Ten Lessons I Learned as a First Year Teacher

As a latecomer into the arena of teaching, I was nervous that I may not have the stamina nor the ability to keep twenty 5th grade students entertained long enough to be educated. Fortunately, for them (and for me), not only did I realize that I did, but I also learned several other undeniable truths for myself that I’d like to share. These are not necessarily listed in order of importance:

1. From the moment I decided that teaching would be my occupation, I have never since walked into a store- any type of store- without trying to figure out a way to use every single piece of merchandise they carry as an educational tool. I don’t have to explain any further, because if you’re a teacher you already know. (Can I get an, “Amen!”?) Oh, look! A box of hair color!!! We could use this in science to discuss the chemical properties, or in reading to compare and contrast how premature graying makes you feel old in comparison to feeling like yourself with this Clairol Natural Instincts 28 Nutmeg Dark Brown! Oh, wait! Look! A hacksaw!

2. Anytime it was scheduled to be my turn for “breakfast duty” it would most certainly be a syrup day. ūüėĎ

3.  The first 2 weeks of school took me to a level of tired I hadn’t experienced since I had newborns. Each afternoon I would come home, and within about 30 minutes of sitting on a couch, it was over. Finished. Done. …..zzzzzz

4. I think I may have gotten an average of 4-5 hours of sleep per night those first few months of school. My brain would not turn off the worrying about what all needed to be done the next day, and would not stop making several thousand mental lists of all the things I wanted to be sure NOT to forget. 

5. This one goes hand in hand with my inability to sleep for fear of forgetting something. Unfortunately, once my body did finally succumb to incomparable exhaustion, I would wake every hour on the hour out of sheer terror of sleeping through my alarm. 

6. While using a Promethean Board, or a Smartboard, one should quickly familiarize themselves with the “freeze” button.  This button allows you to freeze the screen, so that your work emails and other personal information from your computer desktop won’t be projected onto your screen in IMAX style for 20 curious little sets of eyes to see. (The stories I could tell…)

7. I remembering being so nervous my first day that I thought I would physically be sick. Those little bodies come strolling into the classroom, and find their seats. They are quiet and timid, and little did they know, I was also a nervous wreck! It got better after I leveled with them, and told them that I understood exactly how they felt. We played some fun icebreaker games, and just like that, the fear started to disappear.

8. Teachers are a special classification of people who have evolved into super-human creature which can go DAYS without having to take a bathroom break. If you are fortunate like I am, and have an assistant who can help out, this isn’t really an issue. If you do not, may I suggest stocking up on cranberry juice and AZO Standard. 

9. The teachers I work with on our fifth grade hall are outstanding women. I would have never been able to get through the first year without their constant support and encouragement. You have to work as a team. You have to be a team player. If our ultimate goal is the success of our students, it is imperative that we all work together. There isn’t time for dissention among the troops. Division is shallow, catty, and frankly, does a disservice to our students. 

10. I had no idea that these 20 little strangers in a time span of 180 days could grab onto my heart like they did. I loved them. All of them. Even those who are “hard” to love. You know who I mean, the really challenging ones. Truth is, I probably even loved them a tiny bit more. Children can’t help what their home life is like. If mom and dad (if there even IS a mom and dad in the pic), if mom and dad don’t care, how can we get frustrated with a student who doesn’t care? We have to love them more. Teach them more. Show them patience more. They can come around. I’ve seen it. 

My first year of teaching is behind me, and I’m entering into my second year. I can’t wait to teach these little people, and to see what all they teach me. Have a good school year, friends.

Blurred Lines

Shades of gray…

A little black, a little white.

Not quite enough yet to call it what it is. What you hope it will be.

Thin stripes of hope, a sliver of promise is enough to keep moving ahead. Should it be?

Blurred lines I keep tracing purposefully with my finger

Remind me

Of a perfect moment for me and you.


It’s Time

*** I’m revisiting this blog after a four or five year absence. Just posting some things I started, but never finished. I’ve finished them now. ūüėä “I haven’t see you in forever,” is a comment I’ve heard no less than a million times in the last year and a half.¬† I’ve not disappeared, and I’ve not moved to another country.¬† What I have been doing is working diligently on getting my Master of Arts in Teaching degree from Tusculum College, so that I may pursue a career in education.¬† Look, I have proof…

amandaThat’s me on the left.¬† Sixteen months older, wiser, and much more tired.¬† I’m thrilled that I had this experience.¬† I made lifelong friends during this journey.¬† Vicki is in the middle, and Charity is on the far right.¬† These girls were my crew during my time back into the college world, as a 40-something year old woman. What a true blessing they were (and still are). My, my how different college is the second time around! ¬†No longer the girl who chose to take a month-long sabbatical from music appreciation because I could no longer stand to listen to even just ONE MORE classical music piece. I’m now the student who approached the teacher immediately to find out just exactly why my grade was a 99 instead of a 100. I graduated with honors, and I worked my hiney off to get there.

Probably my three proudest moments in life- having children, surviving and growing through the loss of my father, and not crumbling to piece after a failed marriage; but rather, going back to school for my teaching certification and master’s degree when life forced me to choose plan B. It’s gonna be a good life. God has a purpose for all of this. I’m eager to live it. Live yours to, friend.


*** I found this blog hidden away in my “drafts” folder.¬† I wrote it on August 16, 2011- just over five years ago.¬† There are things I could add to this, but for now I just want to leave it as is.¬† I’m sure I will revisit it in the future.¬† Excuse the “personal-ness” of this particular publishing.¬† It is, however, my blog…

Sorry for where we’ve found ourselves.¬† Who would have thought?

Sorry that when we said “for better or worse” we had no idea how much the worse would outweigh the better.

Sorry that I didn’t listen to that little voice inside.

