Full Circle

 Full Circle

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.

We Remember

We Remember
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!

September 2011

A New School Year

A New School Year

After no school on Monday or Tuesday due the the weekend’s thunderstorm, JCPS schools have finally started the school year.  It wasn’t until Monday night that I realized something very important.  This is the first year since 1998 that I have not been associated with JCPS.

From 1998-2003 I taught first grade at Hawthorne Elementary School.  It was such an amazing feeling to see the ‘light’ come on when kids realized they could read.  We created our own classroom community and I loved helping them reach their fullest potential.

From there I was at Cochran Elementary School as their Math Coach.  I tried to make learning math both fun and memorable for both the teachers and students.  We would do whole school aerobics in the gym every Friday and it was a blessing to be able to work with each classroom in the school.

 In 2005, I left teaching to be a UniServ Director at JCTA.  In that role, I served as the union rep for teachers as was often the person they called when times got tough.  In a nutshell, if there was a problem or something bad happened, I was called.  Although I enjoyed the flexibility of the job and the teachers and my colleagues, I hated what I did and really hated all of the politics and backstabbing associated with it.

Although I miss working with kids and making that direct influence in their lives, I’ve found my passion with helping people in fitness and meeting their weight loss goals.  Over the summer I did fitness with some youth groups and that was just the perfect combination! I’m hoping to do some fitness activities in some elementary schools this year.

As we enter a new school year, I want to once again share my favorite teaching memory.  The student’s name is Cortney and we were at our 1st grade awards ceremony.  Her mother passed away from cancer earlier that month and she was sad that she wasn’t at the ceremony.  The irony of the video is that it was taken the day before I found out that my own mother had ovarian cancer.  This video reminds me how fragile all of us are and the importance of being there for one another.

August 2011

Teacher Making A Difference
Teacher Making A Difference

My First Graduates

My First Graduates

May10-4August 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

Back Then

“Back Then”

Apr09-4I was a teacher for over seven years and mostly taught first grade.  My first year of teaching was in 1998.  That group of first graders is now juniors in high school.  It’s amazing to see their changes over the past 11 years.  Braea Tilford was, and still is, one of my most favorite students.  She was smart, friendly and was eager to learn during my first years of teaching.

I recently ran in Braea at the HBCU Conference.  No longer little, we looked at each other eye to eye.  Most people looking at the two of us together would have never believed that I taught her so long ago.  Seeing her made me think about high school then and now – and my how things have changed.

I graduated high school in 1994. Back then, when you wanted to give somebody some information, you wrote on a piece of paper and tried to sneak the other person a note either in class or the hallway.  Sometimes it said something as simple as “do you like me? __yes  __no”  You’d try to fold the piece of paper as small as possible and would sometimes decorate the outside.  Now, these kids send text messages and use instant messenger.  You can send a note to one person, or 100 people with just the click of a button.

Back in the day, you found out all the juicy information about a person by receiving your yearbook at the end of the year.  You laughed at the pictures you’d forgotten had been taken and loved reading the messages your friends would leave you.  (if creative enough, you’d put hearts around your crushes and blacken the eyes of your enemies) Now, everybody has a Myspace, Facebook and a Twitter page.  You can know what somebody is doing every five minutes if they decided to tell you.  There’s no long anticipation, all you have to do is click the refresh button on your computer.

Back then, when you knew you weren’t supposed to be talking to a boy, you would drag the phone (attached to the phone cord) to the nearest closet and whisper as quietly as possible.  You’d sometimes have a code word for the person so nobody else around would be in your business.  You thought you were big time when you called someone on three-way without the other person knowing.  Now, everybody has a cell phone so you canhave a phone conversation any and everywhere your heart desires.  Instead of whispering, most people talk as loud as possible and everyone around can tell you what is being said.

Back in the day, you’d pull out that camera to take pics of all your friends.  Once you had transportation, you’d go to a Walgreens to drop off the photos and come back a week later to see them.  Half of them may have not even turned out, but you took the time to place the photos in the pages of the plastic photos albums they would give you.  Now, as soon as you click a picture in your digital camera or with you camera phone, you can see it, emailed it, print it or post it on the web – instantly!

Back in the day, when you had a favorite tune, you’d sit by the radio all day waiting for it to come on.  As soon as you heard it you’d press “record” so that you could have it on your mix cassette tape.

Back then, you could go to school without worrying about being shot. Back then, Grippos and a Big Red were the ultimate snack. Back in the day, the dollar movie really only cost a dollar.

Back them we thought the smallest things meant the end of the world.  Who would have known that those were the easy days?!

M.Y. April 2009

My Favorite Teaching Moment

“My Favorite Teaching Moment”

On May 1, 2001 I received a message in my school mailbox that said “Cortney’s mom died.”  I hadn’t even known that her mother had been sick (she had cancer).  I tried to be there as much as possible for her during that time. She was only six years old.  On May 22, 2001 we had our award’s ceremony for first graders.  Many families of my students were there.  They sang and performed the song “That’s What Friends Are For”.  After the ceremony everyone went around to show their families their awards.  Cortney, rightfully, became sad because her mother was not there.  She stayed close by my side. I don’t know why it happened, but this video shows what I was moved to do.

(Click on the photo to watch the video of my favorite teaching moment!)

*“That’s What Friends Are For” has become one of my most memorable songs. I was honored to be able to be there for Cortney.  The ironic thing, though, is that I was absent the next day (May 23, 2001).  That is the day I was in the hospital and had to tell my mother that she had been diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer.  I was devastated. Although I didn’t want to return to school the next day, it was the last day of school and I felt I owed it to my students. I returned to school on May 24 and the happiness and smile that usually existed was far from present.  The ONE THING that got me through that day was my students making a circle around me and singing “That’s What Friends Are For”.

Teaching is so much more than lessons in a book.  It’s about making a difference. It’s a hard job, but it’s also a very rewarding job.  Until you lives in the shoes of a teacher you will never know the joys of learning, the fear of failure and the potential to mold our future.  Please take the time to thank each and every teacher you know!


M.Y. August 2007