Tag Archives: teaching

Being Lucky…


Four years ago, I wrote a post called “Adult (or almost) students, a teacher’s gift.’  In that blog, I wrote about the joy of connecting with my former students, and discovering the wonderful human beings they have grown to be, as if there were doubts!  Say what you will, but if it weren’t for Facebook, I would not have the contact.  It’s a gift.

Recently, I received another “gift” from a former student.  I taught Logan Sparks in first grade, the class of 1982-83.  It was a darling class, and I could probably tell you a story about each one of those kids in that class.  We had some interesting adventures, including Paddington Bear coming to visit us, and the day of the field trip, when the bus forgot us, and instead of going out in the world in excitement, we were left at school (with no lesson plans), to make the best of it, and we did.

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Back to my “gift.”  Logan co-wrote a screenplay for Harry Dean Stanton, who just passed away last week.  AND, Logan named one of the characters in the movie after ME!  This afternoon, I saw his movie, Lucky.  My bestest neighbor friends went with me, and I had a “past-meets-the-present” moment.  Nearly seven years ago, when I first came to Winston-Salem, I knew only 8 people, and 4 of them were under the age of 11.  Today, I was mentioned in an anecdote in the newspaper, and I saw the movie with 10 of my neighbors and friends, who came along to share the experience with me.   (There were other people in the audience, too, by the way.)

I saw a film that was funny-in-places, thought provoking and poignant, written by one of my long-ago first graders, who gave me “Special Thanks” in the credits of his movie.  It was a quirky, heart-wrenching tribute to Mr. Stanton and quite good.  Some of us wept.


So, 35 years isn’t too long to wait for such a gift, now, is it?  As my friend told the audience, before the movie began, “if you love the Arts, thank a teacher.”  I know Logan had a lot of good teachers.  We were all truly thanked.


Oprah and Me…


Dear Oprah,

I saw you on The Talk the other day.  You, once again, moved me.  You talked about leaving a legacy, and how Maya taught you that you never know what that legacy is going to be.


Let me back up.  You would have loved the Picture Day at my school, back in the 80’s, when I stepped up to have my photo snapped.  As I posed, one of my first grade boys called out, “Mrs. Horton, you look just like Oprah!”  I can’t tell you how I loved that spontaneous remark.  I’ve held you in my heart as a Sister ever since.

My connection with you became stronger, and much more spiritual later, when I heard you tell on your show, about how much you wanted a role in The Color Purple.  You told about how you just finally surrendered to God, that if it be His will, you would get the role.  By the way, you mentioned on The Talk the other day, how badly you wanted that role.  God meant for me to hear of your surrender, because not too many years later, I told God, “I’m out of ideas.  God, I’m giving his to You,” and He put into process the events which changed my life, and led me to His door, literally.

For years, I have tucked into my journal, a page called “Ten Things I Know For Sure.”  You know it.  You composed it.  I have read it over so many times, I have it memorized.  One of them is about gratitude.  I am practicing it everyday.

Here are some other connections:  I live in Winston-Salem, NC.  You know that’s Maya’s town.  I subscribed to your magazine.  Okay…those are stretches, but, “Hey!”  I love road trips.  I think Gayle is great, too.  Still stretching.

So, let’s get back to the legacy…Oprah, I am so happy you impressed the women of The Talk that they have a responsibility.  We all have a responsibility.  We all say things.  I can only pray that the Holy Spirit guides me, and has guided me to say something helpful, and not hurtful.  I just pray my legacy has empowered others in a small way, the way you have empowered me. 

And we will never really know, will we?


Your Sister/Doppleganger

And now I am a Movie Critic…


I know. I didn’t expect that either. I just like movies. I didn’t get to go to movies much with my former spouse. He couldn’t see the point in sitting in the dark for 2+ hours. He would watch Netflix because he “didn’t like TV,” and was sick of CNN.

Since being single, I have struggled with going to the movies. At first, I didn’t have anyone to go with. Never mind that I am my own best companion. Then I did “risk it all” to go be a loser sitting by myself in the theater. It was kind of good! Now, I have friends that call, or that I call, and we go to the movies.

