Category Archives: Teaching in a Rural School

Magnolias Here and There

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English: Looking north across Lafayette Avenue...

This past week I was on spring break from school, and I went to Shreveport, LA. with my daughter and grand-baby.  They were looking for a house in which to live since my son-in-law was transferred there in his job.  We saw some beautiful homes as well as beautiful country.  The green grass was a foot high in places, and the pine trees and rolling hills were stunning.  We saw lots of magnolia trees in the yards of the homes that we were viewing.  The area was pleasant and interesting.

The  magnolia on my mind at the moment is our high school UIL competition cutting of Steel Magnolias by Robert Harling.  We’ve been working on the production for a little over two months, and now it is time for our public performance.  The students will present their play to the public tomorrow, Sunday, March 18th, at 1:30 p.m.  They will host a fish fry lunch prior to the performance of the play.  The luncheon will be from noon until 1:30.  The director (me!) is a nervous wreck because the students have all been on spring break for a week, and we have not had a rehearsal or even given a thought to the play.  I’m just hoping and praying that they haven’t forgotten everything we have learned.  The six young ladies in the cast are, indeed, beautiful magnolias and steel ones at that.  They have been the most congenial group of girls I’ve ever directed.  There is no diva.  The girls all have adversity in their lives, and they are all strong and intelligent young women.  I’m proud to be involved in a small moment of their lives.

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Art by Students

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If you haven’t visited the http://www.rscoyotepride.wordpress.com student blog that my junior English students are creating, you really should visit the site and view the latest entry that includes photos of some of their art work which is hanging in the cafetorium.  Our tiny school of  around 110 students does amazing work, AND the school board paid of the school debt at Thursday night’s board meeting.  The new cafetorium is now paid off and belongs to us.  That’s a big “hurrah” to the board members, the superintendent, and the teachers and staff who have all made cuts and taken on multiple jobs and responsibilities in order to become debt free.  Watch out, Dave Ramsey!  We’ve got this!

Remember these?

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  Anybody know what this is?  You guessed it if you guessed the center of a merry-go-round.  I have no idea how old this merry-go-round is exactly, but I do know that it is the same one that was on the playground when I started school in 1957.  Of course, it was just a plain rusty metal color with plain wooden/board seats.  There was no red, blue, yellow, green or red to it.  This nice paint job makes the old merry-go-round look almost new.                                                             

This particular merry-go-round was for the “big” kids.  You had to pump those metal handle bars to make it go faster.  You did not have to run around and around to get it going and jump on.  The more you pumped, the faster it went, but if you fell off, it was farther to the ground than the “little kids’ ” merry-go-round.  The merry-go-round shown below is on the same playground, and it, too, has been there since 1957, at least.  It was for the “little kids”.  As the gravel and dirt show today, kids had to run around to get it going and then hop up on the benches, but it wasn’t far to the ground if you fell!

Both of these playground attractions bring back fond memories.  The merry-go-rounds were probably purchased by the PTA of which my mother was president at one time.  The PTA raised funds for their projects through the Halloween Carnival and Coronation of the King and Queen.  Both events were looked forward to by the whole community.

Hooray to those who didn’t throw out the old merry-go-rounds!

Creative students!

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I’ve been away from blogging because I’ve been on the road hunting set pieces and costumes for the one act play at school!  I’m so tired “I could spit” as Ouiser says in Steel Magnolias.

Preacher, John, was the first to identify the play, The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams in which Amanda said the line, “Where was Moses when the lights went out?”  during a dinner party.  Then, Grace also identified it!

Some days teaching makes me laugh out loud.  Last Friday, one of the juniors presented me with a note.  It was a ransom note for his favorite cap.  It went something like this.  “If you ever want your cap back, you will go into science class and tell the teacher that you love his hair style and that you want to wear yours just like his.  Then, you will ask to go to the bathroom, and you will take money with you.  While on your way to the restroom, you will sneak over to the chip machine and buy some chips, make that Fritos, and put them underneath the snack machine.  When, the chips are there, they will then be replaced  by your cap.”

The student wanted to know whose handwriting it might be.  I didn’t know, but I was wishing that the writer would spend half that much effort writing his/her English essays.

A few minutes after the class got quiet and all were working diligently,  the same student blurted out,  “My cap’s been missing for three days!”

The whole class erupted into laughter.

Now,  don’t ever try to tell this teacher that kids are not creative!

And You Thought Sputnik Was A Satellite

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My sophomores and juniors finally finished decorating their weave poems for the county fair.  After writing some prose text about a person they remembered from their childhood and writing down the words of a song they remember being sung, they wove the two pieces together with some great results.

One of my students is the son of a local man who recently lost his battle with cancer.  Everyone called him “Sputnik”.   The name fit him.  In Russian, the term, “sputnik” is used to refer to a companion.  The word “sputnik” represented something new, a new beginning, the space age.  The Sputnik that we all knew was certainly a companion to many and was always trying something new or different.  In a way, he represented new beginnings.

His son wrote a great story in English class about the time that Sputnik and his brothers decided to go Christmas Caroling as adults while visiting Sputnik’s mother.  The story would be enhanced if I had a photo of Sputnik and his brothers to share.  There is no telling whether these guys had their hair combed, if they were clean shaven, or if they had on any nicer clothes than their work jeans and work boots.  These brothers were known as being a bunch of “characters.”  They told the family whose door they knocked upon that they would sing “Joy to the World”.  Then, they broke into Credence Clearwater Revival’s version of “Joy to the World”.  You may remember this song  if you’re a baby boomer.

