Take the Stairs? Maybe Not.



Stairways are dangerous. Or maybe they are just dangerous to me. I can easily fall down on a flat surface without anyone being around to trip me. In my classroom, I am the epitome of caution. When I look out at those 22 pair of fast moving feet, I see myself falling down in a heap while I knock down the very expensive smart board. The smart board is large, yet delicate  and I would definitely demolish it. I am not very delicate, but I imagine that the smart board would attack me. The children would move quickly out of the way and my assistant would laugh hysterically. I do not need stairs to make a mess out of a day.

Unfortunately, I have taught at two schools with second stories and steep stairs. One school was over 100 years old and very cool looking. I really loved that school. I certainly did not love the stairs. I rode the elevator when I could get away with it. The elevator required 10 to 12 serious prayers to get from one floor to another. At least, that is how I felt. The 100 year old stairways were quite treacherous. The wood was beautiful, but who could dare look at the wood? I was always holding on for dear life. The stairs were very uneven on both stairways. One step would be eight inches deep and the next step might be eleven inches deep. Until I memorized where the odd steps were located, I was a disaster waiting to happen. Builders from 100 years ago were not thinking about my knees. My knees cannot handle weird steps…even on pretty staircases.

When I arrived at this particular school, I had completed my second knee replacement just weeks before the start of school. I guess those builders from 100 years ago had no idea that titanium knees would be in the future. I think my unreal knees are miraculous, but I still can’t handle the stair problem. Normal people would have taken more physical therapy. Something else to put on my list for post-retirement. I hope that we have time to travel with all of my planned projects…such as sleeping. Travel brings to mind more stairs. I envision myself as being the problem child on trips.

Possible trips where I will most likely spend time drawing attention to myself… because of beautiful stairs:

  1. My college best friend’s wonderful Bed & Breakfast in Virginia. The Inn at Meander Plantation is my idea of an ideal place to visit. Historic. Panoramic views of the countryside. Many acres to explore. A second story balcony with rocking chairs. The best food imaginable. Delightful hostesses. When we visited several years ago, I practically fell down the mere two steps to the dining room. I had successfully made it down the regular staircase from our suite. Maybe I was just anticipating breakfast. I imagine that Thomas Jefferson never tripped during any of his stays at Meander.

  2. The San Juan Islands in the state of Washington. I have been looking online for homes or condos that we could rent. Naturally, the one that I liked the best had steps to the private beach area. A very long set of steps. The best place to view the whales is at the bottom of the steps. I might miss this view of the whales.

  3. Manchu Picchu. I really need to see this place. I am fascinated by the history. One of my fourth grade classes completed a long study after reading a story about Manchu Picchu. I should have known better and not started yearning for the trek to the top. Besides, the class was in the 100 year old school. I should not have allowed myself to become entranced by a place that requires a hike up steps and trails.

  4. A cruise to Alaska. Those boats are rather large. I’ve seen pictures of the elegant and dramatic staircases. I realize that cruise ships have elevators. There is just something wrong about going up and down while moving forward in a boat. I can’t even think about the sensation. Besides, I want to take a picture on the dramatic staircase. You know…to put on Facebook like everyone else. A picture in an elevator would not be that interesting. Besides…remember that I might be rather ill on the elevator.

  5. Anywhere in New York City. I absolutely love NYC. I like the noise and the crowds and the restaurants and the store windows and hearing lots of different languages. I even like riding in a taxi. Most of all, I like Broadway shows. Jersey Boys was the best. I knew every song. I also fell up the stairs in the theater. Truly. It was not my best moment, but I don’t think that anyone noticed. They were moving so fast. I also fell up the stairs on the double decker tour bus. I made it to the top, but I think the driver was checking his insurance policy…just in case.

Stairways are just not positive for me. I will work on the problem this summer. I really don’t want to be the problem child on a trip. I already eat very slowly (talking) and take up way too much time. However, the stairways are the main issue. My current school has absolutely no stairs that I have to manage. I do have to walk quite a bit. But…that is another situation!



