of difficult times in the process. Being a teacher is no easy task when students matter the most but educational politics and parental opinions color a lot of what you must do.

I always held very high expectations for my students least they fall short of their abilities but was told that my expectations were too high. My curricular goals for my students were "Be yourself! Do the best you can do! Perfect doesn't exist! Sometimes less than great is OK. You decide! Don't give up!" among others. But my goals didn't always show up on the yearly achievement tests, the district curriculum ones did.

I think I was a success although a teacher never really gets much feedback on the completed product. Actually I would hope that my students, now grown adults possibly with families of their own, are still not complete as they continue to grow, always seeking to learn more and to experience life to its fullest. 

You know, come to think of it, I still live my life by the seasons. Fall mums decorate my balcony, Indian corn and gourds fill the baskets on the kitchen counter, trick or treat candy is still a weakness. I go all out for Hannukah and Christmas decorations and entertaining, enjoy hot chocolate and a long walk on the first snow fall of the season, enjoy sending flowers to the older women in my family for Valentine's Day, drink a pint of green beer in honor of Saint Patty, and bring in small pots of daffodils and tulips as soon as they show up at the grocery.

Even though I haven't been teaching for fifteen years now and consider myself retired, I still enjoy weekends and look forward to "summer vacation." Come September I worry a little about what my new class will be like, have work oppressive dreams, then wake up and remember that I can turn over and go back to sleep or get a cup of coffee and spend the morning reading. No back-to-school for me.

Once in a while I do get to see the product of my efforts in their grown form and they usually say something like, "I still write in my journal every day." or "I still look at the books we wrote and bound when we were in fifth grade." One student told me, "You are the only teacher that really understood me!" Nice part is students still matter, nicer yet politics do not interfere anymore.


  1. What I like about the fall-back-to-school season: the pens. I am always searching for the smoothest, bluest pens.

    On another note, in your 4th & 5th paragraphs you allude to the challenges of doing your best for the students as well as answering to your administration, as well as the students' parents. I admire any teacher who can do this balancing act--twenty or thirty times over--and not lose their mind. (No, I am not a teacher.) So kudos to you; you still have a working brain, a sense of humor, and a vast store of patience left.

  2. Pat,
    Thanks for the kudos and back to you because I do not think I would have had the patience to raise children of my own. Easy on the politics but long on the responsibility.


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