Teaching in Genesee County Has Its Rewards, Life Lessons, and Lighter Side

Teaching has changed dramatically over the years. The teachers continue to work for our children, meeting all the demands placed on them, but they also have moments of humor that they will never forget in their careers.

In 1972, I was lucky enough to get my first teaching job at Wolcott Street School in Le Roy. Many of my earliest memories were at this school. I have always enjoyed teaching and hope to have inspired young minds to always aim for the stars. My memories remain in my heart as a teacher.

I will focus on the funny side of my teaching career. One of my earliest memories was teaching my third graders about deserts as one of the regions of the world. I brought the sand; students brought cactus plants, we made a papier-mâché camel and a mural illustrating life in a desert. Then, to make it sound authentic, I turned up my classroom thermostat to show what it was like to survive in a desert. First, I didn’t realize that you NEVER adjust the thermostat, and second, my thermostat was the main link to the 12 classrooms on my floor.

I was ready when I gave my first standardized test to my class. I had just pressed my husband’s stopwatch when one of my students asked me if she could use the bathroom. Holding my stopwatch, I asked her if she could wait. Whether they needed to go to the bathroom or not, every child was encouraged to try from that day forward. I learned a sad life lesson that day.

My very first observation by the principal was a math lesson. I was so nervous! It was about 10 minutes into my lesson when a little boy raised his hand and asked how the earth stayed in the sky. As my manager waited for my response, I explained that we would talk about it after my lesson.

I always thought you could turn any event into a lesson and an adventure. For example, I took my class for a walk, not knowing that I needed permission first. We started down Main Street and approached the Wiss Hotel; Donnie Pangrazio’s grandfather was outside and invited us in, so my class grabbed a soda and headed back to school.

When I came back, I was asked to see the principal. It seemed he had been inundated with calls about the professor and the wandering students.

One morning, a 3rd grader shared how excited he was that his mom and dad had bought a bike designed for two; he asked me the name of the motorcycle. Unfortunately, I mistakenly told him it was a condom rather than a tandem. There’s been a lot of laughs over the years about that remark.

After our daughters were born, I got a job as a teacher in the Batavia school district. I continued to create memories.

I loved taking my students for walks. We would walk to Batavia, visiting the Holland Land Office Museum, the historic Batavia Cemetery and other landmarks. One day we stopped at Kibbe Park to talk about the importance of Tonawanda Creek to our early settlers. Unfortunately the trip was cut short when I realized we were in a particular part of the park where the young lovers would park. As my students discovered the protection of their lovemaking, I realized right away that we had to leave the park.

I loved taking my class on field trips and was lucky to have an administrator who took care of my overnight trips to Albany and New York. One of the highlights of one of my trips to New York was taking my class to Yankee Stadium. I think all the dads in this class went chaperone. I must admit that I was not a baseball fanatic. We walked around the stadium. I still remember my class sitting in the Yankees dugout as I backed out onto the field to take their picture with my Instamatic panorama camera. I noticed that all the dads were smiling. I thought that was unusual until two burly men were on my side in the field out of nowhere. They questioned me about what I was doing in the field. I thought that was a silly question explaining that I was taking a picture of my class. They weren’t impressed with my explanation and kept saying; you are on the Yankee Stadium field. After being escorted off the field by hostile security, I noticed the fathers laughing. Walking on the Yankee Stadium field is for Yankees only.

It was a huge responsibility to take the kids on an overnight trip. I would do a room check every trip to make sure the kids were ready for bed. Each room had a relative as a chaperone. One night while checking my room, I kept knocking on the door to make sure the kids in each room were ready for bed. Eventually the door opened and a young adult was staring at me with his girlfriend behind him saying no we are not ready for bed. As I tried to apologize, I made sure to put a post-it note on each student’s door. I mistakenly thought we had the whole wing.

I was constantly learning life lessons as a teacher. I have always had pets in class. I felt it taught kids responsibility, and for many it was the first time they had a pet. For example, we had a hamster that frequently escaped, so I just left some food for Fluffy. One night I was told that our hamster had gone to a parents’ meeting in the faculty hall and had scared many members as he paraded around. This particular pet has also attacked the permanent records of the students, munching on the records.

I hope some of my memories have made you smile, and please understand that my students have been successful academically. I just felt that if I made learning fun, they would also remember and create their memories. I know many of my colleagues have their humorous stories. I hope some of them will be inspired to share after reading this article. Times have changed dramatically since the beginning of my career. First of all, you will never take your class for a walk without the authorization of the administration and the parents. Few districts today would grant overnight field trips to 4th and 5th graders. The only safe pet in the classroom is a fish, and you never set a thermostat. Above all, toilet breaks before any exam are essential!

I am still teaching and creating memories. I hope mine made you smile.

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