Sorry that I’ve only been able to tolerate eight years of hurt.

Sorry I’m not stronger… or weaker…¬†whichever you needed me to be.

Sorry that you felt justified to subject innocent ones.

Sorry that I allowed them to see and hear.

Sorry that you feel vindication when you steal and withhold from me.

Sorry that it isn’t only me you hurt and you’re too oblivious to see.

Sorry that one day when little ones grow up they will already have you figured out.

Sorry that after they’ve learned the truth and look¬†to me for explanation¬†I’ll just shake my head and say one word….


Father’s Day

This is not one of my favorite holidays anymore.¬† I’m assuming that anyone else who has lost their father probably feels the same.¬† I think it’s a wonderful idea to set aside a day to celebrate the man who helped to create you and traveled with you through your life, but when that man is no longer here it¬†brings a little tinge of sadness, a¬†reminder of that absence in your heart.

Today, however, instead of feeling sad and sorry for myself, I’m going to try to focus on all of the happy times I can remember having with my dad.¬† My dad’s name was Arthur Clair Elder, III.¬† Yes, it was a big name for a man with a big heart.¬† Since he was a third, a triple, he was always called “Tripp”.¬† The “Clair” portion of the name is a family name that was handed down through the generations, and while it is a name most commonly reserved for women (at least in my experience), there was a certain coolness to the unusualness of the name being used for a man.¬† Clair is my own middle name, my daughter Ava’s middle name, my niece Emma’s middle name, and even our college friend Susan liked it so¬†much that she used it as the middle name for her daughter Isabella.¬† The legacy continues in some¬†very sweet and feisty gals.

When I think back about my childhood and about how insanely blessed Jessica and I were to have had this man as our father there are several things that stand out.¬† First, our father was always talking to us and with us.¬† He was a very present figure in our household.¬† Tripp Elder didn’t just phone in his fatherly duties.¬† He was hands on.¬† Living in a house with my mother, myself, and Jessica you can imagine that my dad didn’t have very much opportunity to talk.¬† We can be a vocal group, the Elder women, but when Tripp did speak we quietened up to listen because we knew whatever was going to come out of that mouth of his would be important.

My dad was very funny.¬† I don’t know if people on the outside knew that, but those who were closest to him most certainly did.¬† He had a dry sense of humor and often times was funny even when I’m not sure that he knew he was being funny.¬† There were several inside jokes we had¬†with him and we used them for years, up until his death actually.¬† Some of our family quotes (without revealing all the background) were “Blah, blah, blah cut to the chase” and during a time after continually asking me and Jessica to complete a chore in our teens and we continually ignoring him and continuing watching television the infamous¬†“Happy Days can WAIT!”¬†phrase made its way into our family quotes.

My dad took us to church and showed us in his daily life what a Christian man looks like as a father.¬† I couldn’t have asked for a better example.¬† He and my mother both read to us from the Bible.¬† He worked on staff at our church, so we were there constantly.¬† He was a man who truly practiced what he preached.¬† I would quietly (unknowingly back then) observe him with my mother and I saw, even at a young age, what a Godly marriage should look like.¬† This man ADORED my mother.¬† He held her hand throughout their lifetime together.¬† He held open doors for her.¬† He was sweet and attentive.¬† He was to all of us.¬† Jessica and I knew that he cared about us and our lives from what we wore, to who we ran around with, to the boys that we dated.¬† Dad was a very present figure in those decisions.¬† Growing up in the Elder household Jessica and I had a pretty clear sense of what was acceptable behavior and what was not.¬† I’ll always remember that the one item of clothing I begged him to let me wear/buy was a bustier-style top like I’d seen on television.¬† I was probably 16 at the time.¬† On that item Tripp was a definite NO!¬† I think I eventually did buy such a shirt when I was probably 22 and with my own money and when I was living in my own place.¬† It wasn’t nearly as satisfying of a purchase as I thought it would be.¬† Rebellion delayed by 6 years sort of loses its excitement.¬†ūüôā

My dad was not a perfect man, but he was awfully darn close in my eyes.¬† I truly could not have asked for a more loving, caring father.¬† He provided for our needs.¬† We never had too much or too little, but we always had what we needed.¬† When he was finally diagnosed with his condition I remember vividly standing in the shower of my old house and wailing out to God to please not take this man.¬† I needed his covering and love and influence in my life.¬† I had a feeling in my stomach like I’d never before experienced.¬† A desperation that made me physically ill each time I thought of it.¬† It was unthinkable to imagine this very-much-alive father of mine just one day not being here.¬† Some of you traveled that long and winding journey with us, and I’m so thankful for the prayers and support we received lifting us all up.¬† There is no doubt in my mind that those prayers were the only things carrying us through that fog.¬† My father was a gracious man.¬† A humble man.¬† A gentle man- in every sense of the word.¬† I love him.¬† I miss him.¬† I think of him daily.¬† I’m so thankful that he’s well, but even now three years later and rather selfishly (I guess) I wish he was still with us.¬† My father was the only person who called me “Manda”.¬† I’d give all the money I had just to hear him say it one more time.

My children still talk about “Papa”.¬† I’m so thankful they remember him.¬† Eli talks often about him playing chase with them around the coffee table in the living room.¬† He won’t ever be forgotten.¬† He set the bar high for all other fathers out there.¬† Not everyone was as fortunate as I to have had such a wonderful daddy.¬† In those cases, I suppose, we have to remember that our ultimate Father, God, is watching over us and has our best interest at heart.¬† He is who you should go to for support and love.¬† I’m just so blessed that I got to see that love and caring mirrored through the eyes of Arthur Clair Elder, III.



When Hope Is Fading

When Hope Is Fading.

Judge Not

Judge Not.

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: