Tender Teacher

Sharing stories about my personal and professional life as a teacher.

Archive for September 2010

Burning Trash

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Corrugated cardboard

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One of my favorite chores when I was nine years old was burning trash.   Each day after the supper dishes were washed and dried I got to take the trash out back to the “burn spot” in the garden.  This spot was moved from time to time, because ashes were good for the garden.

First, I put the cans, glass, and other items that wouldn’t burn into the garbage can, then I meandered to the “burn spot”.   I felt proud that my parents trusted me to do this “grown-up” job, and I puffed up even bigger when a passer-by would say, “Does your parents allow you to burn trash?”

Now, of course,there were rules:  Come back in and tell us if it is windy before you set the fire.  Stand up-wind from a breeze.  Make sure no children are close by.  When you strike the match make sure it is far away from your dress or coat.  Don’t come back in until the fire is out.

I was, no doubt, good at following rules, and could be trusted, or my parents wouldn’t have given me this important chore at such a young age.  However, one afternoon, I almost lost my job, because of poor judgment.  A new, bubbly friend, Cathy, had moved in across the street.  She was in my fourth grade class.  Everyone loved her, because she was so much fun.  She came over when I was burning trash.  I didn’t think of her as a child, because after all, she was the same age as me.

When Cathy arrived I was feeding corrugated cardboard to the fire a little at a time, so the fire didn’t become too big.  She took a piece of torn cardboard and put just the end of it into the fire, and then showed me how you could suck the smoke through the rib openings.  She attempted to show me how to blow smoke rings.  This looked like so much fun, and since both my parents smoked I wasn’t afraid to have smoke in my mouth.  So, I tried it too, but I didn’t have much luck making any smoke rings either.  Soon, the cardboard was all burned up and she had to go home.  I stayed with the fire until it was completely out.

I carried the trash basket through the back door.  Entering the kitchen I asked.  “How do you blow smoke rings?”  There was an uncanny stillness in the air for a bit before my dad said, “Why do you want to know?”  I said, “I had trouble making the smoke turn into rings like you do.”  You could feel the eerie tension.  “You had cigarettes?”  “Oh, No,” and I went on, “Cathy showed me how you can suck smoke through the cardboard holes, but we couldn’t make the rings.”

Well, the “uncanny stillness” and “eerie tension”, changed quickly to an intense feeling of fear, and hot embarrassment  with one, Earth shattering word from my dad, “WHAT!”  Tears began to sting my eyes, and my heart was pounding.

Mom joined in with, “You could have burned your throat, or worse, burned your lungs!”  Through the blur of sixty years I also remember other terse comments:  I trusted you!  You could have died!  I just can’t believe you did that!  You know no children are allowed near when you burn trash!

Needless to say, I didn’t get to burn trash for a long time, and Cathy wasn’t so bubbly the next time I saw her, because she thought, “I told on her.”  Of course, I never “smoked” cardboard again.  You know, I still would like to burn our trash, but the burn laws won’t allow it.  It would be good for my garden.

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Written by kjskjp

September 28, 2010 at 12:56 am

Teacher Reference Tool

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For teachers and other people interested in knowing a lot about everything.
Go to:  TeacherXpress.com
Amazing isn’t it? Let me know what you think.

Written by kjskjp

September 27, 2010 at 2:29 am

Posted in Education

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Bee Sting

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Stinger of a honey bee 1 minute after a bee sting

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Getting stung is something you never forget.   One hot, late summer afternoon in about 1947 when I was five years old, it started to rain.  It was one of those warm, steady rains with no excitement like thunder or lightening.  I ran into the house and asked mom if I could play in the rain.  Next thing I remember is running up and down the street, in front of our house, in the water that was running along the curb.  The splashing was so much fun, and the rain felt wonderful dripping from my hair, and running down my back.

Just when life couldn’t be better, it happened.  Doesn’t it always?  A hot, sharp pain shot from my foot up my leg.  I sat on the curb and looked at the bottom of my foot.  I thought I had been cut with glass or a sharp rock in the street.  There was no blood, but the pain was killing me.  I ran screaming and crying into the house, and through sobs managed to tell my dad that my foot had been cut.  He checked both my feet, and said that there wasn’t anything wrong with me.  Then it hurt worse and my sobbing became uncontrollable.  After a little bit he told me to go out on the back porch and sit, because I was so loud that he and mom couldn’t even talk.

