As I was purchasing supplies for my classroom at one of our local teacher supply stores, I couldn’t help but get a chuckle out of all the “Superhero” supplies. You can buy notepads, bulletin board headers, borders, stickers, and a million other supplies with pictures of superheroes. I love that because the superhero theme can be used as a springboard for many lessons. Kids of all ages relate to heroes and it makes for a really fun year!
It also made me think of one of my all-time heroes, my third grade teacher, Mrs. Moore. Mrs. Moore changed my entire attitude about education from a vehicle strictly for socializing with my friends to a world in which the acquisition of knowledge was not just encouraged but expected. She had a way of making learning so relevant and fun that a person couldn’t help but become engaged. I remember working for rewards as I learned my multiplication facts and I remember learning to write in cursive. I remember her patience with me when I shared everyday in “Show and Tell” for almost a month that, “Today my mom is going to have a baby” and the smile of relief on her face the day I finally reported that my baby sister (a month overdue) really had been born! Her compassion and enthusiasm shone through in everything we did that year and she made me feel like I was the most important person in the room everyday, and yet looking back, I see now that she treated every child in the room exactly the same way. There were no differences among us….not race…not gender….not socioeconomic standing…..We were all equal, and I remember thinking that I wanted to be exactly like her.
I want to be a Mrs. Moore. I want some child to someday say, “I want to be exactly like her!” But more importantly, I want some child to feel like he or she is the most important person in the room EVERYDAY!!
I have thought all day about how to write this post and still don’t know what to say. 5 Officers killed. Countless others injured. Fathers….newlyweds….rookies….experienced……no one was safe. Normally we hear stories like this and they seem far removed, things that don’t happen to us, but they’re much closer and they DO happen to us and to others like us. Violence knows no boundaries. And that’s where our present dilemma lies. How do we teach our kids that violence doesn’t solve problems; it only creates new ones. How do we make them understand that there are other ways to handle the things in our lives that eat at us? Is it even our job to teach those lessons and if so, how do we do it?
The answer is a resounding YES! We have to teach those lessons because we are in the perfect position to do so! We have students for 6-7 hours a day and we see them in all settings — at work and at play. We see them when they’re happy and we see them when they’re sad and stressed and frustrated and lonely and angry…sometimes, so so angry, and we could (if we so choose) use those situations to teach about coping, adapting, compromising, problem solving, and anger management.
But unfortunately, we don’t always use those “teaching moments” to our best advantage. We tell kids to ignore the bullies or to walk away. We tell the lonely ones to just ‘go find a new friend’ as if all they have to do is step up to a counter and order one. We react to the angry ones sometimes by getting angry ourselves, because it just becomes so tiresome to keep dealing over and over with such troubled kids. But in missing those moments, we are really missing the mark, aren’t we?
The sniper in Dallas yesterday, the shooter in Orlando in June, and countless others who have chosen violence as a means to an end were all students in someone’s class one day. They all no doubt had opportunities to make good choices as well as bad choices. They all no doubt had teachers who somehow might have been able to effect change in the way they handled the difficulties that proved one day to be too insurmountable for them. So, the question I have been asking myself all day is, how can we make a change, and where do we start?
Thought provoking question for which I have no easy answer, but you can be darn sure I will continue searching for one! We simply can’t afford to ignore this one….
I KNEW I had to have it! I looked up, saw it and KNEW it had to be mine! What was the treasure, you say? What did I have to have? A paper mache three dimensional sun. THAT was the treasure I knew I had to have. We were getting ready to start a new theme at our school: Sailing the Seas of Knowledge (or something like that) and I thought the sun would be a fabulous addition to my classroom.
Unfortunately, there were two problems about me having it. One –This special sun was hanging in a Mexican restaurant in Memphis, Tennessee and they were using it for decoration…..and Two — in big black letters on the side of the sun it said, “Corona”. This was obviously something provided by a beer distributor for the restaurants to tout their products. Anyone who knows me very well knows that neither of those factors were enough to stop me from trying to procure that special sun for my classroom! So I did what any good scavenger—oops, I mean teacher—-would do! I asked the waiter if I could have it. He called the owner over and told him that I wanted the sun. The manager laughed out loud…….and walked away. As I left the restaurant that night, I gazed longingly at the sun, knowing I wasn’t ready to give up on getting my treasure.