To Cross the Road. Or Not.



Crossing a major road in a large city is not my idea of attempting something with good sense. Why did the chicken cross the road? Answer: to get to the other side. I doubt that there was any better chicken feed on the other side and the grass was most assuredly full of fire ants. Not to be negative or anything, but check out everything on your side before making the big trek. This goes for chickens and people. Although some people are naturally chicken and would never even consider going to the other side.

Make a note that I never said to ignore the other side. There are probably some interesting people over there. The best advice would be to know every detail about your side. Study your side. Observe your side. Disagree a bit. Agree a bit. Don’t let the non-issues become issues. We all know that non-issues take up too much time. They are boring. I don’t even know what the non-issues might be, but I imagine that they are not worth the effort. Make some real friends on your side. As in…make some friends you can trust. Join some groups that help people in the community. Every town has some children that are hungry…you might think, “NOT MY TOWN!” I beg to differ. You might start with the hungry children. Lean down and look in their eyes. Maybe you might see a reflection.

Reflect for a while on what you have learned. You’re doing some good now. Perhaps your side is looking better, sounding better, moving forward better. All because of you and others like you. What a concept. It looks like you might have something to offer the other side. I would not go over there without a gift. Such as…the gift of your time, the gift of your expertise, the gift of your compassion, the gift of listening, the gift of honesty, the gift of humility. Oh my…humility. So lacking on both sides.

Now that you know about humility and honesty and compassion…you might take that big step. Cross the road, but wait for the green light. After all, you need to follow the rules over there too. I hope you don’t barge across with the red light…being loud and brash. Just calm down. They need you and you need them. After all…you are at a crossroads. Are you prepared?

The “Disabopped” Kindergartner…


If you are five years old, it is quite easy to become disabopped on a moment to moment schedule. This emotion may occur as you get out of the car at 7:20 in the morning. Just the fact that you are out so early in the real world can cause disabopping behavior.  Not to mention the fact that your mom forgot to wave good-bye. I worry. How many times did I cause my own children to enter the school building in an obviously disabopped state of mind?

I can’t worry about it now. When they grow up, children can so easily make their own disabopps. I make mine all the time. Listed are some of my most monumental and current disabopps:

  1. I drop crumbs in my car continuously. I said that I would never, ever eat breakfast on the way to work in my new car. That lasted two days. The next day I dropped an entire container of cereal in the passenger seat. I have had the car eight months and I am still finding cereal. I cannot invite people to ride with me. The crunchy sound when they sit down is so irritating. Disabopped.

  2. I want to go see Adele in concert so much that it is ridiculous. I am a little too old to be obsessed. I listen to “Hello” at top volume on the way home from school everyday. How crazy can I be? I have just spent the entire day listening to five year olds talking so loudly that I probably have ear damage. Nevertheless, I am very disabopped about Adele. Just because the available tickets are over $400 (top rows, huge concert venue) or $1000 plus, plus, plus for floor level seating, people laugh at me. My husband does not want to go. Our daughter does not want to go. Friends do not want to go. Hey…it is Adele!!! Doesn’t anyone get it?

  3. Texas is too hot in the summer and I am mainly talking about the month of August. Why did my ancestors move to Texas in the first place? Honestly, I would have voted to stay in Tennessee. Let’s go on further back…I would have just stayed in England. I like rainy and sort of cool weather. I can’t really be disabopped in relatives that I do not know, but I think that they could have considered the weather.

My kindergartners are not particularly disabopped about the weather except when we have a tornado drill. Or a real drill. They are just scared and the teacher is putting on her brave face. No…weather or Adele or cereal in the front seat do not disabopp them. The following items do bother them…

  1. Raisins for snacks again. Applesauce for snacks again. They only like little fishies and those very small oranges. Nothing else! So disabopping.

