Teaching is a lifestyle.

I’ve got two more days of teaching before the school year ends for me. Monday we head out for our European escapades, my first journey overseas.

I’ve chosen to think that my young childhood trips to the Bahamas don’t count. I remember eating as many breakfasts as I could; no one should have taught me to charge hotel food to room. I would wake first and go eat by myself. Okay, so maybe I wasn’t that young. It’s possible I’m making this all up. I tend to do that with memories. Anyway, after my sisters got up, I’d eat with them, and finally I’d get my trifecta when my parents got up.

I remember playing in the hotel elevators with my sister Pam. Maybe I had never been in an elevator, but meinaholethat couldn’t be possible, could it have?

I remember being bored on the beach and entertaining myself by digging holes, though from the sounds of it, I also dug holes while on Plum Island. But I have absolutely no memories of Plum Island.

By this time next week, we’ll be in Switzerland; it’s still a mere concept. Reality without shape. I’d like to learn about the European School Systems,  at least the schools in Switzerland, Germany, and England. I can’t imagine there’s all of this rig morale. I really wanted to write rigor morale; my version fits with the debate over Smart Balance Testing. Our moral is down due to the lack of rigor, the increase of rigor?

A teacher I used to work with recently told me that  the American School System went down the drain in 1959. Not sure where she got her in intel for that tidbit. (By the way, is intel a word? or is it in tell?)

Yesterday as I was walking the parameter of part of our yard with the dogs, I had a chance to do some reflecting on the almost completed school year. Another year in the bank. Tenth year?

For most of my life, I have wanted to be a teacher. I thank Barbara Clifton with that inspiration. I would visit her class every year. Nursery or Kinders. Another thing I can’t remember, but I do remember how cute those kids were. Barbara was so sweet with those kids. I want to say it was at the Brooke School, but again, the name is fuzzy, as I think that was the name of an elementary school in Weston.

While floundering in high school, it was at the end of my Sophomore year in high school that I realized I wanted to coach and be a physical education major. Talk about shifting gears. I went from being in neutral to the highest gear, though it wasn’t easy going; my mind felt as if I were driving in first gear. Grind it out. My motor was working hard, especially in Chemistry. Especially after my dad told me that if I didn’t pass Chemistry, I would never be playing another sport while under his roof.

He had never made that threat for all the classes I had failed in the past. I don’t think I had ever really tested my father’s follow through. Sports had consumed my life. I was really into soccer, playing and coaching it. I was coaching little league baseball with Peter Büttner, an amazing man. I had gotten a taste of what I wanted my future to be. Hockey had to have been in the picture somewhere as it always was on the schedule.

Since I had decided that I needed a college degree to teach, and the fear of my father, though there really wasn’t anything to substantiate that fear, I knew I had to get my grades up. I busted my academic butt for the first time in my life. I think Mr. Jordan, the science teacher, felt sorry for me. I was trying so hard, but my brain just couldn’t absorb the information; it’s not like it was full. I always thought that perhaps I had several leaks.  I wasn’t the only person who thought that.

Anything that required memorization was almost impossible for my brain to handle. My brain was like a sieve or perhaps Swiss Cheese. Some things would stick, but things that I declared unimportant, would slip through. Is that when something is permeable? Sometimes I remember things, but I’m not really sure what it means.

By the time I got to Ithaca College, I was determined to be the best physical education teacher. I had always felt bad for girls who hated pe classes. I thought that perhaps it was the way gym classes  were taught. Maybe I could make it more about playing and fun than coordination.

Recently this school year, I had an opportunity to resurrect my pe dreams by substitute teaching at the Family School in Eugene as an elementary school pe teacher. Heaven. Pure. At one point, I tried to teach the kids how to hit a birdie. Badminton. What a strange word. (Can anyone tell me how a minton can be bad? What exactly is a minton?) I was working with grades one through five. Even the fifth graders struggled making hand-eye coordination. Birdie, AKA shuttlecock, and racquet seldom met. For a few, this provided them with a serious challenge that made them determined to badmintonsucceed no matter what, but most found it frustrating and gave up quickly. I was always the one that had to to repeat something over and over and over until I got it right; that’s as long as the it involved a sporting event, which typically required a hard object like ball or puck. Can’t really classify a shuttlecock as a hard object, but when slammed they were kind of like missiles.

I’m not sure what caused my dad to install a regulation badminton court in our backyard next to the pool, but I loved badminton. My biggest challenge when I tried to play by myself, requiring myself to hit from both sides of the net.

As I mentioned in my last blog, my career as a physical education major was short-lived. A year and a half, sort-of at Ithaca College. Not even sure if I made it a year at Northeastern before I threw the towel in. Remember the philosophy of not being able to teach something without being able to teach it? Ithaca College was preparing me  a wide spectrum of teaching opportunities by making me proficient in gymnastics, not a sport high on my list of things I liked to do, though mostly I detested the leotard. No, there wasn’t any reason why I flunked Modern Rhythm Gymnastics. Running around with a streamer to Genesis’s Dance on a Volcano without a routine and having neither no rhyme nor reason didn’t help my grade, but getting tangled up in my streamer secured my F. I really hadn’t imagine coaching or teaching gymnastics.

The Sports Photography of Rick RickmanI passed Synchronized Swimming, which helped me pass water safety class. It’s  always good to get a real life experience in almost drowning to be more sensitive to saving people from drowning. This came in handy when I almost had to save a person from drowning in the Willamette River. Not an experience that I’d like to ever do again.

Even after my image of being a great pe teacher was wiped out of my mind, I continued to think about being a teacher. Not exactly sure why I got a degree in English and not a degree in elementary education; it didn’t occur to me or anyone else even though my goal was to teach at the elementary level. The B.S. got me swept up into secondary education when I entered the Master’s Program in Teaching. Talk about drowning.

As I sit back and think about my tenth year of teaching, I have held my breath quite a bit of the time. Tomorrow while I stand in front of middle schoolers, there will bound to be moments of turning blue with frustration; they did the last time I was with them.

This is why I think teaching is a lifestyle and not a choice. (I bet there were some of you who were wondering if I were ever going to come full circle… .) I get so frustrated sometimes when the kids are doing one thing, but I sure would like them to be doing another. Day before yesterday it was a third grade class that had me bamboozled. I’d ask them, “Are you doing something that you would be doing if your regular teacher were here?” They would say no. I’d ask why. They would say I don’t know or shrug their shoulders.

And yet, I keep coming back. Maybe that’s why I need the summer off. Sometimes the Winter and Spring Breaks just don’t cut it, don’t recharge the batteries like an entire summer. Maybe the three weeks in Europe will be an extra boost to boot. I can only hope so.

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