When it comes to this time of year I always think about my days in the classroom. I went to school long before the students. I had some things to prepare. I made name tags. I put up the bulletin boards. I have compiled my plan book with activities.
When I was teaching in kindergarten, I was aware that this was the student’s first experience with school. I often sent them a letter. In my letter, I gave them something to take to school on the first day. Sometimes it was a coloring sheet. Other times I asked them to bring something to share: the requirement was that it had to fit in their pockets.
These ideas put them at ease. They had something else to think about besides this was their first day. He also provided an idea for the bulletin board. I got the kids to work that first day. You’d be surprised how cool it was to see their chalkboard work.
My years have never been the same. I taught the students so the year progressed as required. I remember a teacher who told me I was making the process too difficult. He told me that every year on a certain date he did the same thing. I wouldn’t have survived in that mode. I needed the change as much as the students needed it.
I loved my job. The year I went from sixth grade to kindergarten, many of my students expressed their concern. They wondered how I would fit in. I assured them that everything would be fine. I had already taught in kindergarten.
Many of the girls volunteered to help me move my things. They stayed after being fired for the year and took things to the kindergarten room. I think they enjoyed doing it.
When I retired, I was teaching in kindergarten. That has always been my first love. I enjoyed starting work habits. It was much easier to get them off to a good start than to have to correct bad habits.
Really, I enjoyed all the levels I taught. I spent several years in first grade. Six years in second grade. I finished a year in third grade. She spent four years in fourth grade and another four in sixth grade. My last assignment was kindergarten. I have spent over ten years there.
I subscribed to several teachers’ magazines where I got a lot of new ideas. I was always looking for new ways of doing things. Oh, I followed the prescribed methods but found other ways to make them interesting and inspiring.
When asked what the students remembered most, I was told that they liked the special days I had planned. We cooked. We tested theories and created graphs. We did experiments and wrote about them. I taught them how to take notes. We used a real newspaper for our current events.
When the Berlin Wall fell, students were curious as to why it was so important. I had to teach some history to explain it. When the Olympics came, we adjusted to geography lessons to see where the athletes came from. We have drawn the medals won by the various countries.
We participated in Book-It. That was a Pizza Hut sponsored reading incentive program. The students earned their own pizza in the pan for reading the books I needed. At the end of the year, if everyone met their requirements, the class earned a pizza. That day was special. I made sure my children read many books.
The Bookmobile was in service during the time I was teaching. The staff always laughed when I introduced myself. They knew which author I was reading to the children because the children were asking for those books. I loved reading to children. I have passed on some children’s classics that I am sure many of them would never have read on their own. My choice to read to them dates back to my school days. I’ll never forget when Miss Clifford read “Bambi” to us.
I could go on and on. I had so many plans. Most of them have been successful, but every now and then, I have marked in my plan book, “Don’t do it this way again!”
When the school bells ring, I remember it! While I don’t miss the way things are today, I’m glad I was there in the good old days!
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pennsylvania. Contact her at [email protected]
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