Friday, August 05, 2005

The 'Farewell Bonnie Busco' flag ceremony had just ended and the Wasatch Dance program would be the next day. I love spring days like that. Even now, those early sunny mornings remind me of my happy elementary school years. After the dance program we'd always gather our things from our classroom, give our teacher a hug (at least I always did. Jesse probably didn't and he was still always the favorite.) and meet with Mom and Cindy to head to Minuteman for a popsicle. This morning though, I wasn't anticipating going to get a popsicle and dancing the maypole the next day. I was now the mom, pushing my little daughter in a stroller back to my little home a few blocks away.

A few days later, I walked with Hazel again. We were joined by a couple of friends who have children in Elementary school. On our walk we ran into an acquaintance of these friends and they began a conversation about school and teachers. Since I didn't know the lady and Hazel was restless, I took to watching Hazel run on the grass. Conversations like this always interest me though, since I taught school for a year, so while pretending only to be interested in Hazel, I listened. This woman was not happy with the teacher her daughter was going to have for the upcoming year. The teacher was new to the school and this woman was just not impressed. I wondered what could be so wrong with the teacher. The woman proceeded to complain that this new teacher did not even know whether she was going to teach denillion (sp?) or print. When I heard this, I nearly picked up and left. First of all, how many of you even know what denillion is? It is the writing with the curly tails on the ends. It is supposed to help with cursive (which I think is on it's way out anyway). Print doesn't have curly ends. This woman just could not understand why this teacher didn't know which she'd teach yet (I could defend this teacher on why she didn't know yet 'till the cows come home, but I will refrain to move on with my purpose). I was so frustrated by this comment, that I have wanted to write about it since.

I decided to become a teacher because I loved my education so much. Sometimes I wish I could go back to a few days there. Halloween time was always wonderful. I would give a lot to sit on the carpet and listen to Mrs. Lee tell us scary stories again. Or to see Mr. Anderson dressed as a ballerina. Mr. Roberts, our principal, always met us (Katie, Jesse, Steph, Courtney and me) at the front door while morning music was on. "Late again huh Clarks?" We always were. His high fives as we hurried on assured us it was fine. I'd even run the relay race in the Hershey if I could for one more day--and that's saying a lot right now. Life was good for me at Wasatch and since I couldn't relive it, the next best thing would be to create it for others. I decided to teach.

Teaching was wonderful and teaching was hard. Student teaching almost made me run away from the profession forever--I'm really serious. The thing about teaching is that it never leaves you. I would go to work at 7 am and come home at 8 pm and still not be done. That's just it, you can never really be 'done'. There is always more you could do. There is always more to become. Johnny still doesn't get this concept, Sarah is mean to Jill, Billy gets in trouble every day--and so it goes. There is nothing like sitting and reading to children though, and watching them beg for one more chapter. I'd often plan on reading more, but still make them beg because it made me so happy. There's also nothing like watching someone finally catch on to something. I miss those things.

I only taught for a year, and am no expert. But I did come away with some knowledge about schools and teachers that I think is invaluable. Here is my case for public school.

I believe that most teachers genuinely want to be good. I know there are some boneheads that are still teaching and waiting to retire. Truly though, most teachers are trying to do the best they can. They may not know if they are going to teach print or denillion, but gosh darn it, when they decide (or are told by the principal) they'll do the best they can. My advice to parents about deciding what teachers to place their children with is to get into the schools. Don't spy or try to interview (only naive teachers (like me) try to impress parents on those types of interviews. NO teacher wants a child in their class who's parent interviews them). Really get in there and help. If you can't go in and help, be positive, thank teachers and principals and help your child work. Parents that are positive and help around the school have a lot of power with teachers and principals. I had three types of parents come to school on the first day: 1) the overprotective spying type, 2) the supportive trusting type 3) the won't see you 'till SEP conferences (if then) type. I wanted to be the best teacher in the world to all of those kids, but I'll tell you what, I would do everything I could to keep those trusting parents supporting me.

I believe it is important for kids to be with all kinds of kids--high level, low level, rich, poor, black, white, trouble-makers, peace-makers. Why? Because that is the way the world is! We are not all the brightest, richest, most beautiful people. Besides even if we were, we'd better know how to be friends with those that aren't. I think one of the best lessons kids can learn is to be kind and considerate to everyone. I think public school is a good place to learn that. Of course it is important to learn the skills that will help carry us to our future jobs and families, and I believe those skills will come--slow or fast--but they'll come. To me though, I'd much rather know that my children asked someone to play that didn't have a friend, or said 'thank-you' to the teacher than have them be the top reader.

I'm sure I could teach my children well at home. I could prevent a lot of hurt feelings and bad days, I could make sure they knew the whole Declaration of Independece if I wanted. They could win all of the spelling bees, (as a lot of our distrcit-wide spelling bee champs came from being home-schooled) but I believe they'd be missing out on a lot of more valuable lessons and wonderful experiences. Besides, does anyone really need to know how to spell that many words?

