86. RECOLLECTIONS BY JENNY pt. I, GOOD NEWS FROM ALEXIS & STUDENT TEACHING CHRONICLES OF RENEE pt. I

Dear Readers: This Easter week edition had to have some changes. We intended to have a March segment of PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE but due to some unexpected good news from Alexis, a guest contributor and author of A TEACHER’S REGRET, that was moved to next week. As to this week: It has been extra busy for me (Renee) as well. I really didn’t know what I was in for with the setting up of the Maundy Thursday Seder at my church. Whew! After a full day as an assistant principal and then working the church kitchen with no “down time” in between…I know now why my school librarian momma did her volunteering when school was out!

RECOLLECTIONS BY JENNY pt. I

 

This first segment of Recollections is a brief story of who I am and where I came from. Don’t expect a hometown name though because, like Renee, Wendy and Michelle -I value my family’s privacy as much as my own (Hey “Talking Chair”: I’ll bet you don’t post your real name, address, or personal info either -And EVERY name in our blog has been changed to protect the privacy of others, SO GET A CLUE!). But like Renee’s chronicles series, this segment will hopefully shed some light on who I really am vs. what the anti- c.p. zealots would paint me as.

Beginnings

I was born and raised in a REALLY small town in the deep south close to the Gulf Coast. When I was little, I can recall folks talking about a “bad storm” we know as Hurricane Camille. That was years before I was born in 1981 of course. In was the Age of Reagan and while my parents were Southern Democrats, as most Southerners were at that time, they warmed up to him after a while.

My parents were more than just “salt of the earth” folks -They lived it. Going back generations, my parents and their parents were all farmers. All I will say is that their crop was something nearly everyone uses and it was no small 10 acre farm either. I will say that it was almost large enough to require a crop duster plane but we never got one.

My earliest memories are of riding one of  the John Deere Harvester-Tractors with my father. And believe me, it had NO air conditioning either.A farming operation as big as ours had a lot of seasonal workers working the crops but my older brother and younger sister and I all were expected to do our “share” of the work too! While I was able to enjoy some traditional kid pleasures like girl scouts, softball and swimming pools -That came AFTER chores and field work -A lot of it!

Chores and Growing Up

I really think that the biggest problem with today’s kids is that we do not ask enough of them. Some families are o.k. but from what I have observed, too many families feel that giving their kids things or allowing them to be spoiled brats is somehow good for them. In my childhood,from as early as I can recall -Everyone had to contribute to the home. For me, it started with picking up my dolls and other toys on a daily basis. As I got older, I was expected to keep my room tidy and make up my own bed. As my mother often said, “This is NOT a Hilton Hotel and I’m not your maid!” Any non-participation in assigned chores resulted in a trip to the barn nearest the house for a reminder of who was in charge -And it was not us kids.

As I grew up, I developed an interest in Biology and the natural world. Being on a family farm, my father taught me a lot about the process of agriculture from planting seeds to tilling the soil to the use of pesticides and when to harvest. Actually, I could write a whole blog just on agricultural management but take my word for it -There is a lot more to it than sticking a seed in the dirt and pouring water over it.

One early school activity that I will always cherish is the 4-H Club festivals in which some of my displays received top place awards. That was big for me because I was a rather shy girl growing up. The reason was that I was a tall skinny girl who did not blossom until high school. In other words, I grew up as the over-looked, shy and introverted girl that was “left out” when it came to the social world of middle school.

But that was about to change -Big time!

Due to the length of the next segment, RECOLLECTIONS BY JENNY has been divided into two parts. The part II segment will be posted next week.

GOOD NEWS FROM ALEXIS

First, a brief recap of the TWP post A TEACHER’S REGRET which was posted a couple months ago. Alexis, a rookie teacher graduate from University of Arkansas, was hired to teach in a small town on the opposite side of Arkansas from where she grew up. In this school system, the use of the paddle was a disciplinary option. Alexis was very reluctant about this and tried to avoid resorting to the paddle. As an ultimatum, Alexis finally used the threat of the paddle to deter her 2nd grade class from acting out when she left the room for short errands. But shortly after, Alexis mistakenly and unknowingly paddled a boy named Scotty. At the end of the school year, two girls told Alexis the truth but it was too late to make amends with Scotty because he had already left and did not return to that school that Fall because of his parent’s divorce. This “mistake” has haunted Alexis for three long years and despite teaching awards and recognition as a top tier teacher in her state, she has nearly quit the profession over her regrets.

Hello TWP and Co., this is both a message of thanks AND good news to all of you.

First, a million thank yous to James, Wendy’s husband-lawyer for his tireless work researching pro bono on my behalf. I could never have found Scotty or his mom because of the fact she re-married and Scotty’s new district in Nebraska does not give out any info on student addresses, not even to the district where they transfer from. All I had was the district he transferred to. Thanks again to James for his searching through divorce decrees and marriage licenses which had to take hours -Even with computer searches. But we succeeded!

