Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I Had Some Great Teachers

Today is the first day of school here in Corpus Christi. I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing all the first day photos that were posted on my friends' Facebook feeds. In fact, here are a few from Princess E's first week of Pre-K3.

I started first grade in 1960 at Grim Elementary School, Texarkana, Texas. We lived right across the street from the school and I was the fifth of six children, so I had been waiting impatiently a couple of years for my turn to go to school.

I remember going up the steps carrying my book satchel which contained a Big Chief tablet, with its red and black cover and its fresh lined paper and brand new pencils just waiting to be sharpened. There were also scissors that were just the right size for me with a blunt tip so I wouldn't get hurt and my first box of new crayons of my very own filled with beautiful colors, all jutting out with sharp, unbroken tips.

I was greeted at the classroom door by Miss Bertha White, my first teacher. Miss Bertha was tall and wore her hair up in a bun on top of her head. She was a wonderful teacher who taught more than the alphabet and counting. We memorized nursery rhymes and Bible verses. (It was 1960 and that was still permitted in public school.) When we did well we were rewarded with gold stars and, as they added up, we were awarded prizes like Little Golden Books that we could take home and keep.

We were taught manners and deportment. When we had to blow our nose, we were taught to take our tissue out into the hall. Miss Bertha ate lunch at the same table with us. We had to taste everything whether we liked it or not. On Mondays we got gold stars if we had gone to church on Sunday. I learned to love learning from Miss Bertha White and that shaped the rest of my school experience.

My second grade teacher was Mrs. Farr. I don't remember very much about her except that she was kind of scary. She was very stern and had a dowager's hump. But she was an excellent teacher who made us learn to respect her and each other. She did not take any sass from anyone and she did not tolerate mouthy kids. When we misbehaved, we had to write lines on the chalkboard. I only had to do it once. After I spent a couple of hours after school printing "I will not talk in class," I never spoke out of turn in her classroom again.

The summer before fifth grade we moved to Corpus Christi. I attended Menger Elementary that year. My fifth grade teacher was Mrs. Haas. Mrs. Haas was young, beautiful, tall, slender, and stylish. I adored her. She and her new husband had just honeymooned in Hawaii and she told us all about it. She even taught us how to dance the hula. She was big on rote learning. I can still recite the Preamble to the Constitution, the Concord Hymn, the Gettysburg Address, and a pretty big chunk of The Highwayman, all learned and recited in Mrs. Haas' class at Menger Elementary.

We moved again the next summer, so in sixth grade I had my first male teacher, Mr. Naeger, at Lexington Elementary. He was tall, dark and handsome and I had my first crush. He was one of the best teachers I ever had. After school he led tumbling classes, free of charge, for any kids who were interested. He talked to us about our futures. He was the first one who made me think about that. He made recordings of each of us talking about what we wanted to be when we grew up. I've always wondered what he did with those recordings. Now that I'm grown, I suspect he was working on his Masters or Doctorate and it was research, but it would be interesting to hear them now.

Once I got to Junior High School, relationships with teachers were not so close because there were so many of them, but some still stand out. At Hamlin Junior High, I had Miss Joy for 7th grade English, Mrs. Esse for Texas History, and Mr. Gaddis for Algebra. All excellent teachers. Then there was Mrs. Dunham who taught 8th grade English. She was sarcastic and hard on us. She had high expectations for her students. I loved her class.

At Ray High School, my favorites included Mrs. Wharton and Mr. Ducote who both taught Speech class. Coach Purcell, my American History teacher allowed me to grade papers in lieu of taking tests ... that was awesome. I had Mrs. Clark for both Senior English and Government, 2nd and 3rd periods. She was a great teacher who encouraged discussion. That made her one of my favorite teachers ever.

I also had a few eccentric teachers at Ray. Mr. McAllister who taught World Geography was old and distracted. He would check attendance, then when he went out in the hall to clip it to the door, half the class would leave while his back was turned. He never noticed.

Then there was Mr. Eggert, who taught Algebra 2. Mr. Eggert ate chalk. He always had it smeared pretty much all over his clothes and face. And he hated the public address system with a passion. Any time class was interrupted with an announcement, Mr. Eggert would snarl and then proceed to throw whatever happened to be in his hand at the speaker. Items that got flung included chalk, erasers, pencils, pens, textbooks, and his reading glasses. It was entertaining to say the least.

My French teacher, Madam Booth, was less than five feet tall, wore stiletto heals, and flirted unabashedly with the Spanish teacher in the classroom next door. I can only describe her as interesting. What I learned from Madam Booth was that I didn't really want to learn to speak French.

Also eccentric, but probably my absolute favorite teacher ever was Mr. Hinds (or Hynds) who taught English Literature. He never called his students by their first names. Everyone was addressed formally; I was Miss Skelton. Among his eccentricities, he insisted that the word "dinosaur" should be pronounced like "saurkraut." He led us in many meaningful discussions of some great literature. It was in his class that I learned to really love reading. I loved discussing books in his class.

These are just a few of the teachers who were important in my education and my life. I wish I could go back now and tell them how much they meant to me.

My hope for this school year is that every student gets a chance to have a great teacher who makes learning fun. Great teachers really do make all the difference.

Who was your favorite teacher and what made them special?

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

I Must Have Blinked

I must have blinked, because this seems like it just happened yesterday.

Our Little Princess E just minutes after birth.
But this is what really happened yesterday.

Princess E heading to Pre-K3.
Is it really possible that she's already in a school uniform, carrying a backpack and lunchbox, and attending her first week of pre-kindergarten. Seriously, how did this happen so fast?

I didn't even go to kindergarten. My siblings and I all started school as first graders. Did you go to kindergarten?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It's That Time Again

It's that time of year again. Across the country, parents are sending their children off to their first year of college. Taking my firstborn to college was a traumatic experience for me. It turned out okay, but the memory remains fresh in my heart. You can read about my experience here.

Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin has released its annual "mindset list" to help understand the mindset of the incoming freshman class. It's something I look forward to every year even though, every year, it makes me painfully aware of my age.

To start with, realize that most of this year's college freshmen were born in 1994. This is the class of 2016. You can find Beloit College's complete list here.

Here are some of the mindsets that stand out for me this year.

  • They grew up in the age of cyberspace. 
  • They've never seen an actual airline ticket.
  • Most of them have never used a bound set of encyclopedias. 
  • They may rent the books they need for college, or buy ebook versions.
  • A woman hasbeen Secretary of State for almost their entire life. 
  • Bill Clinton has always been an "elder statesman" rather than President.
  • They've never used a camera that required film. 
  • They listen to music on MP3 players and iPods and probably not on the radio.
  • They could run into Dakota Fanning or Justin Beiber at freshman orientation.
  • If you ask them about American royalty, they'll think of Michael Jackson's family and probably not the Kennedys.
  • They think of Robert DeNiro as Jack Byrnes from Meet the Parents not as Vito Corleone from Godfather 2
  • Benjaman Braddock of The Graduate could be their grandfather.
  • Exposed bra straps have always been a fashion statement, not a wardrobe malfunction.
  • There have always been blue M&Ms, but never tan ones.
  • They grew up without Romper Room.
  • The Twilight Zone involves vampires, not Rod Serling.
  • Selena's fans have always been in mourning.
  • There has always been pro football in Jacksonville, but not in Los Angeles.

While we're on the subject of college freshmen, check out this College Freshman meme. Some of them made me laugh and some are just sad.

I would like to add these items to the list:

  • Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa the year they were born.
  • The Chunnel has always connected Great Britain and France.
  • They don't think it's unreasonable to pay $5 for cup of coffee.
  • Kurt Cobain has always been dead.

What would you add to the list?


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Summer Child Safety

When I get out of bed in the morning, I go to the kitchen and brew myself a cup of coffee. While the cup is filling I turn on my laptop and let it boot up while I add cream and Splenda. Then I sit down and check my emails and my Facebook feed while I listen to the Today Show. Every half hour I get a local news and weather update.

This morning, for the fourth or fifth time this summer, there was a story about a child who was left in a child safety seat in a hot car. This particular story was a local one and, thankfully, had a happy ending. Some passers-by saw the child slumped in the seat and sweating profusely. They intervened, forced the window down, got the child out, and called 911.

