Daydreaming About My Life
It was two o’clock after a tiring day of classes. I was in the waiting room of the education department waiting to talk with one of FSU’s professors of elementary education. I closed my eyes for a brief second. When I opened them I was sitting inside a classroom that I had never been in before. The teacher was standing in the front of the room. She looked unlike any of the teachers I had ever had. She wore a long navy blue skirt and a ruffled blouse. In the corner of the room there was a round, black-bellied stove. The teacher filled it with wood and paper to start a fire. She added coal to it. I glanced around the room from my seat in the back. Some of the kids in the classroom were much older than the others. There were around fifteen children total. The teacher discussed mathematics with the older children. The younger children worked on their assignments. I peered over to the girl sitting next to me. I couldn’t help but notice her name at the top of her assignment: “Maryanna Furlin.” I thought of my grandmother, Maryanna Furlin. Could she be sitting right next to me? I looked at her. This girl bore an unusual resemblance to my grandmother. I was in the 1920s.
I felt a sudden burst of energy throughout my body. I was sitting next to my grandmother! I said to her, “Hi. My name’s Alanna. What’s yours?” We whispered to each other. I asked her what she wanted to be when she grows up. She looked to the corner of her eyes for the answer. “Ever since I was knee-high to a grasshopper I knew I was gunna be a teacher. My great grandma and grandpa were both school teachers,” she said. Just then the teacher spoke to the whole class. She said to pack our things. We were dismissed for the day. We hurried to play outside. We decided to play “school.” My grandmother said, “If I am not the teacher, I won’t play.” I didn’t care.
We headed for the door. I grabbed the handle. All of a sudden I looked down. My hand held some other doorknob. It looked like it was made of glass, but I could not see through the door because there was a solid white board inside of it. Where was I? I opened the door. Luckily no one was inside the room. I entered into yet another classroom. This classroom was much different than the first one. Everything had a modern look to it; the desks and chairs were made of shiny, silver metal, the walls were as white as pearls, and there were glass boards with erasable markers. I walked to the teacher’s desk and noticed my name, Ms. Afton, printed on the nameplate. Could this really be my classroom?
I lost all track of time. Quickly I located a clock and saw it was 8:00a.m. I would have guessed it to be later. The door suddenly opened. A few children entered, greeting me hello and settling in at their desks. I put my bag on the desk. In searching for a clue, I opened it and discovered a lesson plan that I must have written up earlier. We got through some math lessons and now it was time for computers. I walked over to my desk and turned a crank. This activated the laptops inside of each desk. Each laptop turned on. I turned the hand-sized lever. The next thing I saw was a screen in front of me. It displayed some type of written article. My hand was on the crank used to turn the microfilm pages. I began reading through some of them:
“Pinpointing Teacher Goals to Assist in a Successful Preschool Classroom”
Written by L. Jennifer Ashton-Lolo
Why is he always getting into those toys? She never pays attention even though she has things to do. Teachers and parents must work together in developing and implementing goals for their own change as well as goals for the child. Teachers must help parents develop individual goals for themselves. Teachers must have goals for themselves.
Helpful Questions in Setting Teacher Goals:
Is there a large area for movement and group activities?
Are things labeled?
Are children involved in cleanup?
Self-help skills have a direct impact upon a child’s everyday life and ability to be independent. Do you eat at tables with the children? If children are to be kept motivated…increased imagination is the key. [Children have] different styles of learning…
I should print this article out. Maybe try some of these techniques with my third graders. Wait…where are my students? Art class! Right. I dropped them off. I let out a huge sigh of relief.
I pulled some quarters from my pocket to print the article. I put three in the machine. Oddly enough, the microfilm machine had turned into a snack machine; a bag of ‘Cheetohs’ fell to the bottom. These were just what I needed. I sat down on a comfortable couch. I set my bag beside me. The bag was heavy. I looked inside. There were clothes, a toothbrush, and deodorant in it.
Within five minutes a friend named Steve appeared. He is a family friend and recently retired from teaching high school. “How was your flight? Are you hungry?” he asked.
“Yes. The food at the airport was horrible,” I said.
“I know a great restaurant,” Steve said.
