School Days

I recently spent an hour observing a child in a Grade 4 classroom in one of our smaller local schools. The children were quite well behaved and engaged in their activity, which was Reading. The teacher was young and energetic, and the classroom itself was organized but colorful.

My Grade 4 teacher was my worst teacher ever. She spoke frequently about her deceased husband, and how a door to door salesman fooled her into buying a bible that he said her husband had ordered before he died. She found out later that it was a scam, and the salesman just read obituaries in the paper and showed up on the relatives’ doorsteps asking for payment.

My mother taught Grade 3 and loved every minute of it. She taught from the age of 19 to her retirement at age 55 due to MS. She would have kept teaching for years had her health not worsened. I think Grade 3 is a perfect age to teach, as they are not too close to their teen years or too immature. I could never teach Middle School students. They are the worst for drama. Some people just love them, though.

If you had to teach kids, what age would you teach, and why? Who were your best and worst teachers? Know any good traveling salesmen stories?

21 thoughts on “School Days”

  1. Curious, Renee – what was the class size of the room you observed?

    I landed in teaching kindergarten and ended up loving that age – they were so spontaneous, and open to any activity I might try out. It was, however, 1970 – they hadn’t all been to pre-school and it was the first time away from home for many of them, but they adjusted soon enough. If I hadn’t had to deal with all the bureaucratic stuff I would have lasted longer than four years.

    I had young, pretty teachers – and not a bad one in the bunch – all through grade school. But 6th grade was the best – an older woman, Mrs. Latch, who had wisdom, and the confidence in her discipline to let us do things like a mural in the hallway. She had us singing in 3-part harmony, read The Secret Garden with the Irish brogue, and let us help each other with math problems.

    Thinking about who would be the worst teacher…

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Rise and Shine, Baboons,

    If I had to teach for a living I would run away and never, ever come back. I started college on a music scholarship. The expectation was that I would teach music, but I did not want to teach 5th graders how to play the flute and clarinet. So I changed my major to psychology which upset everyone. At the time women were not present in the High School music scene. But I KNEW I could not teach elementary school in any subject. Later in life I realized that what I am is an entrepreneur. I could start a business, run it well, and people wanted to work with/for me. That was a shock. There were few of those around me (or at least that I noticed). That encompasses a different set of skills than teaching, and it is a set of skills I have. I think it is also present in farmers of which there are many,many in my world, but I did not think of them as business people. Ben has shown us how business-oriented farming is.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. I also think 3rd grade is the sweet spot for teaching. I was a 7-12 band director for 6 years in a very small town–Carlton, MN. EIght-grade girls are the worst! Even the “good ones” seem to go batsh*t crazy with hormones or something for a year or two.

    Truth be told, I was a bit intimidated by the high-school band kids because I was only 22 when I started teaching. Hard to think of yourself as the “expert” when you’ve only got 4 years of education on the oldest students.

    The teaching part was okay, but the beaurocracy, tightwad school board, wimp of a principal, and the inflation of the late 70s & early 80s drove me out. I still considered myself a teacher back then and to this day

    Over the years, I’ve taught adult community ed classes on wine, financial planning, and now, a few attempts at sharing my “authorly wisdom” with the world.

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 5 people

    1. “The teaching part was okay, but the bureaucracy, tightwad school board, wimp of a principal… drove me out.”

      I think most teachers I know would still say this about today’s educational system.

      Liked by 5 people

  4. I was just thinking the other day, why would anyone ever want to teach middle school??
    Yeah, elementary school might be nice. Then high school. I know there’s drama there too though.

    I’d love to find my 7th grade English teacher who started us writing in journals.
    And I often think about some of my elementary teachers. Sixth grade mas Miss Marsolek. She got married and became Mrs. Milchulski (sp). Fifth grade was Mr. Olson. I got glass in 5th grade and he helped me learn how to tolerate “Four eyes” and all that crap. Fourth Grade was Mrs. Lien. I used to see her around the fair.
    Had some fun bus drivers too. One young guy, taught me about music (because me and the neighbor kid were the last stop, so he’d park and we’d talk). Another driver, Pam, lived in the neighborhood and I saw her often.