Life was bad before, but now it was the pits.  I was broken hearted, because I felt no one cared about me.  Blinking back tears I tried to see what was hurting my extremely painful foot.  I couldn’t see anything wrong with it either, so feeling very upset I cried in long loud wails.  It seemed as if it were an eternity that I spent crying, looking, then crying again.  Just when I thought I couldn’t stand the searing, hot pain anymore, my dad called me into the house.

He sat me up on the kitchen table, and questioned me.  Exactly where was I when my foot started hurting, and what was I doing?  I told him that I was splashing in the water that was running along the curb.  He looked at me puzzled and concerned.  He gently wiggled my ankle, wiggled my toes, and wiggled my foot, evidently looking for a broken bone.  Then he said to point to where it hurt the worst.  I did, and he looked carefully, and suddenly said to mom, “She’s been stung by a honey bee!  It must have been carried away in the rain water!”  He got a knife and scraped the stinger out, and said, “It hurt you bad, but it killed itself when it left its stinger.  So, he got the worst of it!”

Mom got some baking soda from the cupboard, and made a paste with water.   Then as she put it on my foot she said, “OH my, it is swelling already.”  The paste felt cool and made the pain a little better, and the tears quit falling.   The next morning my foot was red and quite swollen.  It took time for the sting to get better.  I couldn’t wear my shoe for more than a week.  However, the worst of the “sting” was cured quickly with love.

Written by kjskjp

September 21, 2010 at 12:56 am

2) A Little Bit of Nothing

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"Teacher Appreciation" featured phot...

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It’s wonderful outside this morning at a crisp dry 66 degrees.  By the time I watered the flowers on the porch, the sweat that I had worked up while riding my husband’s stationary bike had dried in the friendly, mild breeze.  So, I’m delaying my shower for a bit, because I have a thought weighing on my mind, and I want to “throw it out there”.

So much has been written about our public schools, and how they are failing, and what to do about it.  Just had to take time to comment about this from my perspective.  When I was a child there were many children who grew up without an education.  An older relative of mine never went to school more than a few days, because she kicked the teacher, and wasn’t able to learn like the “other children”.  She was considered unfit for school.  There were many many children who were handicapped because of behavior or mentality, and they never attended school.  I don’t know the statistics of how many lower-functioning children did not go to school in the 1950’s and 1960’s, but I do know that all of these children would be in school today.   This is fortunate for them, their families, and our country, because they have a chance to become contributing citizens.

What seems to have been forgotten is that a lot of these children (who aren’t the best test takers even in ideal situations) are now included in the test results in most states in the US.  When I went to high school just the students in the College Preparatory Courses took the SAT.   Now, I understand that most high school students take the SAT.  How can we compare these previous scores to the scores of today and get accurate comparison?  Also, in most of the countries, who we compare our scores with, special education is either not available, or is just developing.  Again how accurate is that comparison?

There are so many variables when comparing test scores, not to mention the drastic changes in our society that have affected our children.  I think we should give up considering our teachers, and public schools as “failing”.   That’s a defeating and negative attitude.

We want our schools to be the best they can be, and we should ALL work towards that positive goal.  We all want our children to have the BEST education possible.  Let’s accomplish that by further implementing  what has been proven to bring up scores in the last eight or more years.   We should help our teachers with accommodations such as: more teacher aids, after school/summer programs, and better teacher education.   These accommodations/programs have improved the test scores of  schools in academic failure.   It just doesn’t make sense to take away the very programs that have improved our children’s education/test scores.  I wonder if the accommodations/programs were available for all schools, all the time, not just the “failing” ones, if our country would soon excel when compared to other countries.  Makes SENSE to me!

I’ll go take my shower now.

Written by kjskjp

September 15, 2010 at 10:59 am

Forties – Hobos

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Two hobos walking along railroad tracks, after...

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Growing up near the railroad tracks, a water tower, and  a tie yard allowed for more than just the excitement of the coming train.  There were hobos who knocked at the back door occasionally.  Mom called them tramps.  She said that they were harmless, but on the other hand, she reminded us often to always come in the house if any adult came into our yard.

I only remember the knock at the back door happening a few times.  They asked for a bite to eat.  The ones I saw looked pretty unkempt and sad to me.  Mom would offer them a cup of coffee, and a plate of whatever food we had on hand, usually beans and crackers, and she would quickly lock the door.  They would eat outside on the back steps, and leave the dish and cup on the porch.