We walked outside to his shiny, red Dodge. “Alanna, I’m so glad you’re interested in this job. Are you nervous at all? Is there anything you would like to know?”
“I’m nervous about the interview. Do you know who will be interviewing me?” I asked.
“There’s no reason to be nervous; you’ve already had a ton of training and a good amount of experience with teaching. George Kohut will be interviewing you. He is a close friend of mine. Don’t worry, you’ll like him,” Steve said.
“About the job itself,” he said, “the time frame will allow you the freedom to engage in a large number of different opportunities. Did you know that when I retired – most people don’t know this – my salary was far from being low? You will get a pension which will help you live quite comfortably. Sure your starting salary will most likely be low, but it will increase with time. We as teachers produce the future doctors, teachers, lawyers, scientists, athletes and workers in all fields. We are role models for our students and other teachers. Academic integrity, socially acceptable behavior, good communication skills with parents and the community at large, professional growth via courses or publishing research are some of the responsibilities every teacher has.”
This conversation led us through lunch. After, he drove me to my hotel. I checked in with the front desk. They gave me my key. Steve and I then made plans to pick me up in the morning and go to the school.
That night I dreamt of my grandmother. We went from her living room to the Harvard, Illinois Milk Day Parade, to the pool. We talked about being teachers – our experiences as teachers. We were about the same age again: now eighty. We talked for hours. I told her stories from when I taught elementary school. She also wanted to hear about the many children’s books I had written. I looked back on my life. I was satisfied. I showed her pictures of her great and great-great grandchildren. I told her about that day in primary school when we met. Before I finished explaining it to her, I heard my name. I opened my eyes. Professor Clark invited me into his office. I asked him basic questions. This is what I noted:
“Have you taught elementary school?” I asked.
“Yeah. I did it in unusual ways, but yes I did…summers for fifteen years, teaching math and computers to elementary age children.”
He mentioned teaching in the summers, so I wondered if this meant that the school he taught at was in session year round.
“It was my own school,” he explained.
“Where was the school?” I asked.
“Here on campus.”
“You taught for fifteen years and then got a PhD while…”
“No, I got my PhD before [I taught] then and I had secondary teaching experience before I got my Doctor[ate].”
“Where did you graduate from?”
“The University of Tennessee,” he said.
I told him that I went to boarding school in Chattanooga. He knew the area. I felt comfortable talking with him.
He has been teaching forty one years now. I asked if he liked teaching. He said, “Oh yeah, that’s why I do it.”
I asked more questions: what kinds of written work do you do; what kinds of research; is it hard finding a job after graduating; what is your usual day like; what advice would you have for me.
His written work includes class materials, reports to organizations, and descriptions of programs. He has written articles on statistics and concerning using computers in classrooms. Depending on the year and how the economy is doing, he said people may stop hiring teachers and that makes it difficult to find a job. This was the case when he was trying to get a job at FSU. For a typical day, Dr. Clark is at his office by seven to prepare for his eight o’clock class. After this class he prepares for his Thursday class and has office hours. Then he does office work until he goes home. Dr. Clark manages the Undergraduate Program (for elementary education). Mondays and Wednesdays he supervises student teachers in the field. His advice to me was “don’t go into education, elementary education in particular, unless you’re prepared to work really hard at it because it is one of the most difficult jobs in the United States. It takes knowledge, patience, [and the] willingness to do whatever is necessary to make sure the children learn. After people graduate then I add another one to the list that says, ‘yeah, but you gotta find some time for personal life. But you don’t need it until after you’ve finished your first year teaching’.”
I thanked him for meeting with me. I tried to get up, but my feet would not move. We exchanged hopeful stares. I looked down at my notes: Interview with Dr. Clark 2:10
I looked at my watch. The time changed from 2:09 to 2:10. Confused, nervous, and uncomfortable I quickly took a deep breath and began.
“So, why did you decide to become a teacher?”
Wallin, Maryanna. Personal interview. 5 October 2005
Kohut, Matthew. Personal interview. 11 October 2005
Kohut, Stephen. Personal interview. 5 October 2005
Clark, Robert. Personal interview. 13 October 2005
“Pinpointing Teacher Goals To Assist In A Successful Preschool Classroom” Topics In Early Childhood Special Education. Apr. 1981: 37-44.