Public school is good. I know there are things that can be better--like I said, there is always more to become in education. But I think things are well. Teachers are working hard. Some a lot later into the night than you'd even know (and for the $1600 a month that some of them are making, I think that's pretty hard work). I learned so much from some of these fantastic teachers not only about teaching, but about being good people and really loving others. That is the kind of teacher I want my children to have. I don't even care if they mix denillion and print or happen to completely skip over cursive.


jed said...


i have been suffering from wasatch envy for decades now. the wound is a league deeper today.

let's hear it for the underpaid, unsung heroes of education.

ktb said...

Mrs. Busco didn't like me. But she was a good teacher and I was a good student. One time she made me run around the black top 5 times and I'm sure I didn't deserve it.

Thanks Jayne - I'm a teacher and I use power point because no one would be able to read my handwriting. Is it bad that I tell students when correcting quizzes that if it their answer sounds close they can have the point? I rationalize it because I'm teaching science, not english. Hurray for public schools.

By the way, your mom forwarded your email about this post to me - that is how i got conncected.

c jane said...

Well for the 5 denillionth time I must say, you were a fantastic teacher Mrs. Wells because now your funny 3rd graders are smart 6th graders who ask about you all the time. Page, a former homeschooler, says that if all schools were like Wasatch she would send her kids to school every day, no problem (and currently does). Weren't we lucky?

c jane said...

Could KTB be our own Katy B???

Lisa B. Clark said...

Mama Lisa said...
I had some great elementary teachers even in...OREM! I really loved all of my teachers except for two of them: Mrs. Briggs made me stand in the corner for talking too much and Mrs. Allred took me BY THE EAR down to Principal Horton (we called him Mr. Horton hatches and egg!*?) for taking an eraser back to a boy in the corner after she had specifically said, "Now no one better take any erasers or chalk to those boys" who were in trouble. Moana LeBaren told on me. I was quite a shy little girl so you can imagine how mortified I was...especially by the ear thing. But, he was a cute boy and I always did like cute boys. :) Mrs. Allred also brushed her teeth while she gave the spelling test after lunch and I sat by the sink where she spit!

But, hey! Look at the personalities and situations I learned to adapt to in public schools. My favorite teacher was my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Rebecca Roberts at Rock Canyon. I LOVED HER! She taught me so much and made us all feel so successful and excited to learn.

Teachers on the whole are awesome people, I think!

Stephanie Aurora Clark Nielson said...

Jayne...I loved this blog! I only have warm, happy, wonderful memories about my Wasatch experience. Sure I had crap teachers (Chapman) but on the whole I LOVED going to school and it was because of the teachers excitement to teach and share. I am sure SSV was so sad to loose you...any chance of teaching at Wasatch one day?

dave said...

I only have a few memories I took from Wasatch... 1. being sent to the principal's office for having a "Playboy" magazine at school. (by the way, my principal turned out to be my father-in-law) 2. It seemed like I was at "resource" all the time! I think I turned out fine?!#?@*?

I believe that public schools provide the "well rounded" social and educational experience. It's up to families/ parents to fill in where a child is lacking.

Katie_did said...

I think spelling is overrated too! So what if I still spell words wrong in my notes to lance, or in birthday cards! I am so smart. S M R T!

I would also like to give three cheers to the wasatch crew. Gosh Jed wouldn't it have been great if you could have gone to wasatch?

Katie_did said...

Who made dad the boss of child rearing and filling in spaces?

~j. said... fondly I remember my D'Nealian workbook...not really. I think it's an ugly way to write.

Thanks for this post. I could not ever be a teacher. I mean, I teach my kids at home, and I teach at church, but that's different than 'being a teacher'. I know so many people who majored in Elementary Education by default - they really didn't know what they wanted to do, so why not just be a teacher? JUST? That really upset me. I know that proper teaching skills can be acquired, but I also think that the profession of teaching is taken far too lightly. Someone once told me that in Finland, teachers make as much money as doctors. And that's as it should be, so say I. scene.

lisa v. clark said...

I love your blog--and totally identify! I taught for only two years, but had such amazing experiences in that short time that it makes me cry to think about it. I am alarmed at the movement away from public school (especially around here where there are excellent schools) because our country was founded on principles of public education, etc etc and I could go on and on, but I won't. I just liked what you wrote and won't your experience make you such a proactive mom in your kids' schools! Yeah! (Edgemont ROCKS!)

christopher clark said...

Hi Jayne. For the first time in my life, I'm going to pull my PhD card. I'm working on a doctorate in education at BYU and I think you are spot on in your assessment of public schools. Parents are too eager to be critical than voluntary, and somehow expect teachers to perform daily miracles. NCLB hasn't helped. There is no other educational experience, home or otherwise, that compares with the holistic education a public school can provide. But parents have to be involved, and the over-involved ones need to shift their expectations away from the over-burdened teachers to their lazy kids.

I don't know if I have ever wrote a serious comment before. Feels weird!