Most of them hopped back on the train.  However one time, I remember overhearing people talk about a tramp “hanging around “, and talk of whose house he had begged for food at last.  Word spread fast in those days.   People were very aware of what was going on in our neighborhood, and they alerted everyone nearby.  It was your “civic duty” to look out for your neighbors.  I heard from my older cousin about a hobo she thought was sleeping in the tie yard.  Somehow that was pretty scary for me, and even though mom had said that they were harmless, she wouldn’t let us go outside and play for several days.  I knew what was going on, but knew better than to ask “too many questions”.   In the forties it was the custom that children were kept “innocent” as long as possible.  Innocent and protected.

Written by kjskjp

September 14, 2010 at 12:19 am

Forties: The Steam Locomotives

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Petticoat Junction

Image by Redgum via Flickr

My parents owned four small city lots on the west side of town in the flood district.  We lived two blocks west of the Muskingum River, and three blocks north of the Ohio River.  Our house sat on the northeast lot and faced Lord Street.  A water tower (almost like the one in Petticoat Junction) was located at the southwest corner of our land.  Next to our property on two sides were the railroad tracks.  A north south track crossed an east west track behind our house near this water tower. Beside our house, on the other side of the north south track, was a tie yard.  In this tie yard new railroad ties were stored until they were loaded into boxcars and transported to a facility where creosote was applied to preserve the railroad ties for between 25 and 50 years.  They were used to replace the old rotted ties.   My cousins lived in the house on the other side of the tie yard. After my father came home from World War II his first job was working in tie yards.  He unloaded these ties from the trucks that transported them from the saw mills, and later he loaded them into the boxcars.  It was a job for a very strong young man.

The  B & O steam locomotives could be heard for miles as they rumbled towards our home.  They came to a stop and filled their steam boilers with water.  Just behind the huge black engine was the coal car.  A railroad employee would shovel coal into the steam engine’s firebox, and the engine would sit there and power up.  It would huff and puff, and dense black smoke would roll up from the smoke stack.   Our house would shake, and tiny cinders and coal soot from the smoke would settle over everything nearby.  You could feel the heat from the engines if you were playing in our side yard, so we would usually run to the porch and watch from there until the train went on by.   We would often have black streaks, a mix of coal soot and sweat, smeared all over us, and cinders in our hair when we came inside from playing.  Sweeping our porches from top to bottom was a daily job.  Even though my mom knew the train schedules, sometimes a surprise train would be heard in the distance.  There would be a mad dash to yank all of our clothes from the clothes lines before the train arrived.  Coal soot would not wash or bleach out of light-colored clothes.  Our clothes and white sheets were forever a dingy gray if the train caught us by surprise.

There was always a little red caboose as the last car on the train.  Mom said that the men who worked on the train took turns sleeping in the caboose.  Often men in the caboose would wave to us.  The engineers would wave also, and pull the chain that would ring the bell.

I’m not sure of the exact year when the steam locomotives were replaced by the diesel-powered trains, but it was in the early to mid fifties.  They were much quieter and cleaner.  Eventually the water tower was torn down.  I’m sure that nearly everyone who lived near the “tracks” appreciated this change, but as a child I missed the excitement of the old smoke belching locomotive that drank from the water tower, and chugged the familiar loud, “Choo, Choo, Chooooo.”

Smoky, Tarantula Train Steam Locomotive, Ft. W...

Image by StevenM_61 via Flickrrived.

1) A Little Bit of Nothing

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North Carolina Sunset

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Today is one of those lazy days of summer, even though it is September the 8th.  The temperature will be in the 90’s again today, and the land is dry and parched.  It has been hot in most all of the eastern states from the north to the south of the US since mid June.  In Ohio where many of the schools are not air conditioned the students and teachers have been melting in the temperatures of 80’s and 90’s.  I remember days like that, so, I am happy today that I am sitting here in my air conditioned North Carolina home.

The past three years since I retired have flown by.   I truly miss the satisfaction of seeing children learn to turn on their own self control, and to be able to accomplish a lot more than they thought was ever possible.  I miss most of all seeing the “light bulb” of finally understanding concepts shine brightly in my children’s eyes.  However, teaching was on my mind twenty four hours a day (My dreams were even about teaching.), and because of political pressures the stress level built more and more each year, especially for dedicated teachers.  So, I’m fortunate to be able to give my time to my family, who were sorely neglected, during those 28 years that I gave totally, the year around, to education.  HEY, there’s even a little bit of time left for me.  I got a manicure and a pedicure for the first time a few weeks ago!  AND here I am enjoying blogging.

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