89. RECOLLECTIONS BY MICHELLE & STUDENT TEACHING CHRONICLES OF RENEE pt. IV

MEMO TO “sangforminhjerte”: You said, “In the course of my career I have been hit, scratched, bitten, spit on, kicked, etc.” in working with special needs kids. We do not know all the details of your situation but a “social conscience” aside -Do you plan to spend the next 30 years being “hit, scratched, bitten, spit on, kicked, etc.? If you are, we are afraid that you are a prime candidate for “burnout”!

MEMO TO RONNIE S.: Sorry it took so long to answer your queries but we at TWP have been covered up. On our teachers Jenny and Michelle, we will have some feature segments on both in upcoming posts. As to Tyler and Tommy, my (Renee) and Jenny’s 5 year old wonder-kids, our hubbies are already TRYING to teach them the basics of throwing and catching softballs. And last weekend was their first extended bicycle riding adventure at a long paved trail (With training wheels, of course!). They did just fine but Jenny and I were the nervous wrecks. It seems that 5 year olds can pedal faster than mommas can run to keep up!

RECOLLECTIONS BY MICHELLE

Howdy everyone from your favorite ex- Alabama Crimson Tide cheerleader. From all my persistent (and sometimes strange) fan email, I figure this segment has been eagerly anticipated. I started this on Monday after attending the annual A-Day inter squad scrimmage at the University of Alabama this past weekend. Wanna know how BIG football is at Alabama? Over 91,000 people came to see a Spring scrimmage between the “Crimson” and “White” teams. (Score: White 23-17)

Well, dear readers -I promise NOT to bore you with Sports stuff. (Hallelujah! -Jenny, Wendy and Renee) Instead, I will attempt to show a more complete picture of who I am and why I am a teacher participating in this blog. This is a story of a girl and her journey through childhood to adulthood. It is my story.

The first thing I wish to do is set a few facts out at the beginning. I was the third-born girl with one baby brother. (He is a U.S. Marine now and hates it when I call him “Baby” Brother but I don’t care -He will ALWAYS be called that by me for as long as I live!) My two older sisters and I are all blond beauty pageant winners at various levels. Everyone says we got mom’s looks and I will not dispute that! Momma was a beauty pageant winner herself and daddy really “scored” when he stole her heart. As to our dad, he is a self-made CEO of a big corporation in the Gulf  Coast region. Both parents, my two older sisters and I all graduated from college while my baby brother will start college after his time in the Marines is up.

Growing Up…the HARD Way

I was really irritated a few weeks ago when I heard a bimbo beauty pageant winner talk about having “Christmas every day” and “living in a mansion feeling sorry for people who aren’t rich”. Hey, I know that was supposed to be for a “reality t.v. show” but give me a break! Speaking for myself, I probably have TWO things in common with that air-head. First, most loyal readers of TWP are aware that I am a blond beauty pageant winner. Second, I do come from a wealthy family background. But if you saw me growing up, the only way you would have know that is by my parent’s street address.

The home I grew up in was a 20 room mansion which might make you think of that t.v. show DYNASTY. But if you saw me or my sibling, you would have thought, “These kids must be the offspring of the hired help.” In other words, we didn’t lounge around wearing cashmere sweaters or school uniforms of some elite boarding school. Nope. We were the ONLY kids on our street who actually caught a public school bus EVERY morning until age 16 when mom and dad helped us to buy USED ECONOMY CARS! And woe to our rear ends if we were running late and missed the bus! Daddy did ride a chauffeured limo to the office but we did not “sit pretty” if he had to drop us off at school.

Why was daddy so “mean” to us kids?

Daddy and momma were NOT “mean” but understood how tough the real world was. My dad and a couple brothers started from scratch what would become a large and very successful corporation. They did it the hard way -With a lot of work. My oldest sister by 8 years vaguely remembers the ordinary family lifestyle of her early childhood and there was NO 20 room mansion or limo. As to me and baby brother, we only know the fruits of daddy’s success.