When I got the good news, it was like a milestone had been lifted off my back! That very night, I called and reached Scotty’s mom whom I had very good relations with when Scotty was my student. I tearfully explained the entire situation and the reason for my call. I took a chance of rejection but Scotty’s mom told me that Scotty still talked about me as his “favorite” teacher! Upon hearing that, I couldn’t help but to choke up a bit with tears.

It was then that Scotty’s mom suggested a “surprise” visit to the school where Scotty is now a 5th grader. I got directions and it was arranged for me to pick up Scotty from school on a Friday for the surprise of his life. Of course, I had to make arrangements ahead of that “reunion” with Scotty’s school  along with my school vouching for me and my presenting my school district’s ID card. (I wonder if my district thinks I’m leaving them for the state of Nebraska -I hope not!)

It was a long 6 1/2 hour drive for me but was something I had to do. Nebraska is a non- c.p. state but the school where Scotty attended looked similar to mine although the terrain was a lot flatter. When I talked to the principal and told him who I was, he assured me that the surprise was still on and to wait in his office while an unsuspecting Scotty was paged to come to the front office -So he wouldn’t get on the bus and miss me!

The principal, an older gent, winked at me (I will always wonder what he REALLY knew about the “why” for the surprise) and said, “Wait in here…I’ll send him your way as soon as he gets here…”

“Finally, after three long years…I will be able to put an awful mistake to rest,” I thought to myself.

My thoughts were soon interrupted by a boy’s whining “I didn’t do it, Mr. White…I swear!”

Then the principal (Mr. White) spoke, “Scott, relax…I didn’t call you in on the cafeteria incident although you are on ‘warning status’ if you ever do that again…But, the reason I paged you is that you have a visitor in my office here to see you…She says she used to teach you.” I then saw Mr. White cross himself and roll his eyes as he pointed towards his office where I was sitting.

When Scotty turned around, I saw not the little, shy 7 year old whom I had mistakenly paddled but rather, a long shoulder length haired preteen sporting a PIERCED NOSE! (Or NOSE RING -If that’s the correct term) Scotty looked quizzedly at me as he approached slowly.

“Scotty, do you remember me?” I spoke softly as I leaned forward in my seat.

“I don’t think so, ma’am…Mr. White said something about you being an ex-teacher…” Scotty answered with a sound of apprehension in his voice.

Remembering that I keep my brown hair short ala librarian look, I replied, “We both look a little different than three years ago with my short hair style…I am  Miss …., your 2nd grade teacher!”

If you could only have seen Scotty’s face beam. Before I could say another word, Scotty dashed into the office and threw his arms around me.

“Miss …., you are my favorite teacher…But why are you here?…Are you going to be a teacher here!…Please say yes…Please…Please!” pleaded Scotty.

It was then that I knealt down on my knees and spoke in a trembling voice, “Scotty, I have already talked to your mom and she knows why I came all the way out here…Scotty, I made a terrible mistake three years ago and have been hurting about it ever since…”

I recounted what happened and then, with tears streaming, pleaded for Scotty to forgive me.

An astonished Scotty answered, “Miss …., that paddling you gave me was more embarrassing than anything else…I liked you before and that paddling did not change the way I felt about you…I knew it was a honest mistake and only wondered if you ever found out.”

I replied, “I did find out but you and your mom left town right after the last day of 2nd grade and I only located your mom with help from some friends on the ‘net.”

“HA HA HA…I have looked you up a bunch of times on your school’s website…Way to go on those teaching awards…We REALLY could use you around this joint!”

Well, to make a long story short, Scotty did forgive me after I insisted he do so although he felt there was nothing to forgive saying, “Miss …., purposeful wrongdoing is what ‘forgiving’ is for -Not unintentional mistakes.”

We agreed to disagree on that as I took him home via my car. As a special treat, I took Scotty to his favorite ice cream shop on the way home. Since it was my treat, I let Scotty pick whatever he wanted. Of course, Scotty chose the deluxe double decker banana split for his after school snack. Scotty remarked, “This is great!…I need to think of what else you might have done to me…”

We both laughed but I couldn’t help but think, “Forgive me, Michelle Obama, for contributing to the child obesity epidemic!”

When we got to his home, Scotty begged me to spend the night at the house but I politely turned down his and his parent’s offer, choosing to stay at a motel close to the interstate highway. But I did join Scotty and his parents and kid sister for dinner at a pizza pub. We all caught up on the last three years and it was a good evening of rekindled friendships which will probably last a lifetime.

The reunion was something I will never forget and Scotty will be keeping in touch with me on his academic progress. While Scotty is a decent kid, I heard about plenty of his adventures while in and out of school. To say Scotty is not an angel would be the understatement of the decade. Or as his kid sister bluntly put it: Scotty is a S—H—! (I’ll let your readers figure out the exact words)

The “reunion” was brief but I think Scotty will keep in touch for as long as I allow him to. My fiancee and hubby to be better not get too jealous if he sees a teenager hugging me on the “big day”.