  2. Not going to the playground because of testing. Don’t even get me started on testing five year olds. This is a major disabopp for everyone.

  3. Being moved to another table because of continuous talking and silly behavior and cartoon character sounds being made. This moving tables business is what started the disabopp discussion…

Says the child with the dimples that will melt a thousand hearts:

“You teachers DISABOPP me. Stop it!!”

Oh my…it is hard to say DISAPPOINT with one tooth missing!

Artificial Flowers…Fooled by Fake Again

miniature roses

 If by chance, I receive a beautiful arrangement of flowers, I am totally and completely overjoyed. A sweet child in my class gave me a plant on Valentine’s Day…a small rose bush. I have spent more time with that plant than with some members of my family. I water it more often than is necessary. I just want to make that little rose bush happy. I am not even certain that it should be called a bush. That is not really the point. The point is that someone gave me a real flower. Me! I am honored. I am impressed by such thoughtfulness.

What does not impress me is someone I slightly know(who certainly shall remain nameless because I don’t even recall her name)who has a wonderful array of flower beds in her rather large front yard. I had always admired these flowers. I don’t really know her, so I have never walked up her sidewalk past the flowers. Lucky me! Had I walked up the sidewalk, I would have discovered the truth for myself.

The truth…THE FLOWERS ARE ARTIFICIAL! They are plastic, not silk or anything approaching silk. I found out about the fake flowers at a Little League game more than 20 years ago. Little League is a hotbed of gossip and controversy. You can actually find out so much news…if you can hear over the parents who are yelling at their children. “WATCH THE BALL!”…but, I was able to hear about the flowers loud and clear. She was so proud of her innovative achievement. Not one person seemed shocked but me. Did they all have ARTIFICIAL flowers to add beauty to their neighborhoods? I have never trusted yards again. I see a wonderfully landscaped flower garden in front of a house that somewhat depicts a gigantic castle. I can’t even see the castle for the possibly artificial flowers.

I can’t help but think…what else is artificial in my city? The bricks on the houses…probably hollow. All of those limestone accents…definitely spray-on stone. The shutters…plastic like the flowers. The grass…most likely turf from a football field. I guess it is really none of my business, but what happened to flowers that are actually growing? Real limestone? Even real fingernails, for heaven’s sake?

So I just keep planting my real petunias and watering them like I water my little rose bush. After all, I like happy plants. Artificial flowers most assuredly do not have real feelings.


Now 13 Days Until First Time, Last Day


UPDATE!!! Closer than believable…Monday is 13 Days Until First Time, Last Day. I have continued my countdown until school is out for good. I started with 34 Days Until First Time, Last Day. At least, it will be out for good for one person. Me. It is difficult to fathom such a major event, yet a somewhat happy/sad event. I am so very near to the point of retiring. It surprised me when I checked the calendar. I actually counted the days three times. This surely was not correct. I had only 34 days to bring about some miracles in my classroom. Now 13 days? No way!

I can’t retire until Table #1 stops talking continuously. Doubt it will happen. I think that I should be the one with the most words to say. I certainly can’t retire until Table #2 has each and every child finish a project at the right time. Probably won’t happen. I can’t retire until Table #3 doesn’t straighten up by piling papers and crayon containers in a giant pile. Certainly won’t happen. I can’t retire until Table #4 learns to come to circle the first time that they are asked to join us. Absolutely won’t happen.

OK…I know. Nothing is perfect. At least, they are somewhat working together. In the real world, everyone working together in a rather congenial manner may not ever happen again. I still need some miracles. I can’t get past my hopes for these children from back in August. Did I do everything I could for them? Did I make them feel welcome? Did I listen to their stories? Did I realize when someone had slept only three hours the night before? Why only three hours? Did I give everyone a chance to answer enough questions? Did I make learning fun? Did I make learning serious enough? Did I help a parent learn to be a parent? So many questions.

