Category Archives: Teachers

2015 Day 31: The Wilderness Camp

As you already know, I was a teacher for many years.  And I was also the crazy teacher who loved to take middle schoolers on field trips-overnight.  One of the most interesting and physical field trips that I ever did was the time we went to a wilderness camp. Yes, you heard me correctly-a wilderness camp!  We could have a total of 15 people. The reasoning for 15 was that was the size of a van.  And we didn’t need to take too many students because not everyone is ready for that kind of experience. By experience, I mean that we were going to do a ropes course, go hiking on the Appalachian Trail and we were sleeping in tents on the trail.  We didn’t have to do cooking-thank goodness! The other teacher had never been camping-EVER! But she was a good sport and willing to give it a try. So that left space for thirteen students. We were not sure how many eighth graders would want to attend but we figured that it would be mostly boys. Right? Nope.  We had ten girls and three boys. All of the boys were in Scouts-so no worry there.  The girls were bright and funny and cheerleaders. I was concerned a little about them.

The day began misty and gray as we set off from the school parking lot. By the time we had driven 20 miles,  the girls had begun to tell knock knock jokes. They were hilarious! By the time we reached the 30 mile mark, the girls had switched to blond jokes. The fact that they were all blondes made the jokes even funnier!  Next they switched to singing songs. The other teacher and I didn’t have to do a thing. The girls were the undesignated entertainers for the trip. When we arrived at camp, we put our things away and started on the ropes course. Ropes was the key word here. We were divided into teams and used group strategies to use ropes and cross rushing streams and climb cliffs.  It is a good thing that I could do heights! The strangest and scariest activity was something called the pamper pole. It was as tall as your typical telephone pole with the little iron steps up the side. The activity for this was to climb up the pole using the iron steps/grips. When you reached the TOP, you were to crawl up and stand up on your two feet on the very TOP of the pole. BTW, we wore a safety harness.  Once you reached the top and were standing up straight, you were to spring from the top and grab a swinging bar. The harness person would then let you down to earth. Some of the kids started up the pole but came back down. Most of the kids climbed to the top and leaped to the swing bar.  No one made it to the bar yet. Then it was time for the adults. My teacher friend said no and looked at me.  So up I went. Once you got into the groove of climbing up, it was ok. But when I looked down when I was almost to the top—yowie!  I made it to the top and then climbed  up. Next was the swing bar.  Man, it was hard to leap into the air but I did it. I missed the swing bar but was fine. Well, check that off my list!

The next morning we left the base camp and headed to the mountain trail. It was misty rain. The guys were glum. They were not hikers. The girls were cheery and sang the WHOLE day! We had a great time eating by the campfire and sleeping in 2 man tents at night. The next morning after a hearty breakfast, we hiked back to base camp. The guys were tired.. The girls were singing-again!  The guys even mentioned how difficult it was to hike with cheerful people.  The girls mentioned that the boys were real stick-in-the-mud campers and started singing again.

Well, I know one thing from this experience. I will choose blonde cheerleaders to hike into the woods with any day over Boy Scouts.  Sorry guys!

2015 Day 29: Food for the Road

If you have read any of my previous posts, you are aware that I was a teacher for many years.  I loved working with children!  I also worked with some pretty fantastic teachers.  We talked all at the same time and could finish one another’s sentences.  It was great! We were also a little crazy.  By that, I mean we thought it was FUN to take eighth grade students out of town overnight.  Actually we took them out of town for three nights.  You are now saying-“Yep, she’s crazy.”    I am and so were they!

We had a big environmental unit that we taught.  One of the ending activities was to spend several days at an environmental center for students.  We had a great time exploring ocean topics and the environmental issues.  Kids wanted to be on our team and parents wanted them with us, too. In order to take 60 students out of town for several days, we had to have some plans that kept everyone busy and at the same time, made the trip affordable.  Since the first and last day involved 7 plus hours on a school bus, we had to have plans for food.  Cheap food.

Going down was easy.  Everyone brought a snack and a lunch and we had a big cooler.  No problem.  Coming back was harder because there were no Moms to pack that lunch.  The first year we decided to let the camp provide us with box lunches.  Big mistake.  The food was good but geared more to older students-not middle school ones.  The next year we had a better plan for coming home on the interstate food.  McDonald’s????  NO.  Burger King???? NO.

