Surviving Teaching and Finding Joy

Not surprising, the amazing schoolteacher, Jennie, writes of her attitude shift in teaching and her subsequent ascension to perfect preschool teacher. 🙂

A Teacher's Reflections

Times have changed.  Teaching has far more demands than it used to.  Required paperwork, overcrowded classes, and lack of support begins to take its toll.  At first it all seems manageable.  That fire of wanting to teach keeps the motor running.  Then bit by bit, as demands and expectations increase, it becomes more difficult to keep the fire burning.  The love becomes lost.

Teachers are quitting.

Children have changed, too.  Their lives have less (or little) room for play. Most of their waking hours are structured – from school to sports to after school activities.  Oh, and then the homework.  Frankly, homework in the early grades should be reading.  Period.

Children are often coming to school feeling everything from anger to being overwhelmed. They may not know why, they just know they aren’t feeling happy.

Is it any wonder that America’s children are ranked 26th in reading  among the world?

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WINNER of the Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest

I say it every week. I know I do. But this week, I was closer than a toothpick’s distance to saying everyone was a winner. I was!

I’m fairly certain one of you wants the crown, however, so that victor is Michael B. Fishman.

The King

by Michael B. Fishman

There once was a King,
I’m not sure if he could sing.
(But that doesn’t really matter for our story.)

Maybe it does,
the bees do buzz.
(But I can’t understand what they say so forget I mentioned it.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah, there once was a King
who wanted everything.
(But then I guess that’s a trait that maybe all King’s have?)

((Again, that doesn’t really matter for our story.))

So this king, he was needy,
and very, very greedy,
(But no one dared tell him that even though if they had
they’d have done him a great, great favor and saved him
a lot of angst, but I’m foreshadowing so go back and re-read
this line and stop after the word “favor”.)

And one day some guy into town rolled,
and said, “Who wants to turn everything he touches into gold?”
(But receiving no immediate takers the guy stood back and waited.)

And he waited.
Waited he did.
Ho boy did he wait.
But he didn’t wait long.

Because –

Roses are red,
violets are blue,
what the King said next,
may surprise you.

The King said, “Hey, dude, I want to be able to turn everything I touch into gold.
And for that service I’ll pay you five . . . no TENfold.”
(But the guy was hungry.)

The guy ate and then he gave the King the gold-making skill,
and the King was turning things to gold at will.
(But then he made a mistake.)

“I’m the King but I’m not the Kaiser although I sure do know how to roll.”
And the King realized that making puns should not – in life – be his goal.
(But the guy just shook his head because he knew that was not the King’s mistake.)

So the King’s mistake, I almost forgot . . . The King with the Touch ‘o Gold,
he gave his daughter a hug while her hand he did hold, and . . .
and…
and…
and…
and…
(end poetic pause here) (OK one more)
and . . .
The King turned his poor daughter into gold.

Poor girl.

So, long story short: the King panicked and he called
the guy who gave him the POWER OF GOLD and asked
him to reverse the spell,
and the King’s daughter turned back into a flesh and
blood daughter and was healthy and well.

But with this happy ending there’s one thing to remember:
Don’t be greedy because
what you have is enough
so look around you and
realize that and be happy.

OK?
And maybe go make something beautiful for the world out of papier-mâché.

Michael, Michael, Michael. You’re going to make me bring back the word limit too, you know.

I mean: congratulations, Michael! You are the most terrible poet of the week!

And you had tough competition. Everyone made me laugh, cringe, applaud creativity and cleverness, and wish that the moral lesson would come to an end much sooner than it did (even with the short ones). The teensy tiny boost that earned Michael this dubious title was that he had a surprisingly complete story; one that incorporated a few others, perhaps, but it’s there. Mostly I appreciated his story construction.

The rest of you, go buy yourself a treat. You earned it.

Seriously; read below and tell me whether I’m wrong:

A salient lesson

by Bruce Goodman

I have told you multitudinous times
not to make fun
of a baboon’s bum.
To illustrate why, here’s a story that rhymes.

When four-year-old Constantia visited the zoo
she had nothing better to do
than to laugh at the baboon’s bright pink bottom.
Her mother said, don’t do that, your manners are rotten.

Constantia fed the baboon a nut.
This, she said, is because you have a ridiculous butt.
At that moment the wind changed
and Constantia herself discovered that her own bottom had been rearranged.

Now Constantia is all grown up
and has an astronomical-sized butt.
It has made her social life inferior
because of her utterly massive bright pink posterior.

The moral of this story is questionable and digestible:
always eat your vegetables.

—–

Never, ever.

by Peregrine Arc

Never end your sentences with an ox
For he’ll trample, dample all your periods into fox.
That will scurry, hurry, lurry into vegetable lo mein
My dear, where was the thesaurus again?

The moral of this story is: Don’t use Google Translate.

