Twelve years as a public school teacher. That’s hundreds of students taught, countless piles of graded homework, and numerous report cards. In those twelve years, there have been certain events, certain memories that stand out and will not be easily forgotten. Here is my A to Z List of Memorable Events from My Teaching Career.
A Australian money. One year, a group of Australian educators were visiting our school. The gentlemen were very friendly, answering questions posed by my fourth graders. One teacher showed us Australian “paper” money; money that could be crumpled up and then would magically revert back to its original shape and size.
B Mrs. Eva Brown. I knew Eva from my part-time job at the public library. She was dignified, lady-like, attractive, and professional. And she was a Holocaust Survivor. She was a guest speaker to my fourth-grade class, discussing her experiences during that horrific time, revealing the series of numbers tattooed on her wrist.
C Car purchase. The purchase of our second car was on the verge of completion. The car was being delivered to our home, and my husband would finalize the last-minute details. Except, there were a couple more signatures the car dealership needed from me. And I was at work. So, my husband and the car salesperson came to school so that I could excuse myself from teaching to sign and complete the transaction.
D Double-duty. My first year of teaching, I was the afternoon kindergarten teacher. I technically taught half a day, while offering assistance and support to the morning teacher. One day, the morning teacher was ill, a substitute didn’t show, and I was required to teach both the morning and afternoon classes. Luckily, our lessons were very much aligned, but by the time my afternoon students went home, I was bone-tired.
E Trapped in the school elevator. I relied on the school elevator due to a medical condition. One morning, I entered the elevator and didn’t exit it until about forty-five minutes later when the fire department got me out. By the time the doors opened and I got off, my heart beat was racing and I felt nauseous. Now, I’m always a little hesitant when entering elevators, always a little apprehensive when it feels like the doors are taking a few seconds to long to open.
F Falling off a school bus. My kindergarten students and I had just returned from a field trip to the public library. All my children were safe and accounted for. I was the last to disembark from the bus. And then I slipped and fell on my backside as I stepped off. Most of my students were unaware, the driver was concerned, and I tried to be nonchalant about the whole incident. The next day I woke up stiff, bruised, and embarrassed.
G Graduation. I usually missed attending graduation ceremonies because I was still teaching my current students. However, one year I was finishing up my maternity leave and was able to attend graduation. I felt like a proud mother, watching my children singing on stage, reciting speeches, accepting certificates, and looking so much more grown-up.
H Halloween dressed as “Fancy Nancy.” My best-friend and I once attended a math meeting where we were called “Nancy” although we each wore “Hello My Name Is” tags correctly identifying ourselves. For some reason, the presenters insisted on referring to us as Nancy, and the name stuck. We called ourselves Nancy (and still do) and decided to celebrate our new moniker by dressing as the popular “Fancy Nancy” character, complete with curly hair, pink tutus, and magic wands.
I Interview. In one day I was called, an interview was set up, and I was hired. My interview took several hours because of the chaos my principal was required to deal with. Discipline issues. Sampling lettuce grown from the school garden. A teacher needing to report suspected child abuse.
J Job fair. For several years, I hosted a job fair, inviting parents to come in and speak to our class about their jobs. Each year participants varied. Some offered brief accounts, some came with hands-on materials, visual aids, a slideshow presentation. One year, no parents showed, and I desperately walked around campus imploring staff members to speak to my students. The principal and assistant principal both obliged.
K Kindergarten. It was my first teaching position. I taught afternoon kindergarten to a class of 20, 14 boys and 6 girls. Before the new school year started, I observed my two kindergarten colleagues, taking notes about their routines and their classrooms. For four years, I took my “lunch break” from 10:30-11:10 because my students would be arriving to class at 11:20. My students began to sound-out and read, we counted and cut, we painted our hands and feet, we traced our shadows, we sang about the months of the year, and learned the national anthem.
L Last Day. The last day of my teaching career wasn’t the last day of a school year. My last day of teaching was actually the first day of a new month. It was pajama day at school, it was a day of tears and hugs, flowers, heartfelt wishes, and mixed emotions. I was completely unprepared for the school-wide acknowledgment of my leaving, the floral arrangements, and gifts that were attempts at making my health-related departure more sweet.