But daddy was always determined that we kids would know and understand the meaning of “Hard Work”. I can still hear him bellowing, “I worked 60+ hours a week to get where we are today…And I EXPECT you girls to ‘pull your own weight’ around here!” By that, daddy meant “chores”. We did have a maid (She was “legal”) and groundskeepers but daddy made sure a lot of work was “saved” for us -And guess who did inspections. A Marine D.I. had NOTHING on daddy. And “child labor laws” were not recognized in our home.

Chores

In our home, every bedroom was a sort of “master bedroom” with each having large walk-in closets and a private bathroom. Rule #1 was that you had better not come downstairs for breakfast unless your bed had been made up. Absolutely no clothes on the floor and no messes in the bathroom. (Now you understand why we sometimes “missed” the school bus?) The upstairs was considered the family domain and we kids had to maintain it -With the exception of mom and dad’s bedroom which the maid serviced. And the area just around the house -We had to care for the lawn too except for the flower garden (Mom’s turf) and the swimming pool. And the pool -We got to use it ONLY after all chores had been completed.

Why the “slave mansion”?

Because daddy felt that if we were “spoiled”, we would be ruined for life! So, he and momma set out to make life less comfortable because they knew all too well how difficult real life really was. Believe me, the lesson sunk in…DEEP.

Oh, and as to those walk-in closets -We had a full spectrum of clothes from designer dresses to ragged work clothes. The former we wore in many beauty pageants we entered but wore the latter a LOT more.

 

Transportation

When my oldest sis, Mary turned 16, she got a car with mom and dad’s help -A used Honda hatchback. Mary and Louise, my other sister drove to the high school but princess #3 and baby brother STILL had to catch the school bus to elementary school. Life can be soooo UNFAIR! And daddy NEVER had ANY intention of buying us sports cars. “Why?…So you can zoom around and kill someone?…Or yourselves?…Sixteen year olds do NOT need sports cars!” Daddy would thunder.

But it wasn’t all gloom by any means. Spring Break from school meant for me a family trip to Aruba every year. And not by commercial flight either. From as early as I can remember, we all flew down by leased lear jet! And I can still remember siting in the co-pilot’s seat while the plane was in the air! Kinda makes all those chores worth it. Ahh, the memories.

Beauty in the Family

As stated above, my mom was a beauty pageant winner with several tiaras. Her mom and grandmom also won pageants. So, one could say the women of my family have a tradition going here. Well, Mary -my oldest sister- won three tiaras but was one-upped by Louise -sister #2- who won four tiaras. Six years after Louise was born, I came along. And yes -There was friction between my older sisters and me. I will admit that I was bratty but what really made my sisters’ blood boil was when, after winning my first pageant, I declared that I wanted to win FIVE tiaras. To really agitate them, I liked to hold up my right hand above my head with all fingers spread out. I loved to say, “Drive for FIVE!” while wiggling my thumb.

Blood may be thicker than water as they say but had I been adopted, I really do believe my sisters would have definitely sent me back -One way. But they couldn’t so instead conspired to make life harder on poor ol’ me by assisting daddy in “chore inspections”. Daddy saw through it and didn’t oblige them. To this day, I strongly suspect they rooted against me in some of the pageants I entered.

But I did win five! And that evening of tiara #5, as I waved to the audience, I wiggled my right thumb while looking straight at Mary and Louise. They both smiled back but I promise you -They were seething inside.

Sports

As a child, my parents wanted me to be a fully-rounded person. So they strongly encouraged sports for all of us kids from little league through high school. I played a lot of different sports but my two favorites were softball and volleyball -Just like Renee. But for me, sports allowed my “tom-boy” persona to come out. In softball, I got bored easily playing outfield. So I tried the position of “catcher” and LOVED IT! You read it here first -Beauty pageant 5 tiara winner as softball catcher. And least anyone think I was “girlish” about tagging someone out at home plate: I had a fair share of collisions and scrapes as a catcher. One year, I had a morning game in which I scratched my left elbow while getting an out which helped win a game. That night, I was in an evening gown competition sporting a bandaged left elbow. Versatility!

