Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Getting a Fourth-Grade Education

What were you doing sixteen years ago?

It was 1992 and the Summer Olympics had just left Barcelona. The Bush/Quayle ticket was fighting a losing battle against Clinton and Gore. I was 22 years old and ready to educate the world. Or at least a handful of fourth-graders from Provo, Utah.

I don't know why parents are so often unhappy with first-time teachers. Those days I was bright-eyed and filled to the bursting with innovation and enthusiasm. In the classroom at 7:30 every morning and often the last one out the door. Each night I took home a teetering stack of lesson plans, teacher manuals and dialogue journals to mark with scratch-n-sniff stickers and my trademark purple pen.

I stayed remarkably healthy considering the size (closet) of my classroom and the hygiene (questionable) of my students. In fact, the only day I missed all year was the time my husband broke his face, using his cheekbone to stop a "grounder" at a church softball game. (They won.)

Maeser Elementary--my first teaching post

These days it's a senior citizen complex. Maybe I'll retire there someday.

I taught a class of fourteen children in an old storeroom of the almost-100-year-old building. There were no cubbies or lockers or whiteboards. My students used cardboard box "tote trays" and my carefully-chosen teaching wardrobe was quickly dandered in chalkdust. After recess, I would hike up my long denim skirt, climb on a chair, open the room's one tiny window and pray for a strong breeze.

The most embarassing moment of my teaching career occurred during an evaluation. I knew a senior administrator would be coming in to observe a writing lesson and I had planned carefully. It was October, so we were writing scary stories. The interest level was high and the children were excited to make their Halloween tales spooky and bloody.

After the direct instruction, I sent the students to their seats to begin their rough drafts. I circled the room, feeling like a seasoned professional as the administrator scribbled comments on his clipboard and the classroom hummed with gory excitement. Suddenly one of the boys piped up, "Hey, Mrs. L! How do you spell {insert amazingly-intricate-anatomically-correct-completely-terrifying-male-reproductive-term here}?"

Little Kevin didn't realize how truly scary his ghost story had become. I froze and felt my blood run cold. Fortunately, the administrator was even more frightened than I and finished his visit in record time.

Well, I've seen a lot of Olympians and a few presidents rise and fall in the past 16 years. And my scary/sweet little class of nine-year-olds has gone and grown up. Now I'm the mother of a fourth-grader, dreading the long-division homework without a teacher's manual.

This week I'll come out of retirement to teach again. Big kids this time. Seminary teachers don't make any money...but nobody goes into education for the paycheck. Since it's voluntary, I'm not worried about poor evaluations or getting fired. I'm a little less innovative and a lot less bright-eyed. But what I lack in energy, I've gained in experience. Heaps of life-lessons to share. (Lesson #1--for example: No scary stories...)

I can't wait.

29 comments:

Clair said...

Best of luck with seminary! I imagine it will be very rewarding and hopefully not at all scary!

♥Shally said...

Okay, first-- that school is AWESOME! The mountains are beautiful too...

Second-- my first day teaching one of the other teachers stopped me in the halls thinking I was a student sluffing class.

LAST--
GOOD LUCK! HOW FUN!! You will be great.

Christie said...

I think I'd take your stuffy closet classroom and scary male anatomy stories over rising in the middle of the night to teach seminary. Seriously. Seminary would be my nightmare calling. You will do so great though. You were born to teach.

katie said...

Good luck... hopefully no scary words there!

Lauralee said...

oh that is a great story.. that school looks so classic!

I got to teach early morning seminary .... loved it.. tough job.. but I would love to do it again.. someday!

Kenny and Linsey said...

I have such fond memories of 4th grade - I'm sure you were a fantastic teacher. Seminary, I have fond memories of that too - at least the parts I didn't sleep through :) Good luck!

TravelinOma said...

You will be the best seminary teacher! My seminary teachers were all ancient (over 50 in those days) BORING and clueless. I sat out on the lawn whenever possible and filled in my reading chart regularly without opening my scriptures. The only cool thing was we got to watch "An Affair to Remember" for Christmas. I got my testimony of Cary Grant that day.

Marci said...

I remember visiting you in that cute little tiny classroom - decorated to the hilt with your ultra cool style. Loved it! You made teaching look like so much fun. I remember being surprised when I didn't love it as much as I expected too.

Your story had me laughing until tears - so funny!

Good luck with seminary. Those kids are so lucky to have you!

Cynthia said...

I always requested new, first time teachers for my grade-school kids for that very reason. They were always more enthusiastic and innovative.
I'm teaching seminary also and we are already in our 5th week of the school year. I love it. I'm sure you will too. It is by far the best calling I've ever had.

polly said...

your seminary students will love you!

Lorena said...

Good luck! I know you will do great! Just don't assign any creative writing, K?

Cathy said...

I know you will be great! And think of all those wonderful blessings and all those kids who will thrive from your influence! They sure picked a winner, when they picked you!

Jeanelle said...

Oh how I loved seminary! You are going to be fabulous. One of my best friends has taught the last seven years or so and loves it. If you get to the point where you want an email buddy to share ideas, let me know and I'll get the two of you together.

Lisa R.D. said...

I've just spent a good part of my morning reading your blog--I have enjoyed all of your posts so much! This school is just a block away from my sister's house, and I've always thought it has such character... and therefore must have a rich history. I loved reading your part of that history! Good luck with seminary, you'll be great!

Sherry said...

I have been teaching seminary for a few months now and am counting down the days until summer break! (I'm in the southern hemisphere). I have to say I wasn't too thrilled with the students at first as they are mostly 14-year-old boys, which I think is the most obnoxious age for teenage boys. But they have grown on me, and I have learned oodles from teaching them.

Today I took them cookies laced with extra salt in a lesson about wolves in sheep's clothing. I found it much more amusing than they did.

kirkzanne said...

Just came off a four-year jag of teaching early morning seminary in London. It was the BEST. I hope you love it as much as I did.

Melissa-Mc said...

So that makes those students your 1st year teaching about 24?? Weird. I bet you were/are a wonderful teacher.

diane said...

What a luck seminary class.

diane said...

I mean lucky.

Emy5 said...

Wow, I share in your reminicsing about teaching days because I was a teacher too. Good luck with seminary. The closest I've come to it was my husband teaching it and that's as close as I want to come.

Seriously, you'll be great!

wenderful said...

Oh, enjoy. I'll be thinking of you as I rise for the gym. You'll be great!

Jenibelle said...

You know how I feel! Go Sister Larsen Go!!!

(All my kids LOVED 4th grade, so cool that you taught it!!)

i'm kelly said...

you are going to be awesome! i wish i could be a fly on the wall in your class. i'm sure i'd learn way more in seminary this time around.

Lauren in GA said...

I love, love, love the way you tell a story!

The school is very beautiful from the outside with the scenic mountains in the background. Wow.

You are going to be such a great Seminary teacher! I want you to be my children's seminary teacher.

I may have said this before but, I think we are the same age. Born in 1970. :)

Amanda D said...

Great post! Good luck with the seminary. That sounds scary to me! I'm sure you'll do great though.

Hazen5 said...

You are going to be the best teacher! I can't wait to see a picture of your class.

Ilene said...

Ah, time to dust off those "cool" holiday-themed vests/sweaters and wooden necklaces.

The seminary kids will love them.

cami said...

They sure don't make schools like they used to!

I hope your seminary students are nicer to you than I was to mine! I spend most of my seminary years in the church bathroom doing my hair and makeup.

Rochelleht said...

How fun! I'm sure you are an amazing teacher. How blessed are those kids!?

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