Posted by: Jim E | August 29, 2010

School’s On!!!…

If I were back in Minnesota…I would probably be at the Minnesota State Fair…it has been going on for about 3 days, as I write this post…Minnesota has had nice weather, and so they have had record crowds at the fair…yesterday over 130, 000 attended…that is a lot of people…and I wish I were one of them…I love the fair…a mix of modernity and historical agriculture…all put together and “it comes out here”, the fair…but one of the things that is so strange for someone who has lived in Minnesota for most of his life (only recently moving to Arkansas) school is on in Arkansas…but in Minnesota, school comes right on the heels of the Minnesota State Fair…and everyone who lives there knows it…it is part of the culture…

School supplies are already acquired…backpacks are packed and ready to go…kids already know their teachers names and the time they have to get up in the morning…but all that can wait…the fair is still going on and there is no worry until it is over…and it does not “get over” until after Labor Day…that is not necessarily the way the schools want it…or teachers want it…it’s a state law…the state fair is a big deal (I have posted that before) and because so many kids are involved with the fair (working at the fair, showing animals or projects, going to, etc.)…also Minnesota is so dependent on tourism industry that they want to be open to tourists until Labor Day weekend….and they are dependent on kids working during that time…so school’s on…but after Labor Day…

It has been 45 years since I entered my first classroom…a teacher for the  Cros/Lex Community School District in Croswell, Michigan…wow, that is a long time ago…so why do I remember it as if it was yesterday…it is sort of like having a first child being born to parents…it’s one thing to have the baby in the hospital…but quite another to actually take the baby home…“What, you mean they are going to let me take this baby home???…You mean without any help…and no nurse around to help…you mean we are totally ‘in charge’ here.”…If you have kids you know the feeling…

It is a lot like that when you are “dropped” into your first day of teaching…you are prepared but nothing can adequately prepare you for what is ahead…that’s the way I felt I suppose…I guess I “felt like”, Ichabod Crane “looked like” in the Disney cartoon…sort of dorky…the kids will think I look strange…and how do I really get them to “learn”?…will I be successful?…how will I know?…

Or will I be boring and will the kids like me and yet obey me, follow directions?…you know, like the teacher, Ben Stein played in the 1986, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”…”Bueller, Bueller, Bueller…”…these and lots of other thoughts run through teachers minds as they begin their teaching careers…as time went on I had student teachers who taught with me…I would always warn them about those feelings and other things…that were real…like make sure you were presentable from top to bottom…because the kids checked you out “EVERY TIME” you came into class…top to bottom, every inch…so to have kids pay attention to the lesson…be presentable…a small thing…but an important thing…because students “are quick as sharks to scent something amiss with a teacher.”

There are few things that are more comforting and encouraging than a teacher in front of a classroom…with the kids involved with their own learning…we just had an elementary school built right next to our neighborhood…we can see the kids going in and parents picking them up…teachers involved with them…it is a good thing…I love seeing that…knowing that kids have an opportunity to learn and grow…to become what they want to be…the best they can be…

I just read a book about a teacher at the turn of the 20th century in Montana…still lots of horses…electricity around but not there, and wouldn’t be for some time…he taught in a one room school house…ever seen one???…they are still around in some places but most have been abandon for buses and consolidated school districts…“putting miles on children rather than nurturing their minds”…and not all for the better…there were many things about one room schools that were good…they were the lifeblood of those rural communities…and when gone, there was no schoolhouse to send their children to…or have a dance…or a 4-H meeting or for a reading group…or election day…or any other gathering for that community…

But you know, teaching is sure a wonderful career…if you have taught professionally or if you have taught a Sunday School class or a Bible study or if you have taught your kids a lesson of one type or another…if you have taught anything before a few or a large group…I think you will understand what I am about to say…when “that magic” occurs…when you “get on a roll”…what you want to teach begins to “roll out” of you…and there is complete rapport with your few or many students…you know the feeling…that is what every teacher looks for in every lesson…

From the novel I read…”The Whistling Season”, by Ivan Doig, let me pull some quotes (as they waited for Halley’s comet in 1910)…and I will end…

“If only I could bottle it for every teacher under my jurisdiction, that fluid passion Morrie put into those class hours of cosmic science”…”Much more likely, given the coming of the comet he simply performed up to the role he had been handed, the way a stand-in might deliver better than his best when allowed onto the hallowed stage.”…”Whatever accounted for it, …Morrie teetered on the astronomical highest wire…some days more than others, but never did he plummet.”

And later when Morrie had decided to leave at the end of the year…”At the front of the classroom Morrie soldiered on, a bit subdued but still throwing off a good deal more sparks than most teachers…I could not imagine the fate of the school without him up there, bobbing and weaving through the fields of knowledge.”….

Well, teacher…do you see yourself in those words…I think you do…every teacher has been there…“bobbing and weaving”…maybe not always…but knows the feeling…and passionately strives for it again and again…


  1. I thought your new picture looked familiar. When I checked the blog I set up in the spring of 2009, it is the same that I chose. My blog, which I may reactivate, is “Ephesians 5:19.” (

    I am familiar with one room schools. My mother-in-law taught in a one or two room school beginning in 1932. She realated many stories about teaching with few supplies for the “little ones” and strategies for handling the “big ones.” These stories entertained us often especially as I was beginning my teaching career.

    She stayed with us toward the end of her life when she had Alzheimer’s. Every afternoon when I got home, she would say, “Well, did you have a good day, Willie? Did you give all of them 100s? That makes it easy on you when grades are due.”

    Oh, the memories we have when we are retired, especially from teaching. I am going to have to look at the writings of Ivan Doig.

    Have a good day.

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