—–

Be Swanky

by Ruth Scribbles

Have you ever? -Fill in the blank
Come on now, let’s be frank
You know to never rob a bank
Especially with a guy named Hank
Hank is bad, a very bad crank
He really likes to play pranks
He steals, he lies, he drank
Himself to death
Don’t ever play with a guy named
Hank
Or you may walk the plank
And die and really stank
If you never listen to anything I’ve said,
Remember be Frank
Be swanky

~I’m Frank~

—–

Food Fight

by Violet Lentz

i overheard them
con-ver-sating,
a note of superiority
had been struck..
dropping catch words
like sustainable,
free range, organic,
locally grown, and such..
and i could tell
from the tone of
their voices,
they had thought
about it, a lot..
about how elevated
above the masses
their pallets had become
and how their
cutting edge
elitist eating
set them
oh, so high above-
the impoverished single mother
struggling to feed her kids
in whose apparent
ignorance
still chose? to fill
their hungry bellies
with mac and cheese
and pork-n-beans
and (gasp) a couple of
cool ranch doritos….

—–

The Failure Of A Moral Compass

by Geoff

You self selecting knowalls who like to set the standards
Are also always least inclined to put in all the hard yards.
You moralise and come to judge and put us on the spot
And tell us when to do a thing and when it’s best to not.
You never have a shadowy doubt or moment’s indecision
Because you clearly understand the black from white distinction.
Your word is law and handed down with absolute finality
As you set us right like simpletons with patronising clarity.
It takes a certain chutzpah to share this clear eyed confidence
And hold the line, despite attacks, with constant insouciance.
But the point you miss when your only focus is on your moral compass
Is that the world at large hates no one more than a moralising smart-arse.

—–

Good, terrible work, everybody! Now, go tell your friends and tune in tomorrow for next week’s prompt.

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Michael: D. Wallace Peach created this graphic that you can use (if you want) for a badge of honor as the winner:

Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Four

“Thank you, Mr. LongDog,” Dr. L. said, shooting nervous glances at the brown-bunned woman peering over her clipboard.

A few members of the class laughed again; Wil barely refraining from snickering, herself. She felt sorry for Dr. L. He was clearly flustered and the laughing didn’t help. That sympathy, however, vanished with what happened next.

“We’ll, erm, need to break into groups,” Dr. L. continued. He looked faint at the idea, then scratched the back of his head and cast his glance around the room for inspiration. Something must have hit, for then he raised his pointer finger in a pose of scientific discovery. “Ah!” he announced, “I’ll sort you like they did at the training.”

Looping his lab coat-shod arms in a wide air gesture, he said, “You six, here, are one group.” He walked to the cluster in which Wil sat. “You -um- seven are a group…”

Wil didn’t hear the rest. She was too mindful of her stomach dropping in dread. Kind, patient Jenny Sanders was fine. Even that quiet kid she barely knew (Bobby? Something?) wasn’t bad. The problem was that Dr. L.’s sweeping loop of her seven desk group included the ever-obnoxious Carl Hurn. She felt sick. “Uuuhhrrg.”

“Did you say something, Wil?” Jenny asked. She seemed concerned, although maybe that came more from a desire to avoid infection. Wil noticed Jenny’s eyes flit the distance between their desks.

“Fine,” Wil answered. “I’m fine.” She tried not to glance in the direction of Carl’s desk. Instead, she focused on reading over the paper of instructions.

Bobby cleared his throat. “Looks like,” he began in an unsteady timbre -Carl snickered and Bobby ignored him- “Looks like we need to circle up first.”

They all acquiesced a grumble and moved the class furniture accordingly.

“Then,” Bobby continued, “we need the things on this list.” He raised his own paper and pointed at the bullet point words.

“I got it,” a girl, whom Wil didn’t know, volunteered. She rose, grabbed her own paper, and headed to the supply cupboard.

“I wonder if it’ll even open,” Wil muttered.

To her surprise, Jenny giggled. She met Wil’s eye. “This is kind of odd for Ol’ Lombard,” Jenny said. “But, it’s also nice to not spend the whole period trying not to sleep.”

Someone snorted. It was Carl. “Says the Teacher’s Pet.”

A boy to Carl’s left punched him lightly in the arm. “Shut the -” he glanced up and paled a bit, causing Wil to whip around and see that their ‘visitor’ was peering in their direction. She whipped back forward. The puncher cleared his throat and leaned closer to Carl. “Shut up, alright?”

Carl’s expression looked sheepish. Wil was amazed, up until she turned back to Jenny and caught the open admiration on the girl’s face.

“Got ’em,” a voice said, interrupting Wil’s observations. The girl who’d volunteered to collect materials had returned. She set two glass phials, a few strips of colored paper, and several opaque bottles on her desk. Plopping into her seat behind the supplies, she asked, “Now what?”

 

Continued from Eighty-Three.
Keep reading to Eighty-Five.

The Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest

Welcome to The Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest, 16th installment. I may have miscounted, but we’re going with that number for now.

If you’re new, confused, and/or need directions; read my how-to about terrible poetry. I look more on the face of the cringe-worthy construction than the content of a poem’s subject.

