Tender Teacher

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

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.

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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.

Forties – School

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Downtown Marietta, Ohio along the Muskingum River

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I started to school in 1948.  Just want to try to paint a picture of what school was like way back then.  First of all, I think it’s important to mention that I liked school.  I went to an old school that was a two story brick building that looked very substantial.  It was built at the confluence of two rivers in Ohio, where the lazy Muskingum emptied into the beautiful Ohio.  It was a peaceful and educational spot, but the school had been flooded many times, and it had to be replaced when I was in the fifth grade.  The flooding had taken its toll on the coal fired boiler, oiled wood floors, plaster, and foundation.

You entered the school into a huge hallway that had two opposing wide stairways going to the second floor, and the ceiling was probably 24 foot high in the center.  The classroom ceilings were about twelve foot high.   My first grade classroom was lined on one side with chalkboards, and two sides with windows that stretched from the hot water heaters to the ceiling.  There was a cloak room located across the front of our room where you placed your coats, boots, and lunches.  You marched in one side door, placed your items where they belonged, and came out the door on the opposite side.  It was an imposing place.

Our wrought iron and wood desks and seats were attached to the wood floors with big screws, and the back of your seat was attached to the desk behind.   There were no adjustments for size.  Luckily, I was of average size, so they were comfortable for me.  I could appreciate that seating arrangement years later when I taught school, and a few restless children could move their chairs and desks around, and make a lot of noise which interrupted class for all the other attentive students.

My worst memories include walking by the huge black coal furnace in the basement to the lunch room.  I could feel the heat, and hear the fire roaring.  I can remember having to summons up courage to make that trip.  And then there was the time when I was turned around in my seat with one arm back on my desk, and whack, I felt like my fingers had just been sliced off.  My teacher had enforced the rule that you face the front, with a ruler!  Needless to say, there weren’t many discipline problems in those days.   If the class became too noisy the teacher would just quietly take out the paddle (which almost never was used), and she/he put it on her/his desk.  I can remember the room becoming silent, and everyone getting back to work.

One of my best memories is going to the board to do work.  Everyone loved going to the board, and they had their hands up begging to be chosen.  It was a wonderful way to keep everyone’s attention, and to give attention to individuals.  AND then there was the day I went to school and my art picture was hanging on the bulletin board (along with all the other children’s), and I felt so proud when the teacher told us how nice they were.   Another fond memory is of playing on the playground at three recesses each day that the weather was good enough.  There were so many games to learn such as: Mother May I, Jacks, Hop Scotch, Red Rover, Jump Rope, Fox and Geese, and of course, Hide and Seek, and It.  We got lots of exercise at those three recesses during our first through our sixth grade years. The change of pace and healthy exercise cleared our minds, and we entered the classroom ready to learn again.

Written by kjskjp

September 7, 2010 at 2:30 am

The Forties: Neighborhood Stores

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Corner grocery store, Pensacola, Florida.

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Our family never owned a car.  Most people really didn’t NEED a car in our neighborhood.  Mom walked to work at the drugstore, and dad got a ride with his boss to the lumberyard where he graded lumber.  AND within two blocks of our home there were four grocery stores, Tilton’s,  Morris’, Apple’s, and Wilhelm’s, and one newsstand, Jackson’s.  People stood around in the grocery stores and talked for a bit.  So, besides providing access to food stores were for socializing, too.  I liked to eavesdrop, while I took my time to choose penny candy from the candy case.

I learned to “remember” by going to the store for mom.  She would send me to the store for milk, and I would come home with bread.  She’d send me for sausage, and I’d get hamburger.  It was frustrating for her, because I would also forget to hurry home, and then to boot, I’d arrive home with the wrong thing.  Her frustration led to my learning to “keep my mind on what I was doing”, but it didn’t happen over night.

The little old ladies and gents were always sitting on their porches, and would usually invite me to talk with them.  Mr. and Miss McDermott, brother and sister, who lived near Tilton’s Store, would always want me to sit between them (so they could both sit beside me) on their swing.  It was so cozy and they’d really listen to everything I had to say.  I sure wish I had a recording of even just one of those conversations.  Mrs. Bear who lived on the way to Morris’ Store gave me a barrette for my hair one day.  She had made many comments about my beautiful straight black hair, that hung down in my eyes.  I loved that barrette.

Some days I’d make two or three trips to the store for groceries, and occasionally mom would give me a few pennies, and I’d take my little brother and sister to the store for penny candy, and then we would go to the playground on Flander’s Field.  It was good exercise, socialization, and I learned to count change before I started to school.  By the way, Morris’ Store had the best price for candy, and Jackson’s Newsstand had comic books for ten cents each.  Jackson’s was the only store open on Sunday.

Mutt and Jeff as reprinted in All-American Com...

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Written by kjskjp

August 31, 2010 at 3:27 pm

First Story of the Forties

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Clothespin in place. Oregon, USA

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Kids were skinny, by today’s standards, in the forties.  It was no wonder.  Most of the time they got up at dawn, ate a bowl of cornflakes and milk, or oatmeal, and then they were sent outside to play, and the screen door was often hooked behind them.  “Don’t go any farther than my voice”, moms would say.  This meant “If I call you you had better come home promptly!”   Don’t go in anyone’s house, and STAY OUT OF TROUBLE.

We were pretty safe out there in the real world.  Many of the front porches were graced by little old ladies sitting in their porch swings, who would call your mother in a minute if they saw anything suspicious going on.  Some moms sat out there talking with neighbors, while working on a basket of mending.  And of course, on Monday everyone was hanging out laundry, or taking it down, folding it , and putting it in the big wicker laundry baskets.  OH yes, and there were those sneaky, nosy ones peeking out their windows from behind their curtains, watching our every move.  NOPE you couldn’t get away with much, if anything!  We knew who to stay away from, like Bugs Callahan, who looked up little girls dresses every chance he got, and Dink Pitts, who was drunk most of the time, and sat in his swing and sang while his dog, Buster, howled along with him.

So, we played, and played, and usually got along with each other.  The older kids made sure the younger ones were safe by watching out for them, and the younger kids respected the older kids.  It was expected of them.  And we knew everyone, and about everyone.  If someone new moved into the neighborhood, they were a curiosity, and were suspect until proven otherwise.  Parents sat on the newcomer’s front porch hours at a time “getting to know” them.

OH NO, things weren’t perfect.  When we were allowed “inside” for lunch often times it was a bowl of Campbell’s Chicken Soup, and a half a sandwich, because “That’s all there is,” or “That’s all you need.”  However, we ran and played ourselves skinny, and healthy.  It was glorious fun!

Written by kjskjp

August 30, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Posted in Forties

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