With a fist full of coupons, we stopped at a local grocery store.  We had made major math calculations prior to the trip.  We filled two grocery buggies with loaves of bread, peanut butter (because NO ONE was allergic in those days), jelly, bologna (yes we ate that, too), cheese, individual potato chip bags, huge jars of pickles, canned drinks (I know, I know you are shocked), and enough LIttle Debbie snack pies to keep all of us on a sugar high.

Did we stop at a roadside park and have a leisurely picnic? Nope.  Stopping to let 60 people have a pit stop took forever. So we didn’t stop to eat.  We put the coolers that were filled with food in the back of the bus on the floor.  The longest one we put on the back seat and formed a work table.  Two of us made sandwiches on that table, wrapped it in a paper towel and passed it to a child.  If you wanted that kind-you kept it.  If you didn’t, you passed it to the child in front of you.  Easy peasy.  In no time everyone had a sandwich.  We had poured out the liquid in the pickle jars and passed them up the seats ,too.  If you wanted a pickle, you got one out.  Otherwise, pass it forward.  The chips were easy and handled the same way.  A teacher in front passed out canned sodas.  In no time, everyone was eating.  When they finished, they shouted out a request for a new sandwich and we made it and passed it up the seats.  We then did the Little Debbie pies.  We covered a lot of miles in the silence of eighth graders eating.  Was it fancy? No but everyone ate every single thing we had.  Our road food was a success!

Every year after that, we did this same food prep and distribution.  It’s amazing how many sandwiches you can make while riding in a bus on the interstate!

2015 Day 23: The Paper Drive

I have been a recycler all my life.  My Mom and my Nannie were recyclers, too.  They taught me everything they knew and that was what got me started.  Then I taught science for a long time and I always taught about recycling.  I used cloth grocery  bags before most people even realized there was such a thing.

My Mom and my Nannie saved aluminum foil. I know that sounds crazy but it is true.  Whenever they used a piece of aluminum foil to cover something, they would carefully wash and dry it.  Then they would let it air dry.  Finally they would carefully fold it up and put it away for another day of use, covering something else.  They lived through the Depression and WW2.  They knew what it was like to do without something.  So they reused everything they could-including foil. They didn’t call it recycling.  They said they were frugal.  You are probably thinking “yuck” regarding reusing foil.  Well, I am in my late 60’s and it never damaged me, I never got sick from food covered with the reused foil.  So—–it must have been ok.

Glass jars were reused, too.  You could can vegetables in them or store leftover foods in them in the refrigerator.  We never threw away glass jars. NEVER.  BTW, we did not have plastic storage containers at my house-either. The sodas we drank came in glass bottles.  We had to return them to the store to get our deposit back.  There was NO aluminum cans when I was growing up.  Listen carefully again.  We had NO aluminum cans.  We had NO plastic bottles.  Milk was delivered to your house in a glass bottle.  Ah-the good old days.

And newspapers? Well, they were saved, too.  Every year our elementary school had a big paper drive.  Yep! You heard me right.  A paper drive.  The front of the school had a covered walkway and there would be a sign with each teacher’s name on it.  For one week, we would collect every newspaper that we could find.  We would tie them in bundles and put them in the stack for our class.  By Thursday, the stacks of newspaper would be taller than our heads. The entire walkway would be covered with stacks of newspaper.  On Friday afternoon, a  truck would come and collect the stacks.  The school would get a check that they could use for programs in the school.  And the winning class? Well they got a prize, too! The paper drive was the B.I.G. fundraiser for the school.  As soon as it was over, people started collecting their papers for the next year.  They stacked them in their garages and on their porches.  It was a BIG deal.

So that is what started me in recycling.  Thanks Mom and Nannie for making me more careful with this earth that God has given us!

 

2015 Day 20: The Macarena Girls

Before retiring, I was a teacher, a curriculum coordinator, an assistant principal and a principal.  I have a lot of good memories from those 32 years of my life.  But one that stands out in bravery and sense of humor was my experience as a Macarena girl.

