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Curriculum

One of the disadvantages of being part of faculty instead of administration in the school system is that I have no ability to impact curriculum in any way. While I have no specific training in curriculum development and implementation, I have seventeen years in the classroom and double that in mothering. Along the way, I have often thought of worthwhile additions to make to the subjects that are taught.

The first subject that I would introduce is that of surprises. Everyone appreciates surprises and I would teach both the value in surprises and their implementation. My guess is that this would be a subject that my students would quickly embrace. They always show excitement when I surprise them and I would capitalize on that enthusiasm by showing them the endless methods by which they can surprise others. The positive consequence is delivering happiness as it is received.

My second inclusion would be courtesy and respect. These concepts are parts of most school rules and priorities but I haven’t seen any specific actions designed to acknowledge and appreciate either of them. Having been almost knocked over in the playground and slapped by a student, I am certain that our youthful population could benefit from some old school etiquette. Yes, I realize that this is a subject matter best introduced at home but when we have no ability to influence home learning, the classroom is the next best venue.

The final component that I would like to teach is that of finding fun and gratification in the world without benefit of electronics or toys. Many schools are extremely proficient at taking students to certain events outside the school such as 4H or fire departments, both of which are excellent ideas. My inclusion would be to take kids to assisted living and skilled nursing facilities. Our seniors have so much to teach and children have so much to learn from the generation that preceded that of our parents. This would be the ultimate win-win – seniors benefitting from the presence of young lives and students realizing how much of their present is derived from the past.

As a substitute teacher who often sees new students each day, I will remain resolute in educating outside reading, writing and arithmetic when I can. Creating, respecting and appreciating are always in my briefcase, next to the pencils and candy. All of them are critical to producing the next great generation. Shalom.

 

If I may assist you in any of your writing endeavors, it is my pleasure to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com and I hope that you will use this address only for business purposes.

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Giving

One of the most gratifying components of singing within a choral ensemble is that of giving pleasure to those who are hearing the music. Never did I realize that as much as I did this past week, in spite of the fact that this was the thirtieth year that I was part of this choir.

When I reflect on the entire dynamic of rehearsing, performing and watching the reactions of those who absorb our sounds, it’s another of those very happy win-win situations. In spite of the hard work and concentration associated with rehearsals, the upside is the frequent ability to hear the type of choral enjoyment that we are creating. The actual final product is not only the result of that practice but a form of finale to the hard work.

It occurs to me that this is a model for life. We spend a great deal of time and energy on creating something – a family, a work community, an artistic product – visual, auditory or tactile – so that we may deliver that commodity to those for whom we have the greatest love and respect.

This past week I heard a great deal of appreciation and compliments on the music to which I was a contributor. Having long reflected on the fact that we are not the same as the art we create, it had nothing to do with me except that I was a contributor to the inspirational music. And so it goes with the rest of our lives. If we are very fortunate, we have opportunities to make large or small additions to the common good, whether by intention or by fortunate consequence.

You can easily see that I am powerfully grateful for the occasion to improve the world in which I reside, if only for an hour or two or three. When one day I am making a summary of those additions in terms of my family, my communities and the classroom, I sincerely hope that I can conclude that I played a part in making the world a more beautiful or happy place to live. Shalom.

 

 

If I may assist you with your writing endeavors, it is my privilege to do so. Please contact me at csbutts19@yahoo.com.

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A function of time

One of the duties that I enjoy during teaching hours is monitoring behavior on the playground. My intervention depends largely on the ages of students. While the kindergarteners are docile and content to play on swings or slides, the more mature fourth and fifth graders are likely to engage in chases, bullying and acrobatics.

A colleague and I were having a discussion on child behavior and we reflected on the abandon and recklessness of some behavior. One of my personal favorites is the absolute lack of concern about ubiquitous untied shoelaces. Kids will take off at top speed in spite of knowing that their shoes are untied.

We went on to reflect about how this scene would look with forty-somethings instead of K through 5. This is what I imagine the conversions would entail at that age.

