Maximus and I went on a quick grocery run to Walmart. As we walked past the meats section I heard a mother and her young son having a conversation. She was telling him that he should give school pizza a try, and he did not seem the slight bit interested. I chimed in and here’s how our conversation went.
Me: I used to love the school pizza!
Mom: Me too!
Kid: (looked a little curious)
Me: They used to serve on it Fridays and it was in the shape of a rectangle.
Mom: That’s right, those were the good days.
The mother went on to explain that her son was in Kindergarten and still wanted mom to is pack his bag for lunch. She thought he was worried about the entire process of having to learn a lunch number and go through the line. We all continued to talk about how the lunch room ladies would help him if he needed help. He only seemed a little bit more curious.
I eventually asked which school he attends. He says Breckinridge Franklin. Being a former educator, I ask the name of his teacher. He says “Mrs. Clark”. I ask his mother to describe her. And here’s where the full circle comes into play. See Mrs. Clark is this kid’s kindergarten teacher and I taught Mrs. Clark’s daughter, Katie, in both kindergarten and first grade. Katie is now a sophomore in college. We were all excited about the coincidence and they couldn’t wait to go to school the following day to tell her. As I walked away, I started reflecting on the youth that I had taught over the years and became curious about both their successes and failures. I thought about this kid and how much he would change over the next year.
A good education is one of the most valuable things you can possess. There are many powerful, memorable teachers in Louisville that will leave lasting impressions on your children. Just know, though, that as powerful a teacher is, reinforcing the educational values/skills at home with a parent/grandparent and/or mentor is just as important. If you know kids of any age, ask them how school is going thus far. Not just how it is, but what they are studying. Encourage them and tell them about your experiences. Although most of us didn’t walk 25 miles in the snow to get to work, we can tell about milk breaks, library card catalogues, and fluoride rinses.
It’s always sad to “celebrate” a horrific occasion. Especially something as horrendous as the tragic events on September 11, 2001. Many of us remember that day just like it was yesterday. Although I didn’t personally know anyone who lost their life, our country lost a piece of its soul.
On September 11, 2001 I was teaching first grade at Hawthorne Elementary School. We had been finishing some projects because Open House was later that night. There was never an announcement over the intercom about the incidents. I had gone to the office for something and they were talking about it. I remember going back to my room and notifying my assistant.
Being a person that want to know all that’s happening around me (which is a good quality for a first grade teacher), I went to the library to find a tv. And right at that moment I saw the second Tower start to fall. And at that moment, I didn’t know what to do.
Here I had 24 bright eyed six year olds ready to learn and I’m a teacher trying to figure what’s happening in our world. Unfortunately I couldn’t combine the two emotions. I couldn’t turn the tv on and let them watch it. They wouldn’t understand and I still didn’t know what else could have happened. Talk about being conflicted.
I came up with the best solution I could. I turned on the tv, on mute, and turned it in the direction where none of the students could see it. I didn’t really get to see much that day but took pride in the fact that my students left school with the same free spirit as when they came. Without going into any detail, I simply told them “There was a really bad accident today and a lot of people were hurt. When you get home, you mom/dad may tell you more about it.” And I left it at that.
I wish the occurrings on September 1, 2001 were that simple, but we all know they weren’t. As we reflect upon the 10 year anniversary, pray for the thousands of families that were affected, and continue to affected. Try not to hold grudges against an entire group of people because of evil ways of a select few. Embrace those you love and if you’re not doing what you love there’s no time like today to make it happen!
My First Graduates
August 1998 was an important month for me. This was when I took my first steps into a first grade classroom for my first day of teaching. When I was a child, all I wanted to be was a teacher. And now the moment was here. Twenty-four eager first graders sat wide eyed and looked at me, wondering what type of great things we would learn.
A seasoned teacher advised me “not to smile until Christmas”. She must not have known me very well, because I always smile. And, within 30 seconds on that first day of school, I flashed my smile, welcomed everyone to my classroom and said I was going to take them on amazing journey! I’ll never forget the moment where I looked up and everyone was quietly working. My room was quiet. 24 six-year-olds were silent. Then I realized, I hate complete silence. So, I turned on some music with the volume very low.
My first year of teaching was fantastic. My students were brilliant both academically and with their extra activities. They made me laugh. They cared about each other. We were a community. I missed them over Christmas break. At the end of the year, I was so proud of their success that I moved up with them and taught them again for second grade.
This was 12 years ago. Now, my first group of first graders is graduating from high school. My babies are grown! I searched for some of them on Facebook to see what their future holds. Many of them still looked similar (with the exception of body parts and facial hairs not normally found of six-year-old kids). The interesting thing was the path of many of them, were characteristics I noticed back then. Juanita Araque was an amazing dancer. We even watched her as Clara in the Nutcracker. She is now working with a professional ballet company and following her passion. Braea Tilford was a social butterfly. She’s graduating from Central High and was a cheerleader and Homecoming Queen. Joey Coombs was very smart at solving problems. He’ll be attending UK to major in business marketing. Bethany Welch was one of the smartest students I had ever met. She had just moved with her family from South Africa and I was just proud to be her teacher. She’ll be attending UL and studying cultural anthropology.
And the list goes on and on. I am just as proud of them now and I was twelve years ago. Back then, boys and girls didn’t like each other more than just friends. Now, they all have their prom pictures with “the love of their life”. (If only they knew it’ll be more like “love of the next couple of weeks”!) Although I’m still the only person that looks the same as in 1998, I feel as if they have the same spirit, love and drive that helped us all survive those two years together. I’m excited to follow them over the next decade and although it was a long time ago, I hope I made some type of difference in their lives.
M.Y. May 2010