School is starting again and as a retired teacher I am remembering my first days of teaching. I began as an aid at a local school for several years. At the time, my youngest child was attending that school; the other three had moved on to middle and high school. I worked in several classrooms, often with small groups. I also supervised the lunch room and recess on the play ground. I remember many stories I have told, and many I haven’t about my early years as an aid.
At some point I realized it would take very little to return to college and get my teaching certificate. I took classes in the summer except the semester of student teaching. I continued to work as an aid for a while until, finally, I had a classroom of my own. I remember the first time I went to see the small four-room school where I would begin my new career. With four classrooms and five grades, each class held a split group. Mine was a split second-third grade. I looked into this empty room in late August trying to see what I might do with this space. There were desks and chairs, and in the closet, there was a checkers game board; that was all! I was told the math and reading texts were in the library. That was a relief, there would be some books. There was a small library in the basement next to the lunch room.
I could never remember everything I provided for that classroom and the many that followed. Paper and paint, pencils and glue were there. But there was so much more I wanted for my kids. And they were my kids. Every September, they were “my kids” to enjoy for a year. And I did enjoy. I don’t think there was ever a time when I didn’t want to go to school to be with my kids. I would drive there each morning, having sent my own children off to school, planning as I drove what I would do each day. Of course I had lesson plans. I had a notebook with a schedule, but I have to admit I didn’t always follow my own plans. They were there in case I had a sub.
I recall one beautiful afternoon at that school when the kids looked out over a field of blooming dandelions. It was math time. We were learning about place value and estimating. “How many dandelions do you think are out in that field?” I asked. Twenty faces went to the window and began to count, fingers flying in the air. Estimates were listed on the chalk board. Then we went to count. It was a mutual decision we would make stacks of ten. Kids ran about the field picking the flowers and piles of ten soon were lumped into piles of 100. I don’t recall how far we got but it was a big number to 2nd and 3rd graders! We went back into the classroom and looked out the window again. Not one of us could believe how many dandelions were still blooming in that field. Would they have known how to write millions or billions or what ever came next?
I often wonder if those kids remember the day we counted dandelions. I often wonder where some of my kids are now. I have heard about a few. I was at the pool one day and a woman came up to me and told me I was her daughter’s teacher. She hauled out her wallet to show me pictures of Lisa’s children, her grand children.
I don’t miss the classroom today. I don’t have the energy but I love hearing about my daughter and her preschool kids. And this year I will hear about two grand daughters entering public school for the first time, kindergarten and first grade. They will be in the same school where I began as an aid, overseeing the lunchroom and play ground. I wish them many happy times.
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