Looks like we could have some fun on this equipment. I wonder if it’s safe. Think that I’ll pass for today – I just had a manicure and don’t want to mess it up. My hair just wouldn’t withstand that type of strain. Can’t imagine that there’s no place to just sit and relax. What time do they serve hors doeuvres and wine?

It becomes more amusing to imagine seniors observing playground equipment and contemplating participation.

Boy, do I remember the playground equipment we had as kids. It didn’t look anything like this. There were never any colors – it was always steel gray. My knees and feet ache just thinking about getting on any of this. Do we have to do it? You would think that they would provide something that was ADA approved. I think I’ll just find someplace quiet and comfortable to sit. But look at Agnes. She looks as if she thinks she’s still a child. How in the world can she be so reckless? Watch out, Agnes – you could pull a muscle or worse!!!!!

My visits to many skilled nursing facilities and vacation resorts have never displayed any playground equipment or sandboxes except those dedicated to vacationing children. Most likely, we’ll probably not witness any of the conversations I’ve created. But it’s still amusing to fast forward for these kids, with the implied message that they should enjoy themselves while they have the energy and physical stamina to do so. Shalom.

 

If I may assist with any of your writing endeavors, it is my pleasure to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com and I hope that you will use the address only for business purposes.

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Lessons

One of my primary objectives as an educator is to learn something while I am in the process of promoting learning. The best part of that is the fact that my students are usually unknowing of the wisdom that they are purveying.

First example: Watching kids on the playground, I see a child rolling around in the dirt. He’s wearing an expensive outfit that has Nike insignias on it. His message is, “I’m having fun, regardless of what I’m wearing” or its logo.

The next lesson was from a larger child, probably a fifth grader. It was still recess but he was disinterested in running around or swinging from metal devices. He was lying on his stomach, totally unaware of his peers, engrossed in a math lesson. To me, he’s hope for the future of our intellectual communities.

Another playground participant was thoroughly involved in a series of gymnastic moves on the equipment. What was unusual about her was her (unfortunate) obesity. She was either too young, too self-confident or too oblivious to the peer pressures of many fifth graders to care that her potbelly was hanging for all to see. Maybe it’s an advantage to act without caring who’s looking.

And finally, there was my young man from a class that I taught several weeks ago. As we all left the classroom at that time, he had hugged me and stated without reservation, “I am so glad that I had the chance to meet you.”

Today he ran up to me in the cafeteria as I was preparing to leave the school. He called out to me and asked if I remembered his name. Of course I did, a fact that pleased him very much. As we parted, I told him that he was a remarkable young man and that he must never let anyone tell him differently. Then I assured him that I would never forget him, to which he replied with total conviction, “I am the son of an Army captain!” That pretty much says it all. God bless these United States of America. Shalom.

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New beginnings

This first day of Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish New Year, is the first time in thirty years that I am not joining thirty-plus inspired voices to welcome the new year with music. While I am not with them in person, I continue to be present in spirit as I miss the entire experience.

A last-minute request for me to teach today was timely, if not wholly appropriate to the day. My best guess is that 99% of my fifth graders have never heard of Rosh Hashanah and I have no plans to change that. However, because this will be the first time in all those years that I “work,” the process of teaching seems consistent with that of prayer.

Ultimately, the acts of teaching and praying are exactly the same. In each case, we atone for our sins by dedicating ourselves to the tasks before us. We ask forgiveness to those whom we have sinned, forgiving those who have sinned against us. In the classroom, none of these young spirits are guilty of sins, either from or against me. But if I teach them dedication, commitment and compassion, I hope that they will be inspired to minimize the sins in their futures.

To all those who celebrate this day and the successive Days of Awe, I wish you happiness, health and peace. Beginning this life in a different venue, I remain nostalgic and grateful for all of the new years that I have been able to complete.

With God’s help and guidance, I hope to complete many more, to enjoy the growth of my magnificent grandchildren and to assist hundreds of young people in their journeys toward maturity. L’Shanah Tovah and Shalom.

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Challenge

It was the end of the day and the kindergarteners were packing up their multiple possessions. One of them had a frustrating day and on her way out of the rest room, she looked directly at me. Her comment was, “You don’t like kids, do you?”

