Tag Archives: teaching

Calendars, schedules, planning

When I taught numerous high school classes along with managing the yearbook, field trips, and committee meetings, I kept a series of planning books and calendars. I would sit for long periods laying out units, deadlines, meeting dates, and other dates that traverse a school’s solar system like satellites in space. Everything seemed to be a moving target, and my goal was to pin it down, on paper, on a calendar. This time of the year would be crazy, what with the holiday season upon us as well as the numerous parties, deadlines, grading schedules. Oh my. Just typing this reminds me of why I retired from teaching. Keeping all those balls in the air was exhausting.

Although no where as daunting as the schedule I maintained as a teacher for 21 years, I have recently realized my schedule for the next three months is pretty jam-packed. Because of Good News Club and school chaplaincy, each at a different school, on different days of the week, each with its on set of planning days and meetings, I thought it best to bring out the calendar again to set things in place. To ruminate over the weeks, as my husband so kindly calls my calendar obsession.

Just studying a calendar, with the weeks outlined with each activity in its assigned day’s box, makes me feel more confident in my ability to manage my life. This was my lifeline when I was teaching. The planning, the goal-setting, the adherence to a strict schedule were my paths to success. And so, it must be for my current activities. Even in retirement, I am concerned with success at what I do. Just as when I worked, my reputation is at stake. My reputation for high quality work. My reputation for getting the job done when I say I will. My reputation for follow-through and follow-up. My reputation for being the person others want on their team.

The events are in place on the calendar. Now I just have to show up and do the work.

Life after college

It has been 40 years since I graduated from college. Same for Terry. Although he is older than I am, and he started college before I did, he did not file for graduation until I prompted him to do so when I filed. We had only been dating a few months at the time of graduation, so I’m kind of surprised he took my advice. He had all of his units, though, and I could see no reason to delay the filing. As for the actual graduation ceremony, I participated; Terry was a spectator. Maybe that was foreshadowing to our future. But that’s another story for another time.

When I graduated that June in 1974, with a BS in marketing, I had a job waiting with a publishing company. I had dreamed of a job with a real estate firm in the Bay Area, doing research for planned communities, but Terry told me he had no intentions of leaving Fresno so I decided to stay here, too, thus taking a job with a local company that published agriculture magazines. Who knew, 40 years later, that I would be a retired school teacher. Certainly not I.

This morning, at church, I saw a lady whom I have known for decades. We exchanged a few pleasantries, and when she asked what I had been doing, I mentioned that I had just taught the Sunday School class for the two and three year olds. She laughed and said, “you will always be in children’s ministry of some sort.” I think God is chuckling, too, because even though I have that degree in marketing and worked for 13 years in publishing and sales, the majority of my life has been spent teaching children. Now that I am the retired school teacher, it seems that my attention has shifted from high schoolers to younger and younger children. I certainly wouldn’t have guessed any of this 40 years ago.

The way it was


A young Facebook friend of mine posted this on Monday morning:

 >>Migraine quelled, apartment cleaned, clothing laundered, props acquired, sound cues programmed, new lighting board installed, (stage light) lamps replaced, third quarter grades finalized, student transportation arranged, new unit prepped, tomorrow’s lunch concocted, copious amounts of caffeine consumed, bedtime wind-down now commencing . . . show week, here 39 7th and 8th-graders and I come!<<

 She is a fairly new teacher who has six periods of classes having given up her prep period so as to teach a theater class at the middle school that is attached to the high school where she teaches five periods of theater arts. As you can probably guess, she is very young. You need to be to keep up that pace for months on end.

Her post reminded me of when I was teaching and how jam-packed my weekends would be during the school year. Every minute was precious, and as I mentioned in my post about the inner city café and the long wait for lunch, I could not waste such time during those teaching years. If I met friends for lunch on a Saturday, I sat with one eye on my watch, just knowing that I had to leave by 1:30 due to a still long list of chores to accomplish. On Sunday mornings, if the church service ran a bit too long, I was chomping at the bit to get out the door because I had an afternoon of grading to do. I was always planning the next hour and what I would accomplish with an eye on a list of more to do when that hour was over. There was just never enough time.

Looking back, I know I did a really good job as a teacher, but I also know that I raced through life, always counting how many more days before our next break when I could breath. In reading journals from those years I see, over and over, where I am desiring time to just sit and think.