Here are the specifics for this week:

  1. Topic: Stories with a Moral to be Learned. Unlike last week, I am not looking for a parody of a story. I seek, instead, a reference to one we know or a lamentation of how annoying such tales are -stuff like that.
  2. Write for as long as you would like, but please don’t exceed most readers’ attention spans.
    »»Likewise, I’m capping the submissions at three entries.
  3. Rhyming is optional.
  4. The number 4 rule is to make it terrible. Aesop, Rudyard Kipling, and Jean de la Fontaine need to roll over in their graves, read what you wrote, and come to life just long enough to write a fable admonishing writers to never do what you have done.
  5. Considering the general audience of most moral lessons, let’s stick with a G-rating.

You have till 8:00 a.m. MST next Friday (March 8, 2019) to submit a poem.

I’ve had more than one complaint about the submission form, and can only apologize on behalf of an internet imp who seems bent on swallowing what people put in there. He’s lost at least two poets’ attempts permanently, delayed another, and sent me scurrying around trying to piece together nonexistent crumbs from both these actions.

As such: if you are shy, use the form. Leave me a comment saying that you did as well, just to be certain. Then I will be able to tell you whether I received it.

If not, and for a more social experience, include your poem or a link to it in the comments.

Have fun!

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Photo credit:
Chen Hu

Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Three

Unfortunately for Wil, Dr. L. had attended a mandatory training over the weekend. This training, he now stopped mid-lecture to lament to the class, involved hands-on activities. He’d had to practice with actual people and be told, no, he couldn’t just talk about science.

The conclusion of his complaints to Wil’s class was that the school wanted him to change the way he taught. Wil groaned in sync with a chorus of fellow sympathizers. She wasn’t the only teenager who used Dr. L.’s lectures to finish activities like text conversations or homework due in the next period.

“They’re even sending someone in to-” their teacher began, then cut off as a knock sounded on the classroom door.

They all turned to look as the knocker pushed into the room and stood expectantly just inside. She was a woman with a messy bun and a somewhat wrinkled pantsuit. Everything about her frowned, Wil thought, from the lines of the woman’s outfit to her down-turned spectacles.

Dr. L. stared in apprehension at her for a full minute; Wil couldn’t remember ever seeing him focus on a living object before. The woman cleared her throat. “Don’t mind me, please.” Her voice was a higher-pitched version of his, a nasal sort that put Wil in mind of a squirrel. A squirrel with a messy bun and frowning face. *Ahem*, she cleared things again. “Just pretend I’m not here.”

The class and, especially, Dr. L. watched her perch atop a lab stool, her clipboard grasped before her and her legs and feet drawn near to her body. When nothing else happened, she returned the bespectacled chemistry teacher’s gaze. “Well?”

“Oh!” He started, and seemed to remember where he was. “Oh! Right; right.” Shuffling back to his lecture table, Dr. L. began shifting through chemical bottles and loose papers. “It’s right here -I know they’re here somewhere…” he muttered.

“Dr. L.?” Jenny, the girl to Wil’s left, raised a hand.

The man she addressed peered near her in some confusion. “Yes, Ms. -?”

“Sanders, sir,” Jenny said politely. She always had to tell him and Wil always marveled at how patiently Jenny did so. “I think you left the experiment notes on your computer.”

The overhead lights glinted off Dr. L.’s lenses as he lifted and turned his face to the location Jenny referenced. “Ah!” he exclaimed, and walked over to pick the pile up. “Thank you, Ms. -?”

“Sanders.”

“Yes,” he agreed. Turning to Cash Delarge’s desk, he said, “Here, Mr. LeDog. Take a paper and pass them along.”

Wil sighed as a few people tittered. Chemistry was going to be a long class today.

 

Continued from Eighty-Two.
Keep reading to Eighty-Four.

The Dot

Stock photo

Whilst considering my favorite children’s books, I realized that most made the list based on favorites of my childhood. Not to become set in my old ways, however, I have found several excellent additions in seeking out books for the children I have since produced.

Such is the case with The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds.

It tells the very simple story of a young girl named Vashti who is determined that she cannot do art. Her teacher, meanwhile, is just as certain that Vashti can.

I love how we get an idea of the personalities of the characters in a few lines of actions: Vashti’s practical stabbing of a dot onto paper shows her attitude, and her teacher’s encouragement and action of framing that first dot demonstrate understanding.

Teaching is, and has always been, a career plagued by under-appreciation. Teachers are responsible for connecting with a classroom or more of children, dumping information into little brains, and somehow still maintaining order. They also care for their students, cry about poor life situations, and think about hundreds to thousands of past lives they’ve been touched by.

The Dot is not just about a young girl finding courage to express herself. It is also the story of what every teacher aims for: a lesson learned, a life improved, and the benefits passed on to others.

It’s short, simple, sweet, artistic, and touching. If you haven’t, spend a minute reading it. Since it’s more recent, I even found readings of it online.