Yes, it was a five or six-year-old who was probably not to be considered an accurate judge of my teaching abilities or compassion. But I will admit to feeling that I was stabbed in the chest, if only by a tiny blade.

The next day, I found myself in a first-grade art class where I reluctantly disclosed to a student that I was a writer but couldn’t draw. The student asked, “Why are you teaching art if you can’t draw?”

In a flash of illumination, it was clear that kids expect their teachers to be paradigms of everything – wisdom, skill, patience and probably the ability to walk on water. Now I realize that for a split second a kindergartener heard me scold a child and I fell from my hero tower to become a child disliker. The same took place when I admitted the tragic flaw of being a non-artist.

The upside is that kids treat their teachers with that level of reverence. You’re a teacher and you need to know everything, see anything and do whatever is required by that moment.

And so, I’ll step up to the challenge and the responsibility. My magic teacher bag will continue to store and provide candy. I will happily apply bandages to the nearly invisible boo-boos. When I get a 4:00 plea to be at a 7:00 a.m. music teacher, I will continue to say yes. And to make certain that I maintain my pseudo-deity status, I won’t get sick or hungry or angry or sad. That should make life quite simple. Shalom.

 

 

If I may assist you with any of your writing endeavors, it will be my privilege to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com and I hope that you will use that address only for honorable purposes.

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Super powers

If ever you run out of educational or recreational ideas for school-age kids, I have one that may be useful. As a warm-up activity in fourth grade, I asked a classroom of students to describe what superpowers they would have if they could choose one.

This worked out to be a better activity than I planned. While I had a couple repeats, most of the answers were unique and fascinating.

One student wanted invisibility – to be anywhere at all without being seen. Another wanted to make anything materialize, simply through intention. It could be a computer or a car or anything else. As a sub-topic to this one, I had a student who wanted a superpower to aid all those who needed help – regardless of what they needed.

A student wanted only to jump, as high and as often as possible. One of the biggest surprises was firepower, to create and control fire.

While I don’t believe that this child is a pyromaniac in training, I’m intrigued by the idea of fire control. One child wanted supernatural strength but most of the remaining requests were beneficial.

When the class asked me to describe the superpower I would fabricate, I responded by saying that I would write a best seller and play the piano. As always, I refused to disclose the titles of my books so as not to be accused of selling while teaching.

But as always, I learned much more than I supplied. Kids generally want to be better, learn more and improve the world. An extraordinary student wanted “super wisdom.” Growth is mandatory and desirable, a reality that many adults could well adopt and emulate. Shalom.

 

 

If I may assist you in any of your writing endeavors, it is my privilege to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com and I hope that you will only use my address for professional purposes.

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Joy

School book fairs are a mixed blessing. As a writer and an educator, it’s the epitome of both worlds. On the one hand, kids get fired up about reading. The downside is that the fair always causes major disruption to the daily routines.

Here’s an example. One student reported that she had bought a highlighter pen that went missing. Her neighbor had one (suddenly) that looked just like it. She advised that it had been purchased the day before.

One student whom we’ll call Jerry told me confidentially that the neighbor had truly stolen the missing item. But I didn’t see it being taken and I had no choice but to send the injured party to the book fair with the money to buy another. The only other option was to have expressed my sympathy that her pen was gone. Maybe I should consider a fingerprint kit to identify classroom criminals.

Jerry was a student whom the classroom teacher identified as an ongoing problem. Somehow, he never became one for me. During one of our conversations, he confided that he also wanted a highlighter pen but didn’t have the funds to make one materialize.

You probably know the end of the story. A blue highlighter pen magically appeared in Jerry’s desk. Though he never indicated he knew how it got there, I’m pretty confident that he did.  But I’ll never disclose that. Not surprisingly, he was polite and compliant for the rest of the day.

Shortly thereafter, I was doing my playground supervision when a little, sad-faced girl approached and asked if I had a quarter. When I asked why, she reported that she was hungry. Was I really going to let a child go hungry?

Maybe I’m a sucker for sad faces or just kids. Maybe I simply believe that I taught three children the true lessons of education. Shalom.

 

 

If I may assist you in any of your writing endeavors, it is my privilege to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com and I hope that you use the address only for  professional purposes.

