Thursday, September 13, 2012

Why Do I Teach?

I teach because of the students.  I teach because I love to create lessons that are relevant to students.  I teach because I love to see the light bulbs go on when a student finally grasps a difficult concept.  I teach because it is rewarding to know I am preparing my students for life, work, and success. Students are the future, they need to know what to do with it.

I was a Navy wife the first year of my teaching career.  My husband and I calculated that he was only earning 50 cents an hour, so it was obvious I didn’t go into the teaching profession because of the money.  After graduation, I was idealistic enough to think I was going to have a classroom full of students who would sit and listen to me and gladly do all my assignments.  My first classes were in a junior high school, in Norfolk, Virginia, at the height of desegregation. Having grown up in the southwest, my experience with prejudice and segregation was limited to Walter Cronkite’s reports on the nightly news. 

I quickly learned that I had to create lessons that would be relevant to my students.  These kids had bigger problems in their lives than conjugating verbs and memorizing mythical gods and goddesses: their brothers had just gotten out of jail; their mothers had just given birth and didn’t know where the father was; they had seven siblings they had to cook for.  So I taught the curriculum with the students’ needs in mind.  I had them use the word “jive” in a variety of ways to construct sentences.  I created a drama club so they could release some of their pent-up energy and anger.  So often today, administrators require that their teachers follow a prescribed curriculum and submit minute-by-minute lesson plans.  Do the principals do this in the best interest of the students, or to appease the school district in order to preserve their own positions?  Teachers should be able to use creativity and flexibility when teaching the curriculum thus making it relevant to students and their futures.

There is nothing more rewarding than to see the light bulb go on in a student’s eyes that says, “I understand now.”  The challenge in teaching is to take a difficult concept and present it in a variety of ways so the light bulbs will eventually shine all over the classroom.  Math is not my subject, but I have taught business math in my personal finance class.  Sometimes I teach like I learn myself, and when it comes to math, that may be a little unconventional.  I have found that if a student doesn’t get it, then I change the way I present it so they do get it.  Teachers can’t do that if they are restricted as to when and how something is to be taught.  A teacher is trained in methods and best practices, let them use the tools of the teaching trade, and let them teach.

In the song, Kodachrome by Paul Simon, he sings, “When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all.”  Are we presenting the curriculum in a way so the students can become critical thinkers?  Do the students know how high school is going to help them in their future?  I was lucky.  I got to teach a career class in business.  Every day I was able to tell the students why they were learning something and how they were going to use what they learned in their life and career.  The core academic subjects can be taught the same way.  Today, teachers are teaching so students can pass the standardized tests.  Once the test has been taken, the student forgets most of what they learned.  We should be preparing students to succeed in their personal lives as well as their future careers.

Teachers have a huge assignment.  They need to show students the relevance in their education.  They need to watch for the light bulbs of learning.  They need to allow students to think critically in order to be successful and prepare for life.  That’s why I teach, because students are our future.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


My daddy taught me how to swim, and I've had a swimming pool in my backyard for 36 years of my life. When we moved from Glendale to Phoenix, we decided against a pool because the desert dust storms were always turning it to mud and husband was tired of trying to keep it from turning green.

When I was growing up, my mother always made me wear a cap - a white rubbery number with a bumpy woven texture and a little chin strap. Not a very flattering accessory - especially when the boyfriend came over.

Now that I'm older and cellulite has turned the thighs to cottage cheese, I've had a phobia about appearing in public in a swim suit. I like dimples, but not when they form a landscape of hills and valleys starting at the second fold of my knee. I took a chance, however, and joined a water aerobics class along with the other white-haired ladies. After viewing the assortment of body types that padded single file down the kiddie's shallow end into the water, my fear of revealing my thunder thighs has somewhat diminished. As we were "jogging" and "jumping jacks" and "cross-country skiing" to the oldies, I observed a woman swimming laps at the other end of the pool. She swam back and forth for about 45 minutes. She had a long, slender body.

I want a long, slender body.

In my new quest of body-image improvement, I have taken up the sport of swimming again. I bought a new racer-back swim suit, goggles, and swim cap - not white, but black with a green dolphin. I can't go wrong with a dolphin on my cap. Off I go on my laps, swimming in my best free style. After the second lap, I found myself gasping for air, and the life guard started walking my way. Guess I'm a little out of shape. Forty-five minutes turned out to be a really long time. In just a few days, however, I increased to 14 laps using a variety of my best strokes.

There are pluses and minuses to swimming at the community center.


1. It is extremely difficult to pull down a wet swim suit, go to the bathroom, and try to tug it back up.  It's kind of like a rhinoceros shedding the skin of a lizard.

2. Water likes to flow into my ears. I have to stand on my head to feel it slosh around the ear canal and try to persuade it to trickle back out where it belongs.

3. Getting dressed in the locker room with 70 year-old women was a rude awakening. I guess years of having babies and surgeries has diminished their modesty. And all the cartoons depicting sagging boobs and body fat are true after all.

4. My hair looks like crap every day.


1. Swimming is an excellent cardio workout.

2. Swimming is low impact on my arthritic knees.

3. I don't rub a blister.

4. I feel 20 pounds lighter in the water.

5. My inner dolphin and I are one.

6. I'm on my way to a long, slender body.

My daddy would be proud.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


 As a baby, Jackie was resolute to getting her way – persistent in taking control.  The word tenacious comes to mind.  Of course, she was the first-born, so we showered her with attention, and she loved it.


Jackie loved to have friends over to play– anybody – everybody - everyone in her class - the whole neighborhood.  We planned her birthday parties for months – I’m sure she would have invited the whole school if possible.  Daddy cooked hamburgers all afternoon, the kids bumped into each other playing Marco Polo in the pool, and the dog scored by feasting on the cake frosting that dropped on the patio.  It’s a good thing her little brother came along so she could have a built-in playmate – and someone she could dress up like a girl.  Then there was school time – Jackie made all her friends and her brother’s friends sit in a line so she could be the schoolteacher and write on her chalkboard.  At the babysitters, she organized one-act plays, assigning parts to all the kids in the house. 


Jackie loved her toys – and no wimpy toys like dolls or tea sets, either.  She liked the big stuff – Matchbox cars & trucks and tracks & tunnels.  Tracks for the car sets were assembled in the family room with ramps, jumps, and tunnels.  White tubes that were fastened together ran around the living room and could be used as forts, secret hiding places, and playhouses.  Pooh Bear was always clutched in one hand and a truck in the other whenever we went on errands.  Imagination was used a lot back then – no video games or Angry Birds to occupy her time.  Jackie danced to music, set her stuffed animals in chairs for lessons, and hung blankets and sheets over furniture to play house.  Did she share her toys?  Sometimes.  But not with her Daddy and Richard when they started playing with her new birthday cars which involved a race track, balloons, and toothpicks.


Jackie’s sport was soccer.  She played the game for 12 years, starting with the Lady Bugs at age 6 and eventually driving to practice herself as a senior.  I wouldn’t say Jackie was a tomboy, but she sure wouldn’t let the guys get the best of her.  If the boys could be pulled behind a boat on the Sea Biscuit, a huge inner tube, then Jackie showed them up by standing on it and riding it like a wakeboard.  She was bummed when she didn’t make the basketball team in high school, but that didn’t stop her – she was in track instead.  Good choice, because she sure could outrun her dad on the beach at Lake Powell.  The tame sports like snow boarding and wakeboarding turned into extreme sports such as jumping off cliffs into the lake, sky diving indoors, and Warrior Dashes. 

Jackie still is very tenacious, especially when it comes to…

MY FRIENDS still includes her best friends from her childhood years and a lovely goddaughter, the sweet little girl of good friends from ASU.

MY TOYS still involves her creativity, but now includes a Nikon camera, a MacBook, and the fashion sense of an Elle model.

MY SPORTS now includes anything to do with Lake Powell, hiking the Grand Canyon, Mud Runs, golf, yoga, weight lifting, softball, kick ball, etc, etc., - which continues to keep her sexy figure in shape.

Monday, May 21, 2012


Instead of boring you with tails of early toilet training trials or describing the empty rum bottles we found hidden on top of the pot shelves in his bedroom, we have decided to describe a decade of Brian and his sports follies.

In an effort to involve Brian in sports, we decided to start out with soccer, a popular team sport for youth in the 80’s. Brian was so cute running up and down the field – as a matter of fact, that’s about all he ever did – run with his team one way, then turn around and run with his team the other way. I don’t think he ever came in contact with the soccer ball, much less kick one – but he sure knew how to run back and forth.

Since soccer didn’t really seem to excite him, he expressed an interest in playing little league baseball. He even practiced with a big white plastic ball and huge red bat when we would go camping as a family. I think he got too used to the huge red bat, because when it was his turn to bat in little league, he swung more than he connected. His position in the field was out field – WAY out field. Not many balls would come his way, so he spent a lot of time studying the rocks on the ground and observing the bug trails as they left the field.

