As an elementary student in the 80s, I was fascinated by my teachers. I would carefully study their every move in the classroom. They always appeared to be in control, and very rarely did I see a teacher become flustered. Teachers were the ones in charge, and I liked that about them.
I also liked my teachers’ sense of organization. They kept papers in neat stacks on their desk held together by paper clips. Back then, a teacher’s desk was off-limits. A student didn’t dare walk up to her desk or touch anything on the desk unless given permission. As I patiently stood in line at my teacher’s desk, I would eye the assortment of pens in the cup on her desk. I hoped to see what was in her desk drawer if she happened to open it while I was nearby. I admit I was a bit nosey, and I would try and sneak a peek at her handwritten grade book too.
Most subjects in elementary school came easy for me. I was a fast reader and would devour chapter books written by Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume. Later I discovered The Babysitter’s Club series and would eagerly wait for the next book in the series to be released.
Each month my teacher would pass out a book order. I loved circling all the things I wanted including an assortment of books, a diary with a lock and key, and a poster of kittens in a basket. I would bring the book order home and pare down my list to what I could buy with the money I earned delivering newspapers. I would carefully fill out the order form and put it in an envelope along with the money and bring it to school to give to my teacher.
The day the book order arrived was an exciting one. I was delighted when the books were placed on my desk in a neat pile. At the end of the day, my treasures were mine to take home.
I had great attention to detail starting as a child. I noticed the bulletin boards around the classroom were changed by my teacher every so often. She would staple a wavy corrugated paper border along each side. I watched carefully as my teacher used perfect penmanship to write spelling words on the board. When we began to learn to write in cursive, I was in awe of the flourishing words written with ease by my teacher. I aced weekly spelling tests and loved to write. I would write book reports, science reports, and short stories with ease. I would edit my classmates’ work pointing out spelling mistakes. My sixth-grade teacher taught a unit on poetry which opened a whole new world for me.
Back then, schools, teachers, and students were different. The school was always calm. No disruptions or outbursts by students. If there was an issue, it was rare and swiftly remedied by a trip to the principal’s office. The principal’s office was a place to fear. Not because the principal was mean, mine was quite nice and soft-spoken, but being sent to the principal’s office meant you were in trouble, which also meant you were in trouble at home.
As a student, I was thought of as capable and responsible by teachers. They would often let me bring a note to the office or pass out papers. I was quick and efficient and eager to please. I remember in fifth grade; my teacher asked me to watch the class while she stepped out into the hallway to talk to another teacher. Sitting in the teacher’s chair, I felt so important watching the class like a hawk until she returned after just a few minutes.
When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always said the same three occupations: a teacher, a writer, and an artist. Little did I know after two years as a Journalism and Mass Communications major at the University of Iowa, I would end up changing my major to Elementary Education in my junior year. This is my 24th year teaching English Language Learners in Des Moines Public Schools. I was meant to be a teacher after all.
I enjoyed your story very much. Thanks for teaching!
Thank you for teaching!