I don’t actually live in Memphis but this restaurant is one of my daughter and son-in-law’s favorite haunts, so I made them promise to ask for it the next time they went in. Needless to say, they got nowhere with my request (I’m not sure they ever even asked), so the next time I went for a visit, I suggested we head to that restaurant for dinner. They both gave me big smiles, knowing exactly why I wanted to go there! And as soon as we walked in the restaurant, I spotted it! The sun was still there and it was still calling my name! After placing my order, I asked the waiter if he would get the owner. The owner came to the table and before I could even make my request, he said, “Are you going to ask for that Corona sign again?” I’m sure my daughter and son-in-law were ready to crawl under the table when I jumped up and yelled, “Yes!” but again the owner just started laughing. I even offered him money for it (by now it was a challenge I could not shake off) but he just walked away chuckling to himself.
It was on my third visit to that restaurant (probably over the span of a good two or three months) that I finally was able to talk the owner into selling me the sun (very cheap) and I remember watching with total glee as he climbed up on a chair and cut it down from the ceiling over one of the guest tables. As he handed it to me, he shook his head, chuckled and said, “I can’t believe you’re going to use that at school!”
But I did……I covered the “Corona” with green and white contact paper and hung it up by a bulletin board in my classroom where it became the new home for my “Star Student” display!
I tell this story for two reasons:
To remind everyone that it doesn’t cost a lot of money to make an impression on our kids and believe me, that sun DID! They loved it when they were the student whose picture graced that board and they totally enjoyed the bright colorful display, and….
To emphasize that we can accomplish many things with just a little bit of effort. It make take time and ingenuity but thinking outside the box (who would have thought a beer display would make a good classroom resource?) produced an awesome result!
As I sit here in my living room listening to the sound of bottle rockets and fireworks from the park not far from my house, I am reminded of the many people who have given so much to help build this great country. Of course, my mind wanders to the early colonials who were so courageous to have left their homelands to cross the ocean and tough it out in uncharted lands, but I also have to think about those who are in Afghanistan (and who knows where else?) today, right this very minute, all to ensure freedom for those of us who live in this melting pot we call the United States.
And while my heart is full with love for this country, I wonder if I do enough in my classroom to teach this? How do I convey patriotism? How do I teach loyalty? It comes to mind that the very best way I can teach these basic tenets of the American way of life is to model them and live them. So, yes, my class says the Pledge of Allegiance in the mornings with our hands over our hearts and our eyes gazing at the flag, and in November we will have a mock election and talk about what democracy means and how we can support that.
I am an American and though there are things about my country that make me (literally) scratch my head, I am proud to call the USA — the land of the free and the home of the brave — my home!
Well, that’s the way it’s supposed to be, right? And there are certainly some “easy” moments I’ve experienced, but the truth is, I have filled some of many days planning and thinking about the next school year…..thinking about what worked last year and, of course, what didn’t…..thinking about rearranging the room (for the hundredth time)….thinking about setting up new systems for tracking data (or do I just keep the old?)….all of these things and more roll around in my brain as I ponder being the best teacher that I can be. I know I have lots of things I need to improve but there were also things that worked well last year so I won’t be “throwing out the baby with the bath water” as my grandmother used to say.
All that being said, though, there is something very beneficial about taking the time to refresh ourselves from the daily routine during the school year. That refreshing can take place in a lot of ways and a lot of places, too. Sitting on your back porch and thinking about absolutely nothing…….paying the bill for the person behind you in line at Starbuck’s……going for a swim…..relaxing in a daytime movie….reading a book for fun….teaming up with some friends for a girls’ day out…hitting the flea markets….even cleaning out closets can be refreshing if you actually have the time to do it well! Whatever you do to refresh yourself, make it count. Don’t think about school. Focus on that moment in time and just relax. You will enjoy each day so much more when you take time for yourself AND you will be better prepared to start back to school when the time comes.