I think this was the story of my life…when I had the guts to cross the line. And I was never as brave as the kindergarten teacher in Florida that refused to give the FAIR testing because it was inaccurate, ineffective, invalid and totally ruined the kids’ first month of school.  I never risked getting fired the way she did.  Thank heavens there are people like her in the world.  My line crossing was always a little bit tentative…the kind that let me do sort of what I wanted and believed was right without endangering my job and the steady paycheck that came twice a month.  (end of story of kindergarten teacher…I don’t think she’s been fired and FAIR testing is on hold because of multiple problems)  No, I wasn’t that brave.  Wish I was but I wasn’t.

When I think about my teaching career, I feel pretty good.  I know I helped a lot of kids along the way.  I know I made them feel safe and cared for, challenged them to  grow and learn and care about each other.  I know loved what I did.  But I also wish I had been kinder, slower to judge.  I wish I had taken the time to listen more carefully, to really SEE them (like Emily in Our Town).  I wish I had taken more time to figure out what made them tick and somehow made school work for every one of them.   Funny, I don’t have any regrets about how I couldn’t deliver incredible test scores (I did deliver pretty good ones for lots of kids but not all)

I think the regrets make me more aware of what counts, what really matters, in education.  What matters is the kid sitting there in your class hoping to find friends, to understand what’s going on, to find a “home” at school…a safe place to be.  All the rest …even the damn test scores…is secondary.  Yes, they have to learn something.  Yes, we have to make sure they become competent readers and writers, mathematicians and scientist…but first, we have to provide a safe place for them to learn…safe emotionally as well as physically.  And that’s getting harder and harder to do these days.  Guess I got out just in time.

Guess this is a school post.  I’ve been rereading my “Friday night emails” that I sent out when I was teaching and that has me thinking about school a lot.  Some parts of the emails are hilarious…some others are sad and painful.  It was definitely time for me to go when I did…but thank heavens there are others who are willing and able to stay and teach our grandkids.

Nice week ahead…Kayaking tomorrow (if it doesn’t rain) and book club on Tuesday.  The group read Gone Girl.  I really didn’t like that book…cleverly done but I so didn’t like that book.  Not nice people.  I tried The Paying Guests this week but even though it’s getting good reviews, it didn’t grab me.  I’m listening to Louise Penny’s new one, The Long Way Home. She’s wonderful  And I’m reading We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas.  I like it but it isn’t taking my breath away.     Hmm, I’ll have to look at my list and find out which book recently has taken my breath away.





10 thoughts on “Wishes

  1. I closely watch your book list and appreciate your continuing to post about books you enjoy. Enjoy the day, Mary – hope the rain holds off for you. 🙂 Barb

    • I didn’t like the book, Gone Girl, either. I cannot believe that people are so messed up. Right now I think I need positive books and ones that have great outcomes. Death and dying are too close to home and I need some perky reading. I am listening to Dale Brown’s The Lost Symbol. It is certainly not a cheery book, but there are many surprises and the people I care about are going to live through it. I am reading Debbie Macomber’s books….light and
      Our thoughts on our teaching careers are much the same. Interesting…
      Enjoy your days. They are precious. Hope to see you at Book Club….depends on sitters.

  2. Keep on being yourself and speaking out on issues you so strongly believe in. It’s people like you and the K teacher who inspire others. You have been an inspiration to more than you might imagine- myself included. You left teaching at the right time – so much is demanded of the students today. There’s hardly time for the fun projects and important discussions that enhance our teaching. Hoping to see the pendulum swing back to better times with less stress for all!

  3. History of the Rain by Niall Williams may just take your breath away. I am currently reading The Road Home by Rose Tremain and loving it. Have you read it? Also, I can not imagine you could have been any kinder, Mary!

  4. You always were an amazing teacher!


  5. When I think back on your Friday night emails, the one thought that stays with me is how you always took the time to know your students and to took risks daily to meet their individual needs. You have had a long and distinguished teaching career, one I know you should be most proud of.

  6. Hi Mary,
    Envious of all the reading you are doing! I have 5 books I’ve started by my bedside, and when I finally get into bed to try to read a little, you can imagine what happens! My eyes are drooping one minute later. I did just read – super-fast on on my phone – Fahrenheit 451. My son was reading it for class and he was NOT into it so, so I motivated him by telling him I’d read it with him (at the same time). I guess at least we have the choice of reading the books we want to read 🙂
    Take care! Alicia

  7. I’m reading We Are Not Ourselves too and it’s good but not great. For one thing it could have been shorter. To much “filler”.

  8. Deirdre Christman

    I think you’re being a little hard on yourself. I’d be thrilled if my grandchildren had teachers as good as I know you must have been. And no one is kinder than you are!

    Let me second Martha’s recommendation of “History of the Rain” by Niall Williams. It’s now in my top ten of all time. I’m not joking!

    Can’t wait to see you in three weeks!

  9. I felt every word you said about teaching. This is my 25th year as a classroom teacher, and I have honestly loved almost every year. Truthfully….I feel like I have done many good things for kids and families, and it is always wonderful to hear from former students who remember me and how I made them feel (and what I taught them). However, this year is so frustrating and stressful. We are not doing Common Core, but we really are. We are not taking the FCAT anymore, but we really don’t have any idea what our test will look like (or even if there will be one, according to some “in the know” people). We shouldn’t use the math series anymore, even though they ordered us all new workbooks and materials to go with it; instead, we are now following a new set of math guidelines, based on the Common Core, which Florida is not doing. It is up to us to collect, find, and in many cases, buy our own materials to teach the new common core math (which Florida is not doing, by the way). UGH. Thank goodness for the teachers who just keep on plugging along, doing what they (we) know is right for children, and not just prepping our students for tests. Thanks for letting me vent, Mary. I knew you’d understand. 🙂

    And you were and still are an amazing teacher.

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