Every year, we did some kind of promotion for our reading program.  We wanted students to read A.L.O.T!! So we always had a “carrot” out there to encourage them in their reading.  And having a contest that students get to participate in is the easiest and best way.  One of our fifth grade teachers was  a real jewel and had a great sense of humor.  Her kids were always thinking of unusual things.  So when she proposed that they come up with the perfect reward for the school if they met their reading goals,  they set right to work.   When they finished, they had a doozy of an idea.  It was better than the time that the principal dressed up as Elvis and arrived in a limo to greet and thank children for their efforts.  The principal was a great sport and even wore an Elvis costume with exposed chest hair.  What a hoot!

Now for the new idea.  A really popular dance among children and teens was the Macarena.  The kids wanted the principal, assistant principal and the counselor to dance the Macarena in front of the school.  Well, that was fine with me. I didn’t know the Macrena but how hard could it be??  The second part of the idea was that we should wear swimsuits.

Swimsuits? We were all OLD-I had grandchildren.  And despite the fact that I am now a water fitness instructor and live in a swimsuit all year and have NO problem anymore with wearing it in front of adults at the Y, I am sure that I did NOT want to wear a swimsuit in front of the whole school. It would probably make the Atlanta news-not in a good way.

Well, adults can be sneaky, too.  The three of us talked and found a way we could wear swimsuits.  So we announced that we would do it at the end of the year IF they met the goals. THE DAY arrived.  Parents arrived.  Nothing like making a fool in front of everyone!!! The school was abuzz.  The dancing was scheduled for 1:45 in the gym.  We had a sound system all ready with the music.  We just smiled when kids asked us about our swimsuits.  It was close to THE TIME.  Children were seated in the gym. They were EXCITED! We strolled into the gym.  We were wearing raincoats. LONG raincoats. We were wearing hats from the 1950’s with feathers and veils. We wore long gloves.  The fifth grade teacher began to encourage the kids to tease us about the raincoats.  They wanted us to take them off.

So we did!  We were wearing turtlenecks, and leotards, and 1940’s swimsuits.  You know-the kind that Esther Williams wore in the movies. They were high cut and anyway we had on turtlenecks with long sleeves.  They were longer than some shorts that women wore then.  We were in swimsuits.  That was the deal.  We danced the Macarena and the fifth graders danced with us. It was a blast!

Today it is still a little scary that somewhere—out there—–is a video or two with us doing our performance!

Day 26: And Who Really Has the Last Word?

Many years ago, when I first started teaching school, I was blessed to work with some wonderful experienced teachers. The start of the year was rocky. I started teaching fourth grade. But the numbers didn’t work out for four fourth grades and after ten days, I was transferred to a fifth grade position at the same school. I was blessed that I didn’t have to change rooms. But I had a super speeded up intro to fifth grade. As new kid on the block, I ended up with the lowest math group but an average reading group. After many initial worries about my math students, I found that it was a perfect place for me. The group was small and they would do anything for popcorn. So we worked hard for four days and on the fifth did testing, played games and had popcorn. They thought we were playing cards or bingo.  But aha, we were practicing our basic skills. I was pretty sneaky!

That year, the fourth and fifth grade team was in a separate building on the campus and  we were very helpful and supportive of each other.  I lost my grandmother that year and they were so wonderful to me. Then the husband of one of the fifth grade teachers died very suddenly and unexpectedly. We were all shocked. He was so young to us although he was probably in his late fifties. We became her extended family during this time. As her birthday approached-the first one without her wonderful husband, we decided to give her a surprise birthday party. We knew we had to do something crazy because it would be sad for her. So we decided that the theme would be Wonder Woman!  And each of us would give her something funny from within our building that would relate to teachers. We all also agreed to not tell each other what we were doing.

The day of the party arrived.  We had a Wonder Woman  cake.  We had wrapped gifts. Although we all had been inventive and used schoolroom items, one teacher earned a gold start for excellence.  Before I tell you more about this special gift, I need to give you a little info on our principal. This was his first year as principal and he was funny. But man, he had a thing for his name stamp. I was a principal for many years and a name stamp is so important. Every report card is to be signed with the name of the principal.  Well, right away, you can see that no man or woman in their right mind says- “Hey-bring me your report cards and I will sign them all.”  Who wants to sign their name over 600 time? Not me. So I had a stamp made and it stayed locked up in the vault at school.  This man’s stamp stayed locked in his drawer and no one could check it out without getting it directly from the principal. If you borrowed it, you had only so long before he was calling to see if you were done. He was a bit obsessed with his stamp and who had it. It became a joke to all us teachers.

