In Honor of Mothers and Teachers

When he was in preschool, my now twelve-year-old son made me this necklace for Mother’s Day.

Long before I became a mother, I celebrated Mother’s Day.

And I don’t just mean by honoring my amazing mom.

Each May, my students created Mother’s Day gifts for the special woman in their lives. For some students, that woman wasn’t their mother but their grandmother, aunt, older sister, or step-mom.

In honor of Mother’s Day, the special women who make a difference in a child’s life, and the teachers who help children honor these women with forever-treasured mementoes, I’d like to share a recently published personal essay. Click here to read “How Teachers Help Make Mother’s Day Special” published on motherwellmag.com

A Shout-Out to Classroom Teachers

The library corner in my fourth grade classroom, September 2010. (The cozy rug hadn’t yet arrived.)

Our family’s world changed on Friday, the 13th. March 13th, when the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) announced that all schools would close for two weeks due to the spread of the COVID-19. 

My son was supposed to return to school on Monday, March 30th. 

Since then, LAUSD has amended its original plan and called for all schools to remain closed until May 1st. But even that date is tentative. Rumors are swirling that our children will not return to a classroom for the remainder of this school year.

In the meanwhile, teachers scramble to put together lesson plans and instructional programs that children can access online. Which means parents are now being called upon to serve in the roles previously held by the schoolteacher – taskmaster, cheerleader, supervisor, tutor, coach.

Now, many parents are taking to social media, claiming “that being with their child day-after-day helping them with assignments is giving them a taste of what it’s like to be a teacher.

“And to those parents, I want to say, ‘No it’s not.’ “

Those words begin a personal essay I wrote  and that was published last week at Motherwell Magazine. You can click here to read the essay in its entirety.

 

 

Thank You For Being You

Each year, our class created a thankful “quilt.”

 

There are parts of teaching I really miss.

Mainly, all the “extras.” The out-of-the-box, beyond-the-textbook things we used to do.

Like the way we celebrated Thanksgiving.

When I taught kindergarten, our class always hosted a multicultural feast. Hot dogs, turkey, spaghetti, sushi, mashed potatoes, empanadas – they all made their way to our feast. We made placemats and table centerpieces, and lined up our desks in long rows. 

When I taught fourth and fifth grade, we still celebrated with a feast. But, for a few years, I did something extra. 

I wrote each of my students a short letter about why I was thankful for each of them.

As a teacher, it’s so easy to get caught up in what went wrong, and easy to overlook when things are going smoothly.

But, it’s just as important to pay attention to those moments.

I don’t know if my students remember those letters, but I do. 

Here are a few passages from the notes I wrote over the years. And maybe they will serve as inspiration to you. Make sure the people in your life know why you are thankful for them.

I am thankful for your participation. You are always eager to read aloud, answer questions, and share from your journal each morning. 

I am thankful for your attentive listening. During lessons and discussions, I notice how closely you listen. I don’t have to worry that you’re not paying attention.

I am thankful for your positive attitude. You come to school each morning with a smile and a good mood. I really appreciate that.

I am thankful for your sense of humor. Your comments often make me smile, and sometimes laugh out loud. And there are days when we all really need to laugh. So thank you for that.

I am thankful for you taking responsibility for your actions. Even when you have chatted or done something you weren’t supposed to, you are quick to apologize and get right back to work. I appreciate that.

I am thankful for your positive attitude. You never give up. You are always trying to do better and learn more. I noticed that fractions were a bit tricky for you at first, but you kept practicing, and they got easier. You did it! I hope you know I’m proud of you for sticking with it.

I am thankful for your smile. You greet me each morning with a smile, you smile at me throughout the day during our lessons, and end the day with a smile. Your smile means a lot to me. Thank you!

I am thankful for your kindness. You are a good friend to your classmates. You offer to help them when they are having difficulties with a certain lesson, like the fractions and decimals we were doing. It was very generous of you to give up a recess to stay inside and help a friend with math.  

I am thankful for all your computer help. You are our class computer expert. You help your classmates when they are having trouble with the computer. And you’ve helped me with the blue computer when it wasn’t printing. You are my computer hero!

I am thankful for the way you help your classmates. You are a fast and accurate mathematician. I really appreciate the way you walk around our classroom to offer assistance to your classmates who are still working on their math assignment.

