Monthly Archives: March 2013

Why do I teach?

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This is a question that I ask myself every day. I love teaching and I love learning.  Over the years, I have both loved and hated my job. I teach at a Title 1 school that is currently listed as a failing school. My excitement for teaching is high and I have very high expectations of my students. Behavior is the toughest issue because we have many children with mental and learning disabilities. If a child does not read on grade level by the end of third grade, they are 4 times less likely as their peers to graduate from high school by the age of 19. When poverty is figured into the equation, they are 13 times less likely to graduate.This information was posted in a study by the Anne E. Casey Foundation titled Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation.

What I find is that many of our students do not really care about doing well in school. This often stems from home, where students are not read to by their parents. They do not have the positive, scholarly role models that they need in order to elevate school to the level of importance that it needs to have. Many days, I find my self becoming frustrated because of the disruptions that cause all students in my classes to be distracted and unwilling to participate. Usually, when I am at the end of my rope, something happens to excite me about teaching. Each day, I try to think through the day and remember those times when the bulb came on for a child. Last week, one of my poorer readers got truly excited about the infographics lesson that I was teaching. He immediately related to and understood the concept. I also had a couple of really sweet letters and cards from students for no apparent reason. These will always make my day!

studentletter    studentcard

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St. Patrick’s Day Meal

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corned beefCorned beef, cabbage, new potatoes, carrots, and Irish soda bread make a most filling and traditional St. Paddy’s Day dinner. As I prepared this traditional fair, I was reminded of my childhood and the many parties that were held in the neighborhood. My mom always hosted a wonderful New Year’s Eve party. I remember the food -ham biscuits and Meeting Street crab were staples. I also remember that mom would serve Irish coffee after midnight to sober up the guests! Flaming alcohol in sugar rimmed cups with coffee somehow doesn’t seem like the best way to sober up your guests.  So what does New Year’s Eve have to do with St. Patrick’s day? I have very fond memories of one neighbor, “Miss Sally,” who played the piano every New Year’s Eve. Miss Sally was Irish Catholic and so was her husband, Martin. Once Auld Lang Syne had been sung at midnight, they would head on into the Irish Ballads. My favorite was When Irish Eyes Were Smiling. Miss Sally hosted the annual St. Patrick’s Day party. This was in the days before raucous green beer parties were the vogue and she always served a traditional Irish meal. Mom learned to cook this meal from her and I learned by watching my mom. This year I made the whole meal and we devoured it! Now, if I only liked coffee…I wouldn’t mind flaming some Irish Whiskey!

Grandparents

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Grandma "Mom" at her 100th birthday.

Grandma “Mom” at her 100th birthday.

I recently lost the last of my beloved grandparents. “Mom” was 100 years old and she liked for everyone to know it! While I mourn her passing, I can also say that she lived a rewarding life. She often told me stories of hanging out with her father at the train depot in Cope, SC. One of seven children, she cherished this time alone with her father. She had only one child, my father, Lewis. I remember her telling me that her tailbone was broken during childbirth and it was so painful, I don’t think she wanted that experience again. She truly doted on my father though. I remember being amazed at all of the report cards, toys, and photo albums that she had of him through the years. I have some of those things now and truly cherish them.

Each of my grandparents were special in different ways. “Mom” came to Charleston several times each summer to ferry one grandchild at a time (she was no fool) back to Orangeburg where we would spend 2 weeks visiting cousins, friends, and just spending quality time with our grandparents. I remember learning to play many card games with her, playing dress up with all of the clothes she had saved over the years, reading books, painting fingernails, and making banana pudding! I think that’s where my sweet tooth came from. Having my back scratched every night was a real treat too!

Her husband, Dan Dan, was a bit of a workaholic, but he had time for a game of checkers each night. He generally came home in the middle of the day for dinner, but rarely made it home in time for supper. We would fix him a plate and keep it warm. When he came in at night, he always had a treat in one of  his coat pockets (always a moon pie) that I would sit and eat with him while he ate his supper. He was a quiet, dignified man with a strong work ethic that he passed on to my father. (I think I got a bit of that too.)

On my mother’s side, I had “Gran” and “Grandaddy.” For most of my life they lived right here in Charleston. They were an integral part of my life spending time with us on the weekends, holidays, and, best of all, staying with us when mom and dad were out of town. Gran passed away my senior year of high school. She was a no-nonsense person that ran my father’s office with precise attention to detail. I worked for my dad for several years after she died and would often run across her neat handwriting on the folders of various clients. She kept Grandaddy in line as best she could as well. One strong memory that I have of her was when we were all camping together one weekend. It had begun to rain heavily and we were all packed into a small camping trailer, so we sat down to play a board game. Gran had on shorts and I remember looking down and saying, with astonishment, “You have beautiful legs!” Everyone got a good laugh out of that, but Grandaddy strongly agreed with me. I only wish I had inherited them!

Grandaddy was the storyteller in the family. He could really spin a good tale and parts of it were even true. Tales of his childhood would hold my attention for hours. I marveled at his ability to remember so many details. My  one regret is that I did not record these stories in any way and, while he enjoyed writing, he never wrote those childhood stories down. I have a picture in my mind of him sitting in my backyard telling a story to my two oldest sons. Their attention was focused on him and nothing else. I am not the storyteller that he was, but I do think I inherited a bit of his ability to make a story exciting. Grandaddy always made me feel beautiful, cherished, and appreciated. I spent many hours with him each week during the final year of his life and I wouldn’t trade that time for anything!

All of my life I took grandparents for granted. They were always there when I needed them and loving to a fault. As I look back, I realize just how fortunate I have been. Not many people even get to know all of their grandparents. I even had 2 great grandparents that were a part of my life. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to learn from each of my grandparents and to really know them. I believe that they helped shape my life in many ways making me a better parent and a good teacher (librarian).  Quality family time, and lots of it, influenced my values and morals. I wish that I could thank each of them for being there for me!