Which brings me to now, in retirement, when I can do exactly that. Or, like on Saturday, when Terry and I could take a couple of hours to have a leisurely lunch and not fret one bit about the time. Then yesterday, a sun-drenched Sunday afternoon, when I attended a chamber music concert for two hours. Two glorious hours. Next Saturday I am planning to spend my morning at a garden show. Weekends are no longer a marathon of school work and household chores.


A reply to a blog post

My blogging buddy, Ricochet, only allows Google peeps to leave comments on her blog. I don’t have a Google account so I am leaving my comment to her last post here:

When I first got my teaching credential, at mid-year, the only jobs available where substitute teacher. I signed on and was picked up for a long term position at a middle school. The computer teacher had walked away after Christmas break, never to be heard from again. I was really on my own and so decided to teach as I had when doing my student teaching at a high school in the same district.
The principal, back in the late 80s, believed that middle school students should be coddled. As you can guess, I am not the coddling type. She wanted them to have fun and play games. Again, not my style. We clashed.
By the end of the school year, I could see they would be hiring a permanent teacher and it wouldn’t be me. Nor was the middle school principal, who was highly esteemed in the district, going to give me any recommendations.
I was hired, though, for another long term sub position, this time at the inner city high school where my methodology was highly appreciated. I stayed there for 21 years. 
So, you too will come out ahead when it’s all over, and you will be appreciated for what you do. Stay tough.

I figure some of my regular readers will find it interesting, too. Teaching is a harrowing job, at best, but downright impossible in certain conditions.

Sweet November 9-inspiration

Where do you find your inspiration? When teaching I would often find a news article in the morning’s paper that would inspire a lesson later that day. Last year I taught first/second grade Sunday School and I found lots of inspiration for Sunday mornings in books and materials that I had “inherited” from others.

My cooking inspirations often come from social media. 10764316034_5e0512961bI just baked a batch of vanilla wafers that I saw on the Williams and Sonoma site.

You, dear Readers, inspire me, too. Recently I read on one of your blogs (but I don’t remember whose) about a movie, The Painted Veil, and that it was made from a book written by Somerset Maugham. 10715702864_4c335dc2aaI ordered the book from Powell’s, and although it didn’t seem to be a story I might care for, the blog had inspired me to give it a try. I loved the book. I really didn’t want it to end, and as I came to the last few pages, I put the book down many times just to draw out the ending.



The story takes place in early twenty century China during a cholera outbreak. The main character is a self-indulgent woman who is married to a man she doesn’t love. Her life drastically changes when she must leave Hong Kong and accompany her husband to an outpost where the cholera rages. Watching her transformation took my breath away.

Hope you have been inspired today to try something new or return to an old favorite. Inspiration–it’s every where.


What’s been happening?

For those of you dear Readers who have been along on this journey, you know that for the past seven months I have been teaching first and second grade Sunday School. This is after a hiatus of nearly 20 years from the church classroom. When I finally decided to go back into the classroom, it had to be on my terms. I offered to teach EVERY Sunday from September to May. I would take the second hour of the day and would be a consistent presence in these children’s lives. For the past few years, every Sunday there was a different teacher in the room (and it is still that way in the other grades), and the kids were running the show. Not much was getting done, the kids played most of the morning, and many had quit coming because there was so much chaos.

When I stepped into the fray, I was blessed to have a remodeled classroom. A group of elderly ladies who meet every Friday to pray for the church, had made over the room with cleaning, paint, and decoration. They had bought new Bibles for the kids to use, but not much had been done with those books. After I started in September, the numbers started increasing, and the ladies bought more Bibles so that each student would have one. They bought a new rug. I started adding decorations for each season.



And the numbers kept increasing. Three weeks ago we got a new children’s minister and there was talk of changing the way we are doing Sunday School and church. We were to have two worship services which meant Sunday School must change. Classes were to be moved and added. Moved? yes, mine was one of the classes that would have to move. I would leave that nicely decorated room and move into a room that has been neglected for years. It was once the nap room for a daycare center we had in the children’s wing. The windows had been blacked out, the furniture removed. There was no decoration and it all had an inch of grime. I learned of this move two weeks before I needed to be in the room, but with only one week to make the change and it was the week I would have our grandchildren here. So, this was not going to be easy.





There were supplies to move, bulletin boards to change out, and finally the furniture was brought in. I have worked very hard on this room, and it still looks pretty sad, but with the kids in the room, it livens up. I’m hoping that just getting light and air into the room will make for better feng shui.