Our Little Princesses in their car seats

Every state and the District of Columbia has laws requiring children to be restrained in car safety seats. And every summer there are numerous news stories about children left in car seats. It's so easy to forget them if they're sleeping or in a rear-facing seat.

According to a report by the Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University, there have been at least 23 deaths of children left in cars in 2012. In 2011, 33 children died. From 1998 to the present, at lest 550 children died of hyperthermia from being left in a hot car. That's an average of 38 per year for the past 15 years.

The same report states that, according to media reports, 52% of these children died because they were "forgotten" by the caregiver. 53% of the deaths were children under the age of 2 years old.

Safe Kids Worldwide reports that "a child can die from heat stroke on a 72-degree day. There’s a medical reason why this happens to children - their bodies aren’t the same as adults. A child’s body can heat up five times faster than an adult’s."

The Weather Channel has a great graphic slideshow that shows how the interior of a car becomes an oven on a hot day. When the outdoor temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit, within 10 minutes the interior of a car is 109 degrees; at 20 minutes the temperature rises to 119. After 30 minutes, interior temperatures are 124. In an hour, a car's interior temperature will reach 133 degrees. That's 43 degrees hotter than the temperature outside the car. At that extreme temperature there is a risk of heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. After 90 minutes, the interior of a car reaches 138 degrees, a virtual oven hot enough to lead to the death of any child left in a car on a hot day.

An email from Johnny Humphreys, Chair of the Texas Task Force, Safe Kids Never Leave Your Child Alone in a Car, reports that there were 7 child deaths due to heat in cars in the U. S. during the first 6 days of August.

There are programs and task forces all over the United States designed to remind people not to leave their children alone in a car or to let their children play unsupervised in or around a car. Catch phrases include "Look Before You Lock" and "Never Leave Your Child Alone in a Car." But catch phrases are not cutting it.

Why aren't there safety devices built into cars or car seats that will remind the driver that there is a child in the car. My seat belt reminder dings if I don't buckle the seat belt. Clearly it knows whether or not someone is sitting there. Similar technology should be added to back seats and child safety seats. The technology already exists. AJ at Thingamababy wrote about three different Car Heat Safety Devices in 2007.

Until these devices are added and required, Safe Kids USA provides the following tips.
  • Lock cars and trucks.  Thirty percent of the recorded heat stroke deaths in the U.S. occur because a child was playing in an unattended vehicle.  These deaths can be prevented by simply locking the vehicle doors to help assure that kids don’t enter the vehicles and become trapped.
  • Create reminders.  Many child heat stroke deaths occur because parents and caregivers become distracted and exit their vehicle without their child.  To help prevent these tragedies parents can:
    • Place a cell phone, PDA, purse, briefcase, gym bag or something that is needed at your next stop on the floor in front of a child in a backseat. This will help you see your child when you open the rear door and reach for your belongings. 
    • Set the alarm on your cell phone/smartphone as a reminder to you to drop your child off at day care. 
    • Set your computer calendar program to ask, “Did you drop off at daycare today?”  Establish a plan with your daycare that if your child fails to arrive within an agreed upon time that you will be called within a few minutes.  Be especially mindful of your child if you change your routine for daycare.
  • Dial 911 immediately if you see an unattended child in a car.  EMS professionals are trained to determine if a child is in trouble.  The body temperature of children rises 3 - 5 times faster than adults, and as a result, children are much more vulnerable to heat stroke.  Check vehicles and trunks FIRST if a child is missing.

I like all of these tips, but I think the best one is to place an item that you will need in the back seat. It's so easy to see how a child, especially a very small child, could be forgotten in the back seat. Grandparents, take heed of these statistics and tips. None of us want any of our grandchildren to be part of this story.

Button pic 9

Monday, August 13, 2012

Grams Camp 2012

On the same Friday evening of the Olympics Opening Ceremony, Princess E & Princess J arrived for Grams Camp. We had hoped for lots of outdoor activities including trips to some of the local parks and water playgrounds. But, with the heat index in the 107 degree range, we opted for mostly indoor activities. The girls are still too small for many of the activities you would expect to have in a "camp" atmosphere. Grandad and I agree that the important thing for now is to spend time with them and get them used to visiting us without their parents.