I am thankful for your hugs. I love hugs, and it’s such a nice treat to receive one of your hugs. Sometimes you surprise me and all of a sudden I just have two arms wrapped around me! I hope you know how much your hugs mean to me!

What Everyone Should Know About Teachers

   Before – This is what my classroom looked like at the end of summer vacation 2010, a week before the start of a new school year.

 

Quick.  Name five things you think teachers do during a typical school day.

What did you come up with? Depending on your past experiences, your list might look something like this:

“Correct papers,” “yell,” “staple,” “organize,” “erase.”

But in my twelve years’ experience, I’d add these verbs to the list: 

Dare.

Give.

Listen.

Model.

Nurture.

You can read my personal essay/list “The A to Z List of Verbs Teachers and Students Practice Daily” by clicking here and being re-directed to iTeach literary magazine.

 

After – The finished result: an organized, colorful, inviting (I hope) classroom. All it needs now are students!

Thankful for Our Public Schools

For my readers who don’t live in Los Angeles, here’s what you should know about the last week:

It rained.  A lot.  For consecutive days.  And in L.A., that is news in and of itself.

But on top of that, our Los Angeles public school teachers went on strike.  The last time teachers resorted to a strike was back in 1989.  I was in junior high school (back then it wasn’t called middle school like it is now), and the strike lasted 9 days.

(You can click here to read the post “Guide to the LAUSD Teachers’ Strike” on MomsLA.com for some additional information and photos about the strike.)

This strike is different.  At least for me.  This time around, I view the strike through the eyes of a former public school student, a former public school teacher, and a current public school parent.

So for the first time in his school career, my son didn’t attend school on days he was well.  We discussed it as a family and we all decided that in support of our teachers, we weren’t crossing the picket line.  (And in all honesty, there was little to no real learning going on at these under-staffed school campuses, and as the strike continued, student attendance continued to decline.) 

Much of what our teachers are fighting for hasn’t changed since the last strike.  Our teachers want what is best for our children.  Smaller class sizes.  Less testing and more teaching.  More support staff, including a full-time nurse each day. 

Our public school classrooms are marvels.  I miss the magic of being in a classroom with a group of children and seeing that spark, seeing that light bulb go off, seeing the understanding.  There is nothing like it.  Our teachers don’t want to be outside their schools picketing.  They want to be inside their rooms teaching.  The sooner, the better.

And on that note, I’d like to share a post I wrote several years ago.  I think during this time especially, it’s important to remember just how valuable our public schools are.  Click here to read my essay, “6 Reasons Why We Should Be Thankful For Public Schools.”

A Tribute to Teachers

 

Though I left my teaching career five years ago, there are still many aspects of teaching I really miss.  There’s a special sort of magic that happens when you connect with a child, and that’s why I still enjoy reading about teachers who love teaching.

Recently I read Phillip Done’s memoir Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind – Thoughts on Teacherhood, and I’d like to share with you some of the passages that stood out for me.

“What exactly is a teacher anyway?  A lot of different things.  Teachers are like puppeteers.  We keep the show in motion.  When we help children discover abilities that they don’t know they have, we are like talent scouts.  When we herd kids off the play structure at the end of recess, we are like shepherds.  Teachers are like farmers.  We sow the seeds – not too close together or they’ll talk too much.  We check on them every day and monitor their progress.  We think about our crop all the time.  When we see growth – we get excited.”

“Teachers are word warriors.  All day long we explain, correct, examine, define, recite, check, decipher, sound out, spell, clap, sing, clarify, write, and act out words.  We teach spelling words and history words and science words and geography words.  We teach describing words and compound words.  We teach synonyms and antonyms and homonyms, too.”

“Teachers try everything short of back handsprings to get their students to quiet down and pay attention.  We flick off the lights, clap patterns, hold up fingers and wait, change the level of our voices, count up to three, count down from five, set timers, brush wind chimes, shake shakers, bribe kids with free play, and seat the boys next to the girls.”

“I was in Teacher Mode.  It turns on automatically whenever children are near and goes into overdrive when it senses busy streets, mud, gum, or bloody noses.”

“Of course nothing has changed like technology.  A bug was something you brought in from recess to show the teacher.  A desktop was something you scraped dried Elmer’s glue off with your teacher scissors.  Hard drives were on Monday mornings.  Viruses kept you home from school.  And cursors were sent to the principal’s office.”

Now it’s your turn, dear readers.  Feel free to share any school memories or teacher anecdotes of your own in the comments section below.