Volleyball was similar in a way. But unlike Renee, who was best in the backcourt and as a server, I am tall like Jenny and do much better as a spiker/blocker. And whenever I made a spike or block of the ball, I let everyone know about it. My exclamations of “YEAH!” got on the nerves of one referee so much that he told me, “One more outburst like that and you will be ejected!…Understand?” What can I say? I had a lot of pent-up energy in those days! (And you still do! -Renee, Wendy and Jenny)

Rah Rah Rah Your Heart Out!

That pent-up energy needed release during the Autumn when there was no softball or volleyball. Since Pageant season is generally Spring and Summer, there was one thing left. Cheerleading. My two older sisters were cheerleaders but I wasn’t interested at first. I saw that, unless it was a pep rally, cheerleaders were in a supporting role while everyone’s attention was on the football field. But everyone told me I had a cheerleader’s persona -So I tried out at the start of 9th grade which also starts high school. I must say I am glad I did because if football (American style) is the sports “religion” of the South, then cheerleaders are the acolytes. Hey, its more than a game -Football is a community RITUAL! And it brings communities together to cheer their kids on -Win or lose.

There is an element of social snobbery among high school cheerleaders but I was never like that. As I have said in other posts, my momma took a very dim view of snobbery saying, “Pride cometh before the fall” adding “You will know when you had too much ‘Pride’ because when you fall -No one will help you up.” Momma also had a large wooden spatula in case her words of wisdom didn’t sink in. Dear readers, my rear end was already acquainted enough with that thing from my early childhood that I could not imagine being a snob on the cheerleading team.

Family Discipline

My parents were anti-spocks. They believed that the best way to absolutely ruin a child for life was to not place limits on them. And those limits were backed by sanctions from time-outs to groundings to the spatula. When the latter was employed after a lighter penalty or warning did not work  -There was FIRE in the backside. Oh, and forget the 3 swat on the seat of the blue jeans school type swats. There was just the spatula and your rear end -With nothing in between and no pre-set quantity. I didn’t require too many repeat performances by mom and my big sisters were the same.

My baby brother was different. I swear -His backside seemed to be in a competition to see which would break first! I recall many an evening which he “got it” and would be bawling his eyes out walking to his room. Most of the time, I would be studying in my room and, upon hearing him, would go over to him and give a sisterly hug to reassure him. As a teacher giving a merited 3 swat paddling, those memories have caused me grief. Those spankings my baby brother got were probably merited but like the few school paddlings I have given, it is all unpleasant to me. Anyone who thinks I “enjoy” giving paddlings are full of S***!

All in the Faith

This short passage of my recollections concerns my faith upbringing. My family is devout Christian and I was brought up in the Christian Faith from as early as I can recall. From Sunday school brownies to youth trips to the Eucharist, my faith has had a positive influence on my life in general. What I will never comprehend is the hatred that some have towards Christianity. Just think of what the world would be like without the Christians: No Salvation Army, no charity hospitals, no one to care for the poor and disadvantaged with compassion and so on. What our world needs is more Mother Teresas and fewer Wall Street Mega-crooks! I just know some people are going to say, “You are just shilling for Mother Teresa to be promoted to sainthood” and “Why does a ‘little rich girl’ even care about the poor?” Well, as to the first question, my reply is “YES” and the second, “Your question reveals more about yourself than me and…I DO care!”

Sweet Home ALABAMA!

I graduated from high school in the top 10 of my class -Which was VERY beneficial. Why? Daddy declared during my high school days that if I wanted to go to college, he would HELP me but that college was not a four year summer camp. In other words, if I desired to go to college, I would have to work my way through. That’s right -Miss 5 Tiara Honor Society Cheerleader would have to get a part time job to supplement my cheerleading scholarship, academic grant and savings. Betcha thought daddy would pay for it all! No way! Daddy felt that my success in college would be boosted if I had “work equity” invested in it.