To avoid the heat, we got creative. We rocked, we rode horsey, we watched movies, and we danced.

We tried to get a nap in every afternoon. Sometimes more successfully than others. This is Grandad trying to nap in his recliner. Yes, those are my shoes. Grandad doesn't usually wear sequins on his flip-flops.

And, here's what happened when I napped briefly (emphasis on briefly) on the sofa.

Both of the girls are really good sleepers. They both slept about 12 hours every night. Not so much in the daytime though. Princess E is 3 years old now and she rarely takes naps. Princess J is 15 months old and she really needs a nap, but doesn't sleep for very long in the daytime. I could sometimes get her to sleep by putting her in her car seat and taking a drive, but even then she doesn't stay asleep very long. We finally settled for watching a movie while "resting" in the living room. As you can see, some "rested" better than others. In fact, Minnie spent almost the entire four days doing exactly this.

There was plenty of time for water play. Our neighbor graciously let us swim in her in-ground pool. The girls loved it and neither of them is afraid of the water. Princess E's swimming lessons have really paid off. She paddled around the pool quite a bit. We also invested in a good sized wading pool for the yard. The girls really enjoyed that and played in it every day.

On Tuesday morning Grandad went to work, so the Princesses and I just hung out. We decided to spend some time blowing bubbles in the back yard before it got too hot. Even Minnie enjoyed a little outdoor time.
So that's pretty much what we did at Grams Camp this summer. I'm hoping as the Princesses get older, we'll be able to do a wider variety of camp activities.

While we were doing all that, Mom and Dad enjoyed a little beach time at South Padre. They came back looking more relaxed and a little more tan.

We loved having the Princesses visit for Grams Camp. We can't wait to see them again. They'll be here for a wedding on September 1st.

The next day after they left, I wore my pajamas all day long and took an uninterrupted nap. Uninterrupted naps are way overrated.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Quick Catch Up

I know I haven't written or posted anything in a while. I'm not missing in action or anything bad. I told you guys I was going to watch the Olympics!

Seriously, I've been working hard to not just fritter away my summer. This is my third summer since I started substitute teaching. I've never had this much time off before and the past two summers I mostly didn't do anything. I was kind of paralyzed by the amount of time I had on my hands, so I just didn't do anything.

One of the things that took a huge chunk of my time was a scrapbook I made for my daughter-in-law, Marie. I started it five years ago and gave it to her for Christmas. When I gave it to her it only had about eight pages completed, so I included a note promising her many more pages. It was one of those things that felt like it was just hanging over my head and nagging in the back of my mind. Last Spring, I had Nick sneak it out of the house and back to me so I could finish it. I spent every single day for more than two weeks putting it together. I didn't count the pages, but I'd bet it's around 35-40 pages. It is a scrapbook of Nick's life from birth right up to their wedding day. It was a bigger job than I expected, but I'm delighted to have it finished.

I'll be writing posts about a few of the things I've done including the all-important "Grams Camp" and reporting the progress on my sewing room remodel, which is very slow going.

I've also been doing a bit of sewing. I made beautiful new dresses for our princesses as a test of a new pattern I wanted to try before adding it to my Etsy shop. Here are photos of Princess J and Princess E when they tried them on for the first time. I apologize for the quality of the center picture below. I included it because I wanted you to see that I left them long, slightly below the knees.

The pattern for this dress was downloaded from Craftiness is not Optional. She has both a sew-along and a downloadable pattern with a very good tutorial. I altered her pattern to make them sleeveless. Her original pattern has a little puff sleeve. You should look around her blog, she has some good tutorials and interesting crafts and patterns.

I will be back with more blogging soon. Meanwhile, I'm enjoying the last few days of the Olympics. I'll be busy the next few days with that. Don't forget that Amy Acuff, our local Olympian, will be high jumping for Team USA on Thursday and Friday. I'm hoping she finally gets her Olympic medal. Go Amy! Go Team USA!