In middle school he begged to be on the wrestling team. I’m not sure why except maybe he felt real mean after he posed for his sport picture in his wrestling uniform. Either that or he had an illusion of taking his English teacher down and pinning her to the mat – forever. He did hold a wrestling record, however – never winning a match.

Brian was on the swim team one summer. That didn’t last the entire summer because he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror in his speedos. It was just too embarrassing for a very modest young man.

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention teaching Brian how to water ski. He had short little skis that were held together in the middle with a plastic strap to ensure his feet would stay together and not cause his legs to go into an awkward split. I don’t know who had more endurance, Brian or Daddy. HIT IT, pull a few feet, DOWN. HIT IT, pull a few feet, DOWN. The unique thing about Brian’s early water skiing is that he would not even put the skis on unless he was wearing his socks. Heaven forbid if he had lost his socks at Lake Powell like he did his Smurf shirt.

Brian finally found his sport in high school – golf. He was on the golf team, went to Junior Golf tournaments, and won several trophies. He even won most-valuable player one season. And, a moment I’m sure he is very proud of is when he beat Daddy one time at Moon Valley.

And just look at the sports he’s involved with now – wakeboarding, snowboarding, softball, kickball, NASCAR chaser, and champion pub crawler. What a guy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


The pain started while I was teaching class.  Or I should say, my students were busy working on a project while I was curled up in a fetal position in the corner of the room.  At first I thought it was gas pain.  Then it got worse and all the normal things flashed in my brain – diverticulitis…kidney stones…appendix.  I remember a doctor telling my daughter that if you jump up and down and can’t stand the pain, it’s your appendix.  After class I went into the bathroom and jumped up and down.
Decision time: do I drive myself to the hospital or drive home and let my husband take me.  The juggling of too many vehicles left in a parking lot slipped into my organized mind, so I drove home.  Husband saw the look in my face, grabbed the keys, and off we went.  It reminded me a little of driving to the hospital before my son was born.

Admitting to the hospital went fairly quickly.  When I told them the pain was 15 on a 1-10 scale, they immediately wheeled me into Room ER13, just as the cooking channel appeared on the TV.  Then off I went to get a CAT scan – roll off the bed to a table – click – hold your breath – click, buzz – hold your breath - roll back on the bed – yikes!  When Dr. McGloomy came back in he told me it was a hernia – say Whaaaa?  That was the furthest thing from my mind.  Then the Dr. with no manners had the nerve to try to push this 5 inch bulge back into place.  The screams from my mouth gave him the clue it wasn’t going to work.  A sweet young nurse taped a needle in my arm and cooed, “You’re being admitted.”  Praise the Lord, cut me open.

I had my own room until after surgery, when they relocated me upstairs to room with a woman who had TVLAND on all day and all night.  Flashes of reruns of “The King of Queens” and “Everybody Loves Raymond” permeated the room.  The drugs started to kick in and I was content to just lie in bed, dozing off in la la land. My son came to visit and watched golf on my TV with my husband.  When he left he said, “Nice talking to you, Mom.”  Then the ugly nurse with the mole on her chin came in and forced me to walk around the nurses’ station.  A lot of expletives spewed forth from my lips until I was able to grasp a hold of my IV pole and shuffle, hunched over, down the hallway.

I was able to go home the day after surgery and knew I needed to drink a lot of fluids and eat.  So that’s what I did.  I was able to pee ok, but figured out I hadn’t had a bowel movement for 2 days when my abdomen started to bulge above my incision.  I found some laxatives and took those for 2 days.  Nothing.  Then, in the middle of the night, I felt it.  Oh goodie, I’m going to get some relief, so I sat on the toilet for an hour.  That’s long enough – I yelled at my husband at 4:00 in the morning that he needed to take me to the hospital so I could give birth to this bowling ball out of my rectum.  When I was admitted, the same doctor who was on call 4 days ago strolled in.  He probably thought, “Oh no, you again.”  “I’m baaack!!” I cried.  An x-ray showed that my intestines contained a line of 4 days’ worth of food packed into a 1 inch tube – oh look, there’s the turkey & green beans, the cheese crisp, the chicken noodle soup, and an Arby’s Ruben Sandwich.