So when Mrs S opened that gift bag, she looked a little startled as she bulled out a roll of toilet tissue. It looked brand new.  Perfect.  Pristine. She smiled and look at it oddly until she noticed in the middle of the first sheet of toilet tissue was stamped ” Charles B.Melcome”-the principal’s name. Then she began to unroll the roll and saw that every single sheet of toliet tissue was stamped with  the principal’s name.  The teacher quietly said-“I think you know how to use my gift”. We laughed and laughed.  And then we laughed some more!

I am sure she knew how to use this special gift.

Day 22: The Day That Camelot Died

It was a Friday.  Fall was finally feeling like Fall in the South. Our weather is always a little screwy. It was almost Thanksgiving. I was excited that we would have a few days off. I was in the ninth grade in a newly started middle school. Actually we were not a real middle school. We were a bunch of ninth graders that didn’t fit into the statistics for enrollment that year. So half of the ninth graders went to a brand new high school. The rest of us unfortunate people went to the old high school that had room for us. That meant that by the time we arrived in another year, friendships would already be formed without us. There was no band or chorus. We were just out of luck. Some teachers were required to stay at the old school and were glad. Others-not so happy. That year I  had two excellent teachers-my English lit teacher and my world geography teacher. But that is not a real part of this post. Just supplemental information!

My geography class was 5th period. I have no inkling what we were studying. Looking back I should have remembered. But then again it wasn’t that important to the day.

The Date was November  22, 1963.

What were you doing that day?

For many of you, this date means nothing. For me, it was the day that the principal announced over the intercom: John F Kennedy has been assassinated in Dallas, Texas.   We were silent. I could feel my heart beating -fast.  Who would do this? Should I be afraid?

I had reached the age where I had begun to notice political things and The Kennedy’s were certainly worthy of watching. One of the big things I heard adults talking about at church was if Kennedy was elected would the Pope be able to have him do special things for the Catholic Church.  Hmm. I had never considered that the Roman Catholic Church might end up running the country.  Does that mean that Billy Graham could call up a senator and get special treatment? Hmm.  People talked about Kennedy and his heroism in the Pacific. Everyone knew about PT 109.  I still have that video!  People talked about how rich the family was. So wealth was an issue, too.

But he was elected President and fell into the media spotlight. Women wore pillbox hats because Jackie did.  Women wore big sunglasses because—-Jackie did. And everyone grieved for the children they lost.

We all watched the funeral procession and wept for the life destroyed before it’s time.

And we all watched John-John as he saluted his father’s casket .

 

 

Day 14: Prunes and Skates

First of all, I had surgery today on my wrist. My entire arm is still numb. I am still a little fuzzy around the edges so I apologize in advance for typos I don’t recognize. I am still using the one finger approach! :-)) And tonight’s writing assistance is provided by Brookstone Dark Chocolate pomegranate pieces!

First of all, you must like prunes if you clicked on this post! lOL Or you are a skater! I have talked a little about the teachers in my life and what I remember about their impact on my life. I think it is interesting that the things I remembered are not directly related to instruction but to their interactions with me. First grade was all about assembly and garters! Second and third were in fast forward apparently. But fourth grade was a winner! I had Mrs.R who had taught for many years. I was a “tall” girl in fourth grade. I apparently had hit a growth spurt and got to sit in the back. The last seat-hooray! And I was close to the teacher which impacted seriously on my hidden library book activity. But I found that sitting near the teacher had other advantages. I was the errand runner. Yay! In those days, teachers didn’t give a hoot about helper charts. They cared about responsibility and who could be a good helper. Throughout  fourth grade C,S and I were helpers.