And yet…I know that I gave it my best. I gave them answers to their questions. If I didn’t know the answer, I found the answer. “Why do boy and girl lions look so different?” Well…let me see. “Why do clouds make shapes like Superman?” Well…let me think a little about it. “Why do you like to read books to five year old kids?” Well…do you have an hour to hear my answer? “Where do all the teachers sleep at night? In the cafeteria or the gym?” Can you repeat the question?  “How old are you?” Well…”How old do you think that I am?” “We all think you are about 25″…good counting, I say to myself. I better keep coloring my hair. Maybe I need bright highlights.

When I get the highlights, I will remember my last class. They laughed so loudly. They laughed so freely. They learned all of the letters. They learned all of the sounds. They can read some words. Some can read a lot of words. Some can read chapter books. They learned to count. They learned to count by fives. They learned to count by tens. They learned to mix colors. They learned how to make a mess mixing colors. They learned how to clean up the mess.

They learned all about school. I hope that they always like school and I know that some might not always like school. They learned about friendship. I hope they remember why they need friends. They learned how to get milk in the cafeteria and how to hold a tray. They learned some rules.

Rules like ***walk, don’t run…especially in the hall***try to use an inside voice most of the time***cry if you have to, smile when you can***work first, then play…my favorite rules.

There are also some rules for me. Enjoy these last 34 days. Take pictures. Lots of pictures. Teach them every funny song that I know. Remind them to try their very best at everything they do. After all, that is our class motto. They don’t realize that our motto for the class of 2015-16 is the exact same motto that every one of my classes has had. Eighteen years of classes. And this is my last class. What a special last class. Memories.

My last time with my class is only 13 days away. I still feel the same way as I did when I first wrote this. I will not ever forget these children or any of the other children that I have taught. Not just memories, but cherished memories.

I was in the news. It was good. Really!


A long time ago in another time…sort of like an entirely different life…I was a newspaper person. I started working on my high school paper and I knew that this was IT. This was one career that I would like. Even as a teenager, I knew that my whatever job would have to be far from boring and far from tedious. I knew that I liked to talk…even though I had been told that I was shy since I was very young. Just lately, I have realized that I probably talked TOO much and people just hoped that I would suddenly be shy. I suppose it was more polite to say “you are shy” rather than “have you ever thought about shutting up”…evidently, I just liked my own voice.

Now, I think of voice in a entirely different manner. I think of voice as a means of expressing  and revealing my personality and style. Voice is taking ownership of my writing…of taking personal responsibility for my viewpoints. When I graduated from college and began working at newspapers…I had not a clue about writing with voice. I had never even heard such an interpretation. I just knew that I better finish my story by the deadline or one of the editors would yell louder than humanly possible. That is when I lost any tiny bit of shyness that I possessed. I could certainly be as loud and opinionated as some guy. I just had to figure out how to be somewhat kind at the same  time. Writing with voice…please! I just needed the facts and the figures and a couple of fancy words. That kind of writing wasn’t so exciting. I just couldn’t be me.

Me was an important commodity even then. So I transferred to the retail advertising department…where I thought the wilder, independent people worked. They did work there, but a few were almost close to normal. It was my kind of place. I still had deadlines, but people were laid back. “Ok, Ok! She’ll be down with the copy in 10 minutes or maybe thirty!”…so what if I worked until 11:00 at night many times. The ads looked good, didn’t they? I had over 100 accounts  and I treated them like they were the most ingenious businesses in town. I was 22 years old…what did I know about business? Nothing.

Fortunately, I knew how to shop and what to buy. I found out quickly that I was competitive beyond belief. Competitive and opinionated. What a combination. So I put together an ad campaign for a  popular young adult type store. They bought full pages. Yea! More money! This was fun. My ads were entered in a state contest for a  newspaper association. What do you know…I won first place for ad campaigns….the biggest deal ever for me. That’s how my picture made the newspaper.