Jeremiah was a bullfrog

Was a good friend of mine

I never understood a single word he said

But I helped him drink his wine

And he always had some mighty fine wine

Joy to the world, all the boys and girls

Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea

Joy to you and me.

Well, the story ends with the family who received the gift of Sputnik and his brothers singing a Christmas carol not only laughing but also inviting the guys in for some wine.

The story doesn’t really end there because Sputnik left his son and many others hundreds of wonderful memories that bring a smile to our faces.  To bring a smile to someone’s face, now THAT is a gift!

With his permission, here’s Junior, Chance Bush’s poem:

BULLFROG                                                                                                                              

by Chance Bush

Remember When

Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog

Decided to Go

Was a Good Friend of Mine

Went Over To

I Never Understood a Single Word He Said

Were Close Friends

But I helped Him Drink His Wine

And they sang “Joy to the World”

Joy to You and Me!

Teaching, Researching, and Libraries

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Every Monday I was planning to write about teaching and teaching tips.  hmmmmm  I had planned to include one of my student’s weave poems today, but I forgot to ask him permission.  Last Friday, I went to Wal-Mart and bought art supplies (with my own money, of course), and today we began the attempt to make our poems look “cute”, “nice”, “good”, “artistic”, ….well, to look like they would be worthy of entering the San Saba County Youth Fair which begins this Thursday.  The 10th and 11th graders really got in the spirit of decorating the poems.  Some of the students are going to save their decorated poems as Valentine gifts for their moms or dads; others will save them for a Mother’s Day present.  I’m really pleased with the result. I hope to have a photo for you in the near future.

I also graded sources that the seniors have found for their research papers.  I’m actually quite proud of their research.  They’ve done a decent job.  When our Region XV Service Center told us that they could no longer afford the Ebsco Data Base we used to find all of our articles online, I panicked last year.  What to do?  Having been a county librarian, I was familiar with the library network and set to work to get all of my students a library card from the Tom Green County Library in San Angelo, Texas.  We got that accomplished during the first semester.  Now, each student is able to get on a laptop and use the online resources of that library which is a two hour drive from us.  Sometimes, I think technology is just the greatest invention ever!  Our school is so small that our reference section is near to none although we have the best librarian ever!  Mrs. Gossett has created a comfy, cozy learning area and has used all of her creativity to raise funds to have adequate books for grades K-12.  Anything that a person requests, Mrs. Gossett finds a way to get it.  More on our wonderful library in another entry.  Stay tuned!

Sunrise in the Texas Hill Country

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Wow!  What an amazing beginning to a Friday in the Texas Hill Country.  As I got in my car and headed east off the “mountain”, this photo is what I saw this morning.  I  had to stop and take a photo and give thanks to God for such an opportunity.  We can see the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets from our home.  I can barely drag myself away to go to work at the school.  It was a great day with Cheyenne Tharp winning first place in the essay contest and a trip to Washington D.C.!

Exciting Teaching News

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Okay, this blogging thingy is more work than I thought!  I’ve really fallen behind as I got busier and busier at school this week. I did want to share with the world my big news at school.  An assignment for my junior English class was to enter the Central Texas Telephone Cooperative’s essay contest.  The contest includes around 15 schools.  The first place prize is a free trip to Washington, D.C. in the summer with 100 other students.  The prize even includes spending money.  The other places receive cash or savings bonds.  Tomorrow morning, a CTTC representative will be at our school to announce to my junior English class the winners, and the tiny school of Richland Springs has won 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th places!!!!!  Woo!  Hoo!!!  I am so, so, so excited.  I can’t wait to find out WHO has won!

Our “weave” poems are coming along, slowly but nicely.  The juniors and the sophomores are both creating weave poems in our English classes.  We hope to enter some of them in the county youth fair.

Finally, our contest play, the One Act Play, is coming together.  We  are doing Steel Magnolias, and I’m enjoying the 6 young actresses so much!  They are fun and funny!

A Tip for English teachers

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Perhaps one day a week,  say Mondays, I’ll write about a teaching tip that I have picked up through the years.  One tip that has kept me enjoying teaching is to always keep trying something new and different.  This year I was determined to teach myself and one of my classes how to blog.  We are just getting it going, but both blogs are up and running. The blogs are fun and exciting.  TAKS test review they are not!

Today, I received some information from a much younger teaching friend about teaching a form of poetry called a lullaby poem.  I had seen her talk about this idea several years ago, but I couldn’t remember exactly how the process worked.  The student thinks of a lullaby, song, nursery rhyme, saying or something that he/she can remember someone singing or saying to him in his very early childhood.  The song could be something like the Itsy Bitsy Spider.  The student writes that down and numbers the lines with even numbers only.  The student then writes in prose a description of the person who sang it and the circumstances.  After underlining phrases that stand out in the prose, the phrases are numbered with odd numbers.

The two are then combined to create a poem.  The lines are written in numerical order; thus, alternating the song and the prose  creates a poem.  The project makes a great gift for a mother or grandmother or father.  I’m very excited about trying this tomorrow with some of my classes.  Maybe I’ll share one with you if I can get permission!