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Lofty thoughts

One of the very positive benefits of semi-retirement in New Mexico is the ability to relax on the back patio. We have many aviary buddies who visit. Despite their behavior being strictly about survival, they are absolutely fascinating to watch.

They don’t say anything that I find intelligible, but it’s fun to imagine what they would be saying if we could understand. Here’s a sampling of what I think their chirping really means.

Hi Jack. Hi back to you, Jack. Sure are a bunch of sparrows here. It’s too bad we all have the same name. There’s Woody. He’s got a long beak and we haven’t seen him in a while. He’s a big guy – a non-sparrow.

The two non-feathered blobs are watching our eating habits. I think we should call them Blob One and Blob Two. Blog One keeps putting food out for us so I guess it’s okay for them to watch. But every time it comes near, I get nervous and take off.

Then there’s this big character that the Blobs call Pidge or Pig-en. He doesn’t fly much – he’s probably too fat to be aerodynamic. We see him scurrying back and forth on the ground. Guess it’s either because he’s too big to sit on one of the feeder things or because he likes dirt in his food. Yuck.

Then there are the feeders on the other side of the yard. We don’t like the menu over there so we’re just as happy to leave it to the creatures that the Blobs refer to as wrens.

We can also see the tiny bird-like creatures who want absolutely nothing to do with us. They have feeders that we can’t access even if we wanted to because it’s just wet sweet stuff. They are weird little critters. Somehow, they can flutter their wings much faster than we could ever imagine. And they have long necks and tongues to suck up their liquid junk.

All in all, life around here is pretty good. We have a huge buffet, from the good things in these tube contraptions with perches to the solid gizmos that we can sit on to enjoy our meals. Finally, there is something that the Blobs call a quail block. It just sits in the middle of a bald spot in the yard. It’s like dessert that we can visit, eight or ten of us at a time.

Well, I’ve got to take off. Two big black pidges are nearby, surveying the environment and scaring up food under one of the tubes. They rumored to be vegetarians but I saw one with a bug in its mouth and as far as I know, bugs are meat. A bird can never take anything for granted.

Got to get ready for my journey to southern destinations. Remember – above all, fly safe. Shalom.

 

 

If I may assist you with any of your writing endeavors, it is my privilege to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com and I hope that you will use this address only for professional purposes.

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Talk

Sometimes I wonder about the expression, “You talk too much.” To begin, I would never say this to a student or anyone else. But if anyone ever said it to me, I would be likely to take the statement very seriously, depending on the source.

What constitutes too little, enough or too much? Ultimately, we must all be the monitors of our loquaciousness. We’ve encountered the chatty people who talk on and on, often without sense or awareness of others. Saying, “Stop talking! You’re not saying anything worthwhile” doesn’t work very well. But there are always ways to encourage the end of a long and tedious discourse.

Providing the information that we need to make an appointment or get somewhere (anywhere) else is useful. Another option is to attempt the interjection of something that will redirect or disconnect the conversation. At the very least, asking a question such as, “Do you really think so?” can often terminate an endless diatribe.

As a writer, brevity is usually the best path. This is also true for the length of sentences. One of the books I read recently had a sentence that droned on and on for about 100 words. Functionally, this is annoying as well as generally incorrect. While it’s unlikely that any of us will speak a 100-word sentence, there’s a lesson for all with regard to overstatement.

My recommendation to those accused of talking too much is to ponder why we are doing so in the attempt to abbreviate our language. While I’m not suggesting that you speak in two or three-word sentences, consider your conversation partner, time and location when forming your responses.

 

The best example I can muster is when a student asks why we should use “whom” instead of “who.” It’s fair to conjure the concept of object versus subject – we give something to whom rather than who is responsible. But going into painful detail about prepositions, case and forty-five examples is a profound waste of time.

And so, if you are accused of talking too much, think about who is making the comment and determine whether or not the source is reliable. From there, either shorten your language or determine that the person making the statement is communicating something totally different from time. Shalom.

 

If I may assist you with any of your writing endeavors, it is my pleasure to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com and I hope that you will not use this address for less than honorable purposes.