Alls well that ends well.

 

STUDENT TEACHING CHRONICLES OF RENEE pt. I

In this first segment of my chronicles of student teaching, please understand that this will not be a daily or weekly diary of my experiences but will give an honest and realistic perspective of what student teaching really is. And the first thing to understand right away is that teaching interns, at least as far as I know, are NOT paid. Heck, we student teachers PAY for the “course” which the university calls Student teaching 4010,4020 & 4030. But we did get free lunches at the schools. (Anyone still think the education profession is easy?)

Beginnings in Teaching

After bailing out of what I considered a “bad situation” the previous Fall semester, I was wiser about the entire set-up. That experience was a rude awakening but lucky for me, I was able to change from student teaching to some on-campus courses I had to have anyway. Then, at the end of the Fall term, I called around to various people I knew who were finishing their student teaching. My initial misgivings were confirmed: The school where I would have student taught was known as a “career-killer”. The word was that no one who went there would have a good professional reference to get a teaching job with.

In the two weeks before the infamous “Hawaii bowl trip”, I was working overtime to ensure that I student taught at an elementary school that a sorority-alumni sister of mine highly recommended along with education majors I knew in other sororities and at large. But there were a lot of student teachers set to be assigned that Spring so I had to hustle. Actually, I had about three different schools on my list but took no chances and got a firm commitment from the Student Teaching Department Chairman as to my placement. It took a lot of b.s. but two days before the big trip, I got the good news: Assignment to one of the schools I requested.

First Day

I will never forget that first day -Not because of it just being the “First Day” of my being a full-time but unpaid teacher. No, it was because of the early morning CHILL I endured at “Bus Duty” on a very cold and wet January morning. At University of Georgia, Spring semester starts in the first week of the new year -Not the first day of Spring. And the school where I was to begin actual classroom teaching wanted newbies to do “Bus Duty” at the start. That morning was as cold as I’ve ever been. My early morning sleepiness was cured very quickly that first week -20 degrees F. will do that!

Greetings

After our Bus Duty, about a dozen student teachers including yours truly, were escorted to a large staff conference room where we we greeted by the principal, Mr. Anderson and our university assigned student teaching coordinator (who was a faculty member of the college of education). We were all briefed on various policies and were all told that the school staff and front office were there to support us as future teachers and for us to call the office if we had any major problems. That last part reassured me that, unlike the previous year, the principal and staff here had my back so far as classroom management was concerned.

One of the policies that was in our student teaching policy handbook was that we could not administer or witness any corporal punishment WHATSOEVER. I was fine with that and felt that c.p. was not “needed” in the 21st century. The reason for the policy was that student teachers are NOT considered staff members of a school although in every other way we were teachers. Hey, I didn’t even receive my Georgia teaching license until June. (Currently, I am licensed in 4 states)

One Small Step For Teaching…

After the orientation meeting, our group was taken on a walking tour of the school facility. After showing where the cafeteria, library and gym/auditorium was, we were taken to the classroom wing of the school where our classes “eagerly” awaited to greet their student teachers. It was at this point that I realized “This is ‘it’ -Make or break time” and there would be NO turning back. A “few butterflies in the stomach” moment for me but I had prepared for this for a long time. Just outside the door to the room where my teaching career would be launched, the host teacher named Brenda, introduced herself and welcomed me.

…And A Giant Leap For My Future Career.

When I first stepped into the 3rd grade classroom, I was greeted by giggles, ahhh’s and ohhh’s. Brenda shushed the kids and plainly told them, “Miss …. is going to be your teacher for the rest of the school year…And you WILL mind her just as you mind me…Or suffer the consequences…Is everyone clear on that?” (I was so thankful Brenda called me a “teacher” instead of “student teacher”!)

As I stood in front of the class, I felt more ‘in charge’ than I ever did that one misbegotten week the prior Fall. I introduced myself but talked about what I wanted the kids to achieve telling them, “I don’t care about how you rank with your classmates because when we are finished in mid-May, ALL of you are going to make grade…I’ll see to that!” I then turned the class back over to Brenda for at least that day so I could observe her curriculum and routine.

As I took a seat at the teacher’s desk in back of the room, a boy spoke up asking, “Just how ‘mean’ are you?”

I tried to keep a business-like demeanor, especially for the first day, but that “ice breaker” was too much. As the class roared in laughter, I could not resist giving my world-class (According to my sorority sisters) grin and violating the first unwritten rule of student teaching: Never let the students see you smile for at least 1 month.

Later, while monitoring recess, Brenda told me, “Its o.k. to let the kids see that you are ‘human’ because, regardless of how you try to present yourself, they will ‘test’ you sooner or later.”

The “test” would come sooner.

 

COMING NEXT: PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE: MARCH,

RECOLLECTIONS BY JENNY pt. II

&

STUDENT TEACHING CHRONICLES OF RENEE pt. II

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