M Moving classrooms. For four years, I taught half-time kindergarten in Room 5, sharing the classroom with the morning teacher who constantly reminded me that she was old enough to be my mother. The transition to full-day kindergarten meant I would be teaching in my own classroom. I piled my rolling desk chair high with boxes of books and rolled across the hall to Room 4, ready to decorate without having to compromise with anyone.
N Needles. One year, my students were learning about traditional/natural medicine compared to more westernized medicine. A former teacher turned acupuncturist spoke to my class about acupuncture - its purpose, its benefits. To prove that most needles are relatively harmless, he walked around the classroom with a needle sticking out of his hand. The sight of it was unnerving, and I was positive I would never try acupuncture. A few years later, I stand corrected as I now include acupuncture as part of my treatment for my chronic medical condition.
O President Obama. The election of our nation’s first African-American President was a historic event. My students held a mock election, and we watched the inauguration together, standing for the pledge of allegiance, clapping with excitement. A few years later, a different class and I would write President Obama letters and shriek with excitement when he answered us back.
P Paris. It was my dream vacation, but with any travel, there is an element of risk and danger involved. Using the globe, I showed my kindergarten students where I would be traveling to during our spring break. When we all returned to school, the picture my students were most interested in was the tiny shower in our hotel room and the lopsided bed.
Q Quake drill. Every year schools conduct a mock earthquake drill involving an evacuation of the building and designating certain staff and students as injured. One year, I was “injured” and had to remain alone in the classroom until I was “discovered” by the search and rescue team. The room was eerily quiet, but it did allow me a chance to get some paperwork done in the middle of the day.
R Ryan’s birth. I taught at a relatively small elementary school, so news of my pregnancy was well-known. Many of my students threw me a lunch-time shower, the staff threw me a surprise shower after school. I worked until a week before my son was due. However, my son had other plans. My last day of work was Friday, March 28 and my son was born Sunday, March 30. Staff and students arrived back at work Monday morning shocked to discover that Mrs. Kennar was now a Mommy.
S Sweating with fever. I wasn’t feeling well one Friday morning, and at recess, went downstairs to have my temperature taken by the school nurse. It registered 100 degrees; a sign she said I need to go home. 45 minutes later I was finally released to go home, after my students were dispersed to other classes and I gave them assignments to complete. The next morning, my fever was rising, and a trip to urgent care diagnosed me with pneumonia.
T Rat Trap. One year, my classroom had a rodent problem. Rats got into my closets, left droppings around the classroom, yet could never be found. The custodian set up a sticky trap during winter break, and when I returned to school three weeks later, I was horrified to find the trap worked. I let out a shriek before summoning the custodian.
U Uh-oh moment. While attempting to carry too many things at once, my grip slipped and I accidentally spilled some purple paint on my black suede clogs. Luckily, I had mixed the paint with hand-soap (a trick a veteran kindergarten teacher had taught me), thereby avoiding disaster. Although if you look closely at my clogs, one embroidered flower has more of a lavender-tint than the other.
V Visit to the public library. This field trip was significant because I had come full-circle. I was a kindergarten teacher bringing my class to the public library where I worked during college. Now, I had done it; I had achieved my goal of becoming a teacher and was sharing a part of my past with my present.
W Published Writers. One year, my fourth-grade students wrote Haiku poems so we could enter a poetry contest. All selected poems would be published in an upcoming anthology. All my students were eager to participate, and most were selected for publication.
X Exchange my kindergarten curriculum for fourth-grade curriculum. The change in grade level was not my choice. I had taught kindergarten for five years, and with each year, enjoyed it more and got better. Now, because of my low seniority, my kindergarten position was taken by another teacher and I was left to teach fourth grade. A change that meant a classroom move as well as a series of trainings. Curriculum was miles away from what I was used to. I needed “big kid” desks and chairs, dictionaries, pointy scissors, and skinnier crayons and pencils.
Y Yard art. Some of our most enjoyable lessons occurred outside. With my kindergarten students, we traced our shadows and compared their sizes during different parts of the day. For my fourth-graders, we took our new knowledge of triangles outside to draw isosceles, equilateral, and scalene triangles.
Z Zero the Hero. I met Zero the Hero my first year of teaching. He was the superhero who would sneak into our classroom on every tenth school day, leaving behind snacks shaped like zeros (gummy peach rings, miniature donuts, cheerios) and helping me teach my children about place value and counting to one hundred.