I stole this chalk from my elementary school on the day I retired from teaching. That was in August of 2000. At this time of year I like to hold my chalk, and remember.
I retired from 30 years of teaching elementary school in August 2000. By October, I was working again, part time, in elementary, middle and high schools as a literacy consultant. I’m still doing that.
Consulting is like teaching, but without the lunch duty, hall duty, attendance taking and money collection.
Consulting teachers can get away with stuff that regular teachers can’t. Sometimes, for my own self-preservation, I put on my “old grandma hat. ” I can say to a potty mouth student, “If I were your grandma, I would wash out your mouth with soap.”
The kids laugh, and then they behave. They say, “Yes, Miss. Sorry, Miss.”
All teachers have golden academic moments with their students. The real art of good teaching is to take those serendipitous moments and make them happen routinely. That’s happening. It will take time, but it’s happening.
Kids are kids. Kindergarteners and high schoolers have the same needs. All kids can think. I have learned that often the kids with the worst grades can think at a higher level than the rest of the gang. They just haven’t learned how to apply their high levels of thinking to school. Maybe it’s the fault of the school. That’s why change is in the air. That’s good.
All teachers have moments of great poignancy with their students. Probably those are the moments that students and teachers will remember most. Many of my fourth (or was it fifth?) grade students remember how I cried when I read Bridge to Terabithia to them.
All teachers have moments of great comedy with students. The art of good teaching is to take those comedic moments and enjoy the humor. Even in semi-retirement now, as I work with a new generation of teachers, the moments continue. The story below happened in one of my high schools last year.
A first year biology teacher was doing an experiment on enzymes. I met with him before the lesson and suggested he probe the students’ background knowledge to set the stage for the lesson. Recalling my days as an elementary school teacher, I suggested he “Ask the kids what they know about yeast.” I knew many teachers in elementary school had baked bread with kids at one time or another.
The lesson began and my eager protégé, asked his high school students, “So tell me what you already know about yeast.”
Instantly, the one student who always calls out, described, in graphic detail, yeast infections and where they are found. Using the feline word for female genitalia, he was indeed proud of his contribution.
I clearly remember the “deer in the head light” look of my young teacher as the class gasped and laughed. Up until this moment, Mr. C. had trusted me.
Stepping in, I said to the eager student, “Thank you for your contribution. Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, I may have an extra sip of wine as I share this story with my husband. Let’s try to use more academic language in the future, and now let’s move on.” The teacher continued with his wonderful lesson, and the class moved on.
So newly retired teachers, as you move on, take time to savor your remembrances . Also, you might want to also steal a piece of chalk…if you can find one. It may be a valuable artifact someday.