Now, if you are over 50 and reading this, you will know exactly what I went through.  Anyone younger, be glad your mother didn’t subject you to…THE ENEMA!!  They told me it would be a few minutes while they got the enema from the pharmacy.  I think they had to wait until Walgreens opened, because an hour later the nurse with a pointy nose and chicken neck came in with her blue gloves, plastic bag, and long tube.  So this is the END of my shitty tail.  To sum it all up Surgery not only Sucks…it is the Shits.

Epilogue:  At 4 in the morning when I am in pain and it’s dark outside, no one gives a damn that I am in my night shirt and socks with treads.  It’s a different story leaving at 9:00 a.m. with a full waiting room.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Backseat Drivers

Whenever I drive my husband somewhere, he becomes the backseat driver. “You’re following too close.”  “Didn’t you see that car?”  “The light is going to change, slow down.”  “The street where you want to turn is coming up.”  In order to keep my cool and not slam on the breaks, propelling him through the windshield, I have made the decision to never operate the driver’s side of the car when husband is the passenger.  When he drives, I’ve mentioned a few times that I thought he was going the wrong way, and the retort is always, “Do you want to drive?”  That shuts me up. (However, we did start out for Sam’s Club one day and ended up at Costco.)

Husband has been replaced by Gladys Garmin, who sits on my dashboard instead of the seat next to me.  Gladys is guided by the stars so she displays her god-like superiority with every turn of the vehicle.  I recently went to a workshop about 20 miles from my home, so I decided to give Gladys a whirl to test her abilities.  I was a little unsure about the route she had in mind, because she was giving me the silent treatment, so I turned down I street I knew would get me to my destination.  Her grating little British voice screeched, “Recalculating!”  I’m surprised she didn’t yell, “You bitch, I didn’t tell you to turn yet!”

There are other occasions when Gladys has reprimanded my driving decisions.  Once I missed turning right in .4 miles, and she parroted in her computer voice like she was reciting her ABC’s, “MAKE A U TURN! MAKE A U TURN! MAKE A U TURN!”  Another time, in a strange town, I was trying to find a Wal-Mart.  Gladys and I both saw the Super Wal-Mart on the left, yet she had the gall to tell me to turn right.  Just so she wouldn’t yell at me, I turned right and went down a residential street where I made sure all the doors were securely locked.

Then there’s her “A better route is available” line.  Her “better route” is usually driving through brick walls that she can’t see from her satellite perch or along the south side of the railroad tracks, at night, in Cincinnati.  No thanks; I think I’ll stick to the Interstate.

I have finally made a decision that will lower my blood pressure and still get me to my destination - a hula doll on my dashboard and my dog in the passenger’s seat.  They aren’t going to tell me how to drive.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


I used to have control over my life – and the TV in the living room.  All I had to do was push a button and instantly had 3 or 4 channels.  I could choose from nightly news, a family sitcom, or a Hallmark movie.

Next came cable – and a remote to go with it.  I was still able to push an on/off button and discovered the Animal Planet, Sesame Street for the kids, and a plethora of sports for the husband.

Then the husband wanted a satellite dish because he said we could watch movies at night – oh goodie, the same movie every night for a month, sometimes back to back.  Satellite gave us choices – out of 998 channels, 901 of them were infomercials – do I want to grill a chicken in 15 minutes or wash my face with grapefruit.  With satellite came another remote.  If the wrong button was pushed, I would end up with a little box that said “no signal” floating around the TV screen.  I never could get the two remotes straight, let alone push the right buttons. 

Several years ago the daughter gave us a DVD player – said she was bringing us into the 21st Century.  Along with that came yet ANOTHER REMOTE.  That made 3 that we had to try to keep away from the dog.

For Christmas, the brother gave us a DVD movie to watch.  I was all ready to watch the movie, but forgot which buttons to push.  Armed with 2 remotes, my glasses, a magnifying glass, and a flashlight, for the life of me, I couldn’t get the movie on the TV screen.  I called tech support (the son) and he told me to press the input button several times – that did not work.  He even offered to help me if I would download FaceTime on my Mac so we could video chat.  Yeah, right!  I can’t figure out how to work a little 2 by 8 device – and he wants me to video chat. 

In walks the husband.  Men are born with a remote in each hand, and their superior attitude makes you believe they understand how all remotes work.  In reality, all they do is push buttons randomly until something appears on the screen, then smugly sit down, remotes armed and ready to channel surf.  What he really got was a TV screen covered with lists of acronyms, numbers, arrows, and snow.  After a few words with each other, he handed me the remotes and told me to figure it out as he walked out of the room.  I turned the TV off and read a book – at least I had control over turning the pages.