Retirement Day

I went to work in jeans – against the rules.  I’m sorry Mr. Vidak, it was my last day, and I figured, “Why not be comfortable?  I wasn’t going anywhere.  Nobody but my friends would see me, and they wouldn’t care.”

It turned out that I was wrong.  Sonia cared.  “Don’t you think you should go home and change clothes?”

“No, why I’m comfortable?”  I answered a little irritated that she would even suggest it!!!  Keep in mind that I am out of the classroom, and my office is the very back office in what looks like a library and student events warehouse.   Ok, it is a library and student events warehouse, but we live there, too.  (and love being there, BTW)  So why would anyone even know I was wearing jeans, unless Sonia called the jeans police on me?

“But what if someone was planning to take you to a really special place for lunch?” she persisted.

“Are you planning to take me to lunch?”

“I might be.” she answered somewhat hesitantly.

“Are you?” I was really getting irritated now.

“No,” at least she was honest. “But you might want to go somewhere for dinner.  Do you have plans for dinner?”  What I didn’t know was that she was getting desperate. She had plans to get her hair done, not take me to lunch.  She was no longer my secretary, and secretaries are always the ones who plan retirement parties.  I had no secretary any more, so I wasn’t expecting anything except a piece of birthday/retirement cake at our monthly meeting.

With Paula’s help Sonia finally convinced me.  It was less time-consuming to stay in town and go shopping, so Paula helped me, and I came back decently dressed for my non-existent party.  Glenn ordered lunch and we sat at the table in the most warehousy part of the office and enjoyed a wonderful lunch.  (But I was still irritated about getting dressed up for it!!!)

The rest of the day went as I had planned it.  Writing notes for a new person that would take my place, cleaning all the personal pictures and information off my computer, and other last-minute tasks.  I was there until almost 6:00 when my husband and I were planning to meet his business partner and girlfriend for dinner.

We walked to the restaurant from his office.  As we walked in the door, I saw my friend Janet sitting next to my friend Melissa from Fresno (out-of-town).  Then I saw Glenn.  Paula had planned this all for about three weeks.So much fun!  It was all about ME!!!  “I bet you are glad you wore your new blue dress now, aren’t you?” wrote Sonia in the VERY long note on her card!!!  I almost had tears in my eyes reading her card while everyone around me was talking and laughing.Then Laura presented me with a box of just-baked snicker doodle cookies – my favorites cookies, which I promptly hid under a napkin on my lap.  I don’t share well!!!  It wouldn’t be polite to share when there wasn’t enough for everybody.My longest long-time (not oldest) friends had prepared a History Day skit for me with me as the HD entry.  I ended up winning the “All That” Award and a bag of chips.The entire evening was so wonderful, and I’ll never be mad at Sonia again for insisting that I dress up for “work”.  Oh, that’s right I don’t go to work now.What ever am I going to do?


Retirement Actually Happening

In just four days I will be officially retired from the career I chose when I was in 8th grade.  I feel like I am writing my professional last will and testament.  I loved my job, and I want to bequeath my love for my work to you, my readers.  Yet for all that love, I AM excited to move on.

It took me many years, many obstacles, and much encouragement from a variety of unlikely supporters to reach my goals, but I did reach them.   My teaching career has been my life for nearly 25 years.  Now I prepare to retire from being paid to do what I love, to just doing what I love.

I remember laying in my bed at night as a child trying to bring my paisley curtains into focus, making up stories about the fuzzy shapes I could barely see as I dreamed about growing up and being a teacher.

No kidding these were my curtains!!!

I wanted to help change the world.  I wanted to help people who were not as well off as I thought I was.  I thought I might even want to work with children who spoke Spanish.  Working with Spanish-speaking children was one of those RANDOM thoughts out of nowhere.  I lived in Indiana where almost everybody with whom I came in contact spoke only English and had the same English, northern European roots I did.

I’m the smiling little one!

I ended up in Central California at age 33, still with no degree to teach, but there were finally some folks around me that spoke Spanish.  In fact, more people spoke Spanish than English in Ivanhoe, California where we moved.  I eventually had the privilege of being a bilingual teacher.  Trust me, the students that I dreamed about teaching when I was in 8th grade had just as much to teach me as I had to teach them.

When I moved into administration and worked at the County Office of Education, I had a brand new learning curve to tackle.  My new job involved mostly staying current in the ever-changing, frantic-paced field of education so that I would have something of value to offer teachers.  As usual, I learned much more from teaching than my teachers learned from me, but that is the way of it.  If you want to learn, try to teaching.

In four days I will leave the frantic pace of public education behind for something that MAY be more relaxed.  At this point in time, I can’t visualize RELAXED because I have so much to do in the next four days.  I have two more schools for Williams’ visits.  I have reports to write.  I have a day or professional development to prepare.  My computer is loaded with old files that need to be cleaned out.  My office is still not completely packed.  AND……………………………………

At home my husband wants to pain the office before we get two more bookcases to house all my treasures.  I talked him out of new flooring and a door instead of a window to be finished before Thursday.  I don’t have a place cleared out for my 11 years of consulting STUFF.  I hate to throw ANYTHING away!  I tried to give Jennifer my notes on school improvement from 2002 so I wouldn’t have to throw away a tree, but for some reason she didn’t want them.  I’ve buried a lot of dead trees since I made the decision last month to retire.

Then my husband comes in and says, “I’ll help you.  We can put everything in the garage (the kiss of death) and go shopping for bookcases this week-end.  We can get to it TOMORROW!”