Well, I got on a work-study program which led me to the “job” I held for 4 years: Library assistant. I did a little of everything from re-stocking book shelves to monitoring the computer area. Between classes, cheerleading practice and my sorority -I had very little down time. But you can do most anything you put your mind to.

My sorority membership was with the Chis whom I pledged my freshman year. I chose to join a sorority because of the close friendships that make membership special. While I did go to parties, I was not the typical “party girl” and AVOIDED drunken “frat-rats” (guys). Besides friendships, I joined the Chis because of their well deserved campus reputation for community service and outstanding academics. All of us at TWP were in sororities but had many friends during college who were just independents. Like cheerleaders in high school, some sororities are infected with some social snobbery but I was and still am very intolerant of that. As a sister and pledge master, I warned new pledges about being snobs and voted a few out who had “bad attitudes”. I can still recall explaining to the other sisters, “I do not CARE if Suzie is a ‘third generation legacy’ -I do NOT want a ‘Miss Uppitty’ as a future sister!” So, do understand -Not all pretty girls who are cheerleaders or sorority sisters are “little snots”.

Teaching and Beyond

When I arrived at the University of Alabama campus, I already knew that I wanted to be an Education major. Initially, I chose secondary education with a specialty area of English/Fine Arts. When I walked into my first class, Introduction to Education, a few heads turned. Well, that doesn’t bother me and I’m used to it. But the questions from classmates was another thing. Some guys would ask, “Are you REALLY going to be a high school teacher?” When I answered “Yes”, I would then hear the snide comment behind my back, “Man, I was just born 5 years too early!”

It was in my second semester that my academic adviser told me, “Michelle dear, I understand your desire to be a teacher but you really need to consider Elementary Education because the older high school kids will just not take you seriously as a teacher.” He then explained that, my sincerity aside, the great majority of high school principals had ingrained biases against young female teachers as well. I wanted to be a teacher and didn’t care what level so I then decided to change to an Elementary/Early Childhood Education major and have never looked back.

Overall, my experiences at Alabama were some of the best years of my life. O.k., the football team was down those four years with no national or conference championships and losing to THAT OTHER SCHOOL all four years but the last two years have been a blessing with my new hubby/Dr. Richard as well as TWO ALABAMA WINS over that other school.

And the “Jessica Simpson” comparison? That originated with our principal who also thinks Wendy resembles Teri Copley.

I guess quality isn’t hard to find in the South!

 

STUDENT TEACHING CHRONICLES OF RENEE

Hand Sanitizers

In my student teaching semester, I found out the hard way that the two dozen kids in your classroom were not the only thing to worry about. In other words, what you can’t see can hurt you. I had just completed my 2nd week and looked forward to a slumberfest party my sorority had at the midpoint of every month.

Friday night, my throat felt a little scratchy so no good night kisses for John, my fiancee and future husband. Sometime in the middle of the night -Sore throat BIG TIME. Cassi, my sorority roommate, had went home and would be back for the party Saturday night. I mention her because her dad was a pharmacist and could have gotten me some antibiotics. But no such luck and I was super miserable. My room became “sick bay” and Cassi “camped out” in another room for a few nights. (No luck on a prescription either -Cassi’s dad needed a form from a M.D. and the university clinic was closed for the weekend) And the party? It is a good thing that no one asked me rhetorically “Where’s the party?” because my answer would had been un-sisterly.

Well, after a couple days, my sore throat evolved into a runny nose and a cough that lasted weeks. I only missed Monday teaching and would use up rolls of tissue paper to clear my nasal passages. But I soldiered on and learned a couple of important lessons.

The first was to use liquid hand sanitizers frequently during the day because those germs are everywhere -Especially in schools where kids come into contact with everything around them and you. The second is to never touch yourself in the face because, like most 8 and 9 year olds, those germs are persistent.

 

COMING NEXT: TEACHER FEATURE:

MICHELLE, FIREDRILL AND FIREWORKS,

HOW A TWP ADMINISTRATOR SPENDS HER WEEKEND

&

STUDENT TEACHING CHRONICLES OF RENEE pt. V

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