A picture in the paper, a plaque, a presentation at a dinner. I still have the paper and  the plaque.  Funny how a little recognition can give a person confidence. Now that I am a teacher, I know that recognizing teachers for even the smallest conquest is vitally important. It just doesn’t happen very much in public education. What a shame.

When I think of my seven year newspaper career, I remember how great I felt when I won that contest. I quit the newspaper business when our children were born.  Those late hours are not particularly compatible with a good home environment. And besides, I wanted to be a mom. However, I carried from the newspaper a sense of accomplishment and confidence. Newspapers gave me the voice that I needed.





















Faraway. Yet So Near. Yet So Far.

 Written by Pat Davis, kindergartenknowledge.com


There was a time when faraway meant growing older. I’ve been there. I am there. It is not so disconcerting.

There was a time when faraway meant finishing long years of study. Degrees. I’ve been there. I am past there. It is not so disconcerting.

There was a time when faraway meant marriage for many years. I’ve been there. I am truly there. It is not so disconcerting.

There was a time when faraway meant having a career that meant more than just going to work. School. Students. I’ve been there. I am there. I am almost past there. It is not so disconcerting.

There was a time when faraway meant having children. Love. Joy. Family. A Boy. A Girl. I’ve been there. I am there. It is so very, very disconcerting.

Our girl is not so faraway. She is wonderful and happy and resourceful and successful. She is everything that we ever dreamed that she would be. A daughter! Happiness! A beautiful ray of sunshine in our lives.

Our boy is so very, very faraway. Yes, that is why being there is so very, very disconcerting. Being there means that we are without our boy. He was our first child. The child with a smile so bright. The child who was clever and curious and fun. The child who was so happy to be a brother. Our son.

Faraway means that we lost him when he was only twenty-six. A car accident. Not his fault. A rainy night. Someone lost control and caused an accident. Our son was gone in an instant. It is true that when you lose a child…you lose part of your future. And yet, you see the future with so much clarity. Amazing clarity.

Clarity to actually feel the meaning of love. To yearn for something that you cannot touch. Clarity to reach out to the unknown. Clarity to believe in something that you cannot see. Clarity to trust that tomorrow will be better. And easier. Surprising that tomorrow does come and joy still surrounds us.

Our lives move forward. We learn to laugh again. Sometimes I think that our boy is close by. I feel that he is near. I feel that he is listening, watching, smiling, holding our hands.

Faraway. There was a time when I thought faraway was measured in miles. I’ve been there. I’ve been miles away. Yet…faraway is near. So very near. As near as reaching out for something that I cannot touch…reaching out for something that I can imagine…for something that I can remember. Faraway. Yet so near.




Four Chef Hats and Four Aprons


Four Chef Hats

I have noticed…with some monumental amounts of distress mixed with humor…that in education …what was old becomes new again and then old and then really super brand new. When this “thing” becomes super brand new, it is bright and shiny and expensive. Thank you, thank you to all the taxpayers including myself! We are so often paying big time for old ideas re-packaged in glittered ribbon.

My awareness of this phenomenon occurred when I changed school districts a little more than several years ago. I was very enthralled with being in a different district…even larger than my last large district. Sure, I was very sad to leave my old school and my comfortable surroundings and friends. However, I had a new position and I might just use that recently framed master’s degree that caused me to lose so much sleep. I entered my new school building  and walked into my first all-day…

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Almost April…remembering the curl in the baggie!



I am thanking my lucky stars that we finally are making it close to April! On about September 8, I started thinking that I might not last through the rest of the week. This might be quite ridiculous, since I have been working on this teaching career for 18 years… all in Title I public schools. Some of these children have little direction at home and are just downright hungry. I am not talking about a hunger for learning. Some of these children DO  have discipline and direction at home, but the poverty is serious. My heart cries for them. The first few weeks of school were a bit tougher this year and I was a bit tougher this year. How can I really teach them if they have no idea how to control themselves? To me, tough means following through on classroom rules. It means being fair. It means caring for them even…

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