OK I’m getting it.  TOMORROW.  “Let’s sit down and have a cup of coffee.  Want to go for a walk?”

“It’s too dark.  You can take a walk TOMORROW.  Will they get mad if you go in a little late?”


So back to my bequeathal.   What I wish for you is that you love to learn.  I plan to learn something new and turn around and teach it to someone else as long as I live.  A little education will never hurt you.  Whether you choose to earn a degree in the next two to four years or NOT, just remember that either way you will still be two to four years older at the end of the journey.  (And soon you will be retired!!!) With an education you have options, skills and networks of professional friends.  Without it you don’t, but you are still older.

So here’s to learning – even in RETIREMENT.

But it may have to wait until TOMORROW!

How Committees Work Well

Social describes the social studies community of California Council for the Social Studies (CCSS).  The first CCSS.History-Social Studies people can be controversial and argumentative, or they can cooperate, and accomplish a lot.  Usually it’s a little of both.There’s a lot of persuading and synergy going on in California Council for the Social Studies these days.Committees do the work of the organization.  They set goals, review the organization’s position statements, gain new information, and network.  Their needs, and the needs of the social studies teachers they serve and represent drive changes, and keep the 51-year-old organization growing and thriving.Committee members concentrate, using the time to research on the internet.Others are planning, working out the details.Some committees are more social than others.  The Membership Committee wants to attract new members while retaining current ones to keep the organization viable and healthy.Other committees are more pensive and academic as they determine what should go into future issues of the organizations scholarly journal, “Social Studies Review”.At the end of the day all six committees had written motions describing what they wanted to accomplish by the conference, “Social Studies on the March” in March, 2013.  They knew who was responsible to carry out the tasks, and how much it would cost.  Each gave a short report as they finished up the paperwork to document the decisions that had been made.And best of all, nobody killed anybody!

Bare Screen Solutions


I’ve had an excuse for the past few days.  Internet service in rural foothill regions is poor at best.   For the past two nights I couldn’t even get my notifications to load, let alone a picture.  So here it is 9:51 p.m. my notifications loaded.  My bare screen sits accusingly blank, like the bare spot that calls out to the landscaper to breathe new life into it.

So, to bring my bare screen to life I look at photographs and see if there might be a story.  Generally those weave themselves into something.


I have some articles that I want to do when I have time, but that is something I don’t have much of tonight.  Barenaked lady stories, how agri-farmers harvest corn, the next chapter of Impulsive Travelers, life in 18th century Colonial Williamsburg, but none of those are calling to fill my bare screen.

Many times I read your blogs, and you. inspire me.  I love your poems, your pictures, your favorite words, your concerns, your awards, your different points of view.  My bare screen fills with responses to your written thoughts.

Sometimes I look at things I’ve already written.  I went through a phase when I experimented with different forms of poems.  Those turned out rather stilted, but they were fun to write.  I wrote this poem when I was teaching fourth grade.  It is a pantoum, a fixed style of French poetry.  The second and fourth lines of each stanza become the first and third lines of the following stanza, until the end, then there is a slight twist.

They stare at their pencil leads.

They start chewing on their nail.

It seems nothing’s in their heads.

They heavily exhale.

They start chewing on their nail,

As they grasp at thought that float.

They heavily exhale.

They look at what they wrote.

As they grasp at thoughts that float,

Visions evade their reach.

They look at what they wrote.

Nothing to merit speech.

Visions evade their reach.

Too soon the poem’s due,

Nothing to merit speech.

They see only what they drew.

Too soon the poem’s due.

It seems nothing’s in their heads.

They see only what they drew.

They stare at their pencil leads.


Tonight I am those fourth grade students.  So I’ll sign off and come back to write to you tomorrow.  Have a nice night. (or early morning)


Putting Your Field Trips on Steroids – Legally!


One of the best experiences of my teaching career was the Teacher Institute in Colonial Williamsburg.  I wanted to bottle it up and bring it home, and recreate and refashion it so that we could produce similar experiences for people on the West Coast.

Organizers packed the week with themes of experiences, most of them reproducible except for the location.

Before we arrived we had to read a couple of books about Colonial Williamsburg, and the PEOPLE who lived there.  Whenever you spend the time and money to take kids on vacations or field trips, you should prepare them in some way.  That’s half the fun of going. Assigning your students books or articles to read, watching videos together, then having them discuss and write about what they are learning will put the steroids into the field trip – without making it illegal!!  Students will be constantly comparing what they read with what they learn when they visit.  They will be able to ask questions.

Once we arrived in Colonial Williamsburg, we received a new identity.  That first evening as we got an overview of the town, we were always looking around the corner to find out about our special person.

I was Clementina Rind, whom I wrote about earlier in my blog.  The interesting thing about doing that SIMPLE activity is that you never forget THAT PERSON.  You might forget tons of other factoids, but that person lives in you forever.

Students don’t even have to dress up to take on their identity  One teacher assigned her students the identity of children of the Holocaust.

They they invited a guest speaker who survived the Holocaust.

The strategy of assigning alternative identities is applicable anywhere about any period in history.  Most teachers can’t dredge up re-enactors, or even guest speakers, but I’ve seen teachers dress up themselves,

or have their students dress up and play a part in a readers’ theater that they write themselves using primary source documents.

These fifth grade students became re-enactors for the Civil War Time Time Travelers Student Event.  (Another story coming soon.)

 Colonial Williamsburg is spectacular, but the lessons learned in that setting can spruce up field trips and family vacations anywhere.