One day I noticed a piece of cake on her desk. It looked rather like Japanese Fruit Cake. But it was the wrong time of the year. So before lunch I had a chance to say”Mrs.R, is that Japanese Fruit Cake?”. She told me it was Prune Cake. Did I like prunes? I smiled and silently thanked my Nannie. And said yes!!! I ate stewed prunes with my Nannie. Yum Yum!! So at lunch she gave me a taste of her Prune Cake. I loved it! The next day she brought me a whole piece of my own. Her family didn’t like it so she always shared. Next she brought me the recipe. I still have it! So what else do I remember about fourth grade? Prune Cake and the fact that I always had a regular GI tract! :-))

In the fifth grade, I had a new teacher to the school. And he was a man! I didn’t know that men could teach in elementary school. He even had an interesting name. His first name was the singular form of his last name. For example—Forest F Forests. He was single. He had worked at Lockheed and left to teach school again. He missed working with children. He was a little fluffy! He wore a starched white shirt and black dress trousers every day with a tie. Can I remember what we did in class.? No.  I can remember the other fifth grade teachers were women and crabby. He was not. He smiled a lot. Then at the end of the first six weeks, he forever had a place in our hearts. He announced that we had done so good that we were having a class skating party in Atlanta at the Rollerdome. We would leave at 5 and ride in the cars of parents to the Rollersome. We would skate from 6 to 9 and then return to the school and children could be picked up.

The Rollerdome was huge and down near the Crackers stadium. It had gorgeous wooden floors and several huge chandeliers in the center. The music was excellent. They had partner skates and races and backward skates. It was THE place to skate and none of us had ever been to such a fancy place. I loved it. My dad skated with me. My friends. My not friends. Then the teacher did another thing that we did not expect and was instructional. He taught every single one of us to couples skate. He said it was a skill we should know. I learned to skate backwards too. We went every six weeks. He skated with every single one of us. He was an excellent figure skater and we thought he was the best in the world! I will also need to mention that one other significant event happened that year. I had my very first visit from my aunt in RedBank (let me know if you have no idea what I mean). The same night  I also went to see Handel’s Messiah at a local church. I thought that the Music was especially significant that day!

And so, once again you have learned about my educational endeavors for fourth and fifth grade! I had another yummy recipe for prunes and I could couples skate! Not everything is a part of standardized testing!!

Day 10: What is in a name?

When I was a little girl, there were not as many choices for things to participate in after school or during the summer as children have now. Of course to me, it seemed like I had many choices. Little girls could take ballet or tap, they could go to Girl Scouts or they could learn to play the piano. Sometimes little girls could do two of them but that is about all. There were no soccer teams or softball teams or volleyball teams. Girls were very limited in the sporting area. For example, if a girl played basketball in high school, she could only play half court. Girls did NOT run down the whole court. I know this is hard to imagine now.

I was able to take ballet and tap. I liked tap dancing the best. There was something about those taps on the bottom of your shoes that make you feel special!  I only danced for two years before focusing on other things. I was in Girl Scouts all the way through high school. But I will save that for another time. I want to talk about playing the piano now. I was I kindergarten when my mother started looking for a teacher for me. Not everyone would take a six year old. Many teachers had waiting lists. The woman my mother wanted me to go to was filled but suggested one of her former students who has just come home from college and was going to teach high school and piano  after work in her home. My mom was really tickled and signed me up.

I can remember how nervous and excited I was that first day! My mom came in with me to meet my new teacher. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She had a smile that made me feel welcome and calm. I wanted to be the best student she had ever taught. When I practiced at home that week, I know I drove my family crazy because I even gave up reading time to practice. When I went to my second lesson, I was a little early and I waited in her dining room where I noticed this kind of piano that I had never seen before. She saw me looking at it and told me it was a pump organ that had belonged to her grandmother. She showed me how it worked and let me give it a try. It was a challenge to be able to play and pump the pedals at the same time to produce the sound! I loved it. You also have to touch the keys differently than a piano. I wanted one of my own! Every other week we would spend a little time with the pump organ after my regular piano lesson. Then she surprised me with a piece of sheet music-Ave Maria-which I learned to play on the organ. At my first recital, I played a piece on the piano AND I played a piece on the pump organ.  My teacher never realized that she had started me on a musical journey that would last my whole life. I still play the piano 60 years later.