    I was pulling weeds out in the cow yard in order to avoid a salesman. I pulled up a hive of ground wasps. Got stung 14 times, ended up running into the salesman anyway (literally) and he still tried selling me stuff.
    I made an insurance salesman cry because he wouldn’t take NO for an answer.

    My Grandmother wrote in her diary: May 2, 1953. She told off the Watkins Man because he was there for 2 hours and she had work to do and she told him off. She wrote she feels bad for putting her foot in it.
    May 10, 1953. Victor, her husband, still feels bad about the Watkins salesman.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Well, we taught our kids to read at three years old. I’ll take kindergarten.
    I’ve never had a worst teacher. Best teacher was Berg. Senior Business law 2. Best because there were only two students. Myself and my best school friend. We debated law, religion and philosophy. The class material was inconsequential. Easily aced.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I don’t think I’d be a good teacher at all. If I were forced to be a teacher, I’d want to choose the earlier ages. I think the attitude that comes with teaching kids as they start to reach their teenage years would drive me to throw myself off a cliff. And I certainly couldn’t teach in college because I don’t think I could handle having a passion for some thing, and not seeing that passion reflected in the eyes of my students.

    I had a lot of good teachers and a lot of teachers I don’t really remember but I do remember the worst teacher. He was the astronomy professor my freshman year at Carlton. I don’t even remember his name, but I can easily remember him standing up in front of the class and putting everyone to sleep within an hour. His tests were completely memorize and repeat. If I hadn’t had my fathers passion for astronomy and astrophysics, this teacher would have sunk my interest completely.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I consider myself fortunate to have had far more good teachers than bad ones.

    Several of the nuns from my years at the boarding school were outstanding, and I loved them. I remember only one nun that scared the crap out of me. She was mean, I really don’t think she liked children. As luck would have it, she died rather suddenly from cancer over a summer vacation. I think all the kids drew a collective sigh of relief when they learned of her demise; I know I did.

    During high school, my home room/Danish teacher, Mrs. Nikolajsen, was a middle-aged, classy, married woman. She was strict and demanding, but fair; I think we all liked her. I was not a particularly good student in high school, half the time my head was somewhere other than in class, yet she somehow managed to keep me focused and interested. My history teacher and German teacher were both middle-aged bachelors, and both bored me to tears. In retrospect, they were probably perfectly good teachers who, no doubt, knew their subject, but neither one of them inspired me to pay attention in class or open a book outside of it; not a good combination.

    In college, it was a mixed bag. Most of the professors who taught the required general studies classes were uninspired. To be fair, so were most of their students. But not all. I can think of only two teachers from college that I actually disliked. Most were doing an adequate job but were not really engaged. Some appeared to genuinely care about their students, and a few stood out as exceptional.

    One of the exceptional ones was Edmund Epstein. Epstein was a Joyce scholar with a particular fondness for “Ulysses” and “Finnegan’s Wake.” A short, extremely obese man, with a brilliant mind and a sharp wit, most of his students adored him. It was difficult to get into his classes, and once you did, you had better be prepared to work. Epstein’s enthusiasm and energy were remarkable and contagious, he made it fun to explore these difficult literary works. This was early on in Epstein’s brilliant career as a writer and a Joyce scholar; I was lucky to be able to get into two of his classes.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Wow, your mom was a saint! I’m a high school teacher. My first few years were spent teaching 7th graders. Luckily, I was younger then! They are so energetic! I’m not sure how your mom kept up with 3rd graders! 🙂 Most of the time, I teach juniors, and I do love it. I find the 16-17 are my favorite group to work with, overall.


    1. Growing up, I moved a few times. I can’t think of but one teacher I would consider ineffective and sometimes just rude. My 7th grade Science teacher. Ugh. But the rest of my teachers were pretty good!


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