This was the second session of the morning. First session I had 16 students; second had 21 students. This pretty much maxes out the table space I have so if we continue to grow, I’ll need more tables. Another problem with the room, it doesn’t have any linoleum so I know the floor will be a mess since most of my lessons involve glue, paint, glitter, and sundry jetsam and flotsam of small children.

…early to bed

When teaching I was always so exhausted by the time I finished dinner that I was ready for bed by 7:30. The days were long and arduous with heavy demands on my mental and physical energies. There were some Fridays, after a seriously long week, that I would just flop on the couch when I got home and even decline Terry’s offer to go out for dinner. It was too much effort.

I go back to those early blog posts and wonder how I managed to do all that I did. And, what is even more mind-boggling, those days were less demanding than the ones during the mid-90s when we were not only teaching our classes, but traveling all over to give presentations about the innovative work we were doing. I finally put my foot down on the traveling show and said that if people wanted to know what we did, they could come watch us in action. Our students deserved our time and energy in the classroom, not on the conference circuit.

Coming back to now, our days are not very demanding, except when we are taking care of tiny grandchildren. I  get to pick and choose the tasks, and if I fail to accomplish them all, there is always tomorrow. Or the next day. As I wrote in the previous post, I try to get the major work done by noon, or thereabouts. My afternoons are reserved for things that take little to no effort. Like reading. Or doing some yard work. Or sorting photos. Then fixing dinner and watching some of our taped TV shows.  By 9 p.m. I am ready for bed. Even when we travel, I want to end my day early and relax in the hotel room rather than running around to night spots. A good book, or a chance to catch up on blogs, makes a perfect end to the day.

Some of my Sunday School history

Going through boxes of pictures, clippings, files, and all sorts of historical pieces for the church history project, I have found a photo of one of my Sunday School classes from years ago. For almost 20 years, I taught second, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade Sunday School classes. Not all at the same time, but different ages, scattered over the years.

One time I quit teaching second grade because two little boys, who were too energetic for my style, were going to be in the class. I could have handled one but not two. I was very young at that time, and now with years of teaching experience, I could easily handle them, but back then they terrified me.

A few years passed and I was asked to take on fourth grade. We had lots of fun putting on plays of Bible stories and doing the big project of the year–building Jerusalem. I would take the kids to the church library to look at books with pictures and maps of Jerusalem during Bible times. We talked about all the things that went into a city–the buildings, the people, the animals, the temple, and the wall. Different students were interested in different things, some wanting to make the people, others wanting to build houses. We would collect cardboard boxes, paper tubes, popsicle sticks, and plastic plants and animals. For a few weeks, each Sunday, the class would work on the various parts of Jerusalem until we thought it was good enough. Then we would invite parents in to see the finished product. Here is one class’s interpretation:

I think I did this for four years. My friends could probably tell me for sure because I always bugged them for boxes and other such supplies. Then I went on to teach fifth and sixth grade, and many of those students had already done the Jerusalem project so I let it lapse. No one else picked up the idea. It was just easier to do the lesson in the book.

Clever infographic

I like this infographic. Not only is it cleverly done, but it’s got some good information. I would love to have students present their research finings in such a manner.

It’s that time of the year

And I’m not participating. I’m talking about back-to-school. Today is actually the first day of school for a neighboring school district just a few blocks to the west of me. The large urban school district for whom I taught all those years returns in another week and a half as does the state college here in town. Teachers every where are heading back to their offices and classrooms to prepare for the net onslaught.

Yesterday I had lunch with a young teacher whose friendship I made through her blog.  We learned, over the years, that we had much in common. She had another life before becoming a teacher, similar to me; she is a fairly new teacher, just up the highway a piece, and somehow we discovered that she and my son-in-law had grown up together.  She likes to write, and she likes to use technology in her classroom. Although young enough to be my daughter, we had a good time chatting about teaching, students, hair, and all the other stuff that makes up a life. She returns to school tomorrow. I hope she has a great year. She deserves it.

As do so many of my teacher friends who are working so hard to make this teaching thing  a success for their students. They have started to prepare for those students even while the summer heat lingers and the days are still long. My old teaching buddy is coming by on Friday to get a brief lesson on PhotoShop as she will this year teach one period of multimedia, a class I taught the last two years of my career. It’s all about photography, document layout, web design, and video. Lots of equipment involved. More software than I care to remember. Juggling so many projects, students, and flash drives!

My last day in the multimedia classroom.