My teacher’s name was Nancy Ellen J.  In Hebrew, the name Nancy means full of Grace. That certainly described my teacher. Ellen means the shining one.  I adored her name and felt she had made such an impact on my life  that when my parents were expecting a new baby that I talked constantly about how  nice it would be to grace a new baby girl with a beautiful name. When my beautiful red-headed sister was born later that year, they graced her with a beautiful name-Nancy Ellen. And sis-that is where your name came from! A beautiful name for a beautiful woman!

 

 

 

Day 7: Garters and First Grade

I am a retired teacher and administrator.  I worked with children for 32 years.  During that time, I met some terrific students and parents.  During that time, I met some really interesting students and parents. I hope I didn’t offend anyone with that last statement. But I met some real doozies! During my career, I really wanted to make a difference in children.  Sometimes I did an awesome job.  Sometimes I wasn’t sure.  But I always wondered what children would say about me when they grew up. Since I have lived in this area since the 70’s, I frequently run into former students.  I am excited to talk with them and see what has been going on in their life.  And they often say funny things to me about what they remembered. Yay!

So I thought I would tell you about my first grade teacher today.  I hope she will be smiling down on me after I publish this post.  I must say up front that first grade is such a critical year. When I was in elementary school, there was no kindergarten in public school.  Almost all children came to school with no formal instruction.  We started after Labor Day and we ended the last day of May. I can never remember school being cancelled due to weather.  We had no fall breaks or winter breaks. We went to school every day. Period.

The school that I attended was one of the first schools in the area. It was over 130 years old. It had started out in another location as a community school that served grades one to nine. It had three teachers.  THREE!!! And one of them was the principal who also taught. After a number of years, the school was renamed for the principal in honor of his dedication to the education of children.  Nowadays, you have to be dead before a school is named for you! When I started there, he was still the principal. The school site was large enough to have an elementary school (1-8) and a high school.  The elementary school was in the original building. It was pretty cool.  Red brick with steps up to the double wooden and glass doors. Large windows that opened to the ceiling. High ceilings. Oiled floors.  For all of you who are saying “what kind of floors”, I have to say they were oiled.  They were wooden planks that had oil rubbed on them to act as a preservative.  The smell was wonderful.  Ancient. Musty. Tangy. Each night, they spread a rubber compound on the floors and swept it up with any dirt that had collected. There were classrooms on each side of the hallway that ran the length of the school. The walls were plaster and beadboard.  I seem to remember it was that sickly green color that schools liked to use.

In the middle of the building was a large auditorium with theater seats that folded up so that children could walk easily down each aisle.  There was an American flag on one side of the stage and the Georgia flag on the other. There was a piano. And EVERY Friday we had assembly.  I liked assembly. We would sit with our class and never utter a word to each other. That was the rule.  We pledged allegiance to the US flag. We had prayer. Yes prayer.  We read a Bible verse. We sang together while someone played the piano. I can’t remember a single song but they were ones I knew after a few weeks. That was the total of our music education.

Now for my first grade room.  It had a cloakroom.  It was a little room where we left our coats and lunchboxes.  Everyone had a little cubby with a hook. You always put your stuff in your spot. The room seemed to be huge but that was probably due to the high ceilings.  We had blackboards on two complete walls.  One wall was windows. And the other wall was in the back and it had nothing on it. We didn’t have bulletin boards. If you have watched old movies, you have seen desks that were attached to each other.  Ours were like that. The lid of my desk lifted up and we put our paper and other supplies in our desk.  We did not have supply lists with items like Kleenex, Crayola crayons, scissors, hand sanitizer or thumb drives. We had pencils. And pink pearl erasers.

My teacher held a special place in the teacher hierarchy.   She was the wife of the principal.  She was older–perhaps more experienced is a better word.  I would love to tell you that she instilled a love of reading in me.  I would love to tell you that she was marvelous and funny and gave us hugs or stars. But I can only remember one thing about her.   She wore knee garters that she adjusted while  reading to us after lunch. That’s it! I can close my eyes right now and see her hand on the garter. I was fascinated by her ability to read and fiddle with her garters at the same time.  FYI, in those days, many women would pull up their hose, place the elastic garter around the top of the hose and then roll the whole shebang down their leg until it was right below their knee.  Their dress would cover the garter.

And that is the sum total of my first grade education knowledge. Garters! Please forgive me Mrs. O.