Yesterday I saw Birdman. Blah. But today, I saw McFarland, USA with Kevin Costner. This is my review:
This movie will not get the attention it deserves. That is for two reasons. One; it only has one major star (Kevin), and Two; it is about teaching (which is sad). Mr. White is a “fallen” high school football coach with anger management issues. He is at the end of his marketable career with a wife and two young daughters. They pull into McFarland, California, in the central valley of our own country’s vegetable growing region. They actually have landed in “Mexico,” with its Spanish language and culture, family/friend values, work ethic, and traditional practices.

Mr. White doesn’t really “get it,” but his wife and girls do. After being relieved of his football coaching responsibilities, but not from his actual teaching job, Mr. White (irony now not lost) notices some of his PE students are pretty fast runners. And briefly summarizing, he organizes them into a Cross Country team that goes on to glory with a lot of good drama along the way.

I loved this movie, and actually felt really great leaving the theater, as opposed to feeling really confused after seeing Birdman the day before. (Don’t assume I am not deep enough to get Birdman.) Mr. White is a good man who isn’t really into teaching. He is into sports. His transformation makes us realize that teaching is about relationships, not about knowledge of subject or of “wanting to make a difference.” What happens is that teachers do make the difference by connecting with their students through empathy, understanding, and role modeling. Words are powerful. Actions are even more powerful.

Thanks Mr. White. Thanks Kevin Costner. And the Oscar should go to…

A shoulder to cry on…


Not a punching bag.  That’s a nurse.  That’s a teacher.  This was Nurse AND Teacher Appreciation Week.  It is a celebration of two mighty professions, and rightly shared, for nurses also teach and teachers also nurse. 

In my family, the women seem to have gravitated to each one of these professions.  We are proud to care for and serve others.

Though my active, full-time teaching days are over, I still consider myself to be an educator, and I whole-heartedly pray for and laude all teachers everywhere.  But I am totally in awe of nurses.  They have to hurt people in order to help them heal.  That is just plain amazing to me.

As this special week of acknowledgement and recognition comes to a close, remember to thank a teacher or two.  He, she, or most probably they helped you become to person you are.  Then find and kiss a nurse.  She or he will be the ones to make it all better, if not now, then definitely someday.


There are miracles in the mundane…


So, it is summertime, and the livin’ is, well, you know.  Not much has been happening, and that is a pure blessing.  I used to pray for boredom, and I was serious.  When I taught, the average number of decisions I made in a day numbered in the thousands.  When I retired, I told people that I wanted my biggest decision of each day to be what color of sweat pants I would wear.

Then my life, as I knew it, fell to pieces, and that was definitely NOT boring.  I moved across country, built a new life with new friends and new activities.   I have been in full-blown “adventure mode” for four years or more, what with the falling apart and the falling together of my life.  Now, I seem to have gotten my groove back.  I didn’t think that would ever happen.

This summer, since I have been home from my extended stay in Wisconsin, I have been living easy.  What I have noticed are the small, ordinary miracles of my life.  They are not exciting, not extraordinary, not especially thrilling, but here they are…

An orange kitten who leaps into the air, vertically; a thunderstorm with driving rain; the church ladies coming to my tiny home for lunch; running into and chatting with two different neighbors on an early morning walk;  cutting Black-eyed Susans  for my house from my very own yard; spending the weekend at the lake, and joining a group of beautiful, brilliant, lively women for their book club discussion; talking with my sisters on the phone in the evening; volunteering;  penpal-ing with my left-behind grandchildren in Arizona;  mowing grass, planting flowers, and sitting on my deck with breakfast in the mornings; going to the library and reading books!; praying and answered prayers; talking with my former spouse on the phone, weekly; a puppy at my feet at nap time; nap time!; a bicycle ride; dinner out with the girls; playing BUNCO; yoga and weights at the Y; reading Magic Tree House books on his sofa with my little tutoring boy; spotting the first yellow and red maple leaf on the ground;  seeing my brother with his oldest son,  waiting for the bus on my nephew’s first day of high school; and all the miracles I am finding in my simple life.

They are actually pretty thrilling, after all.

Adult (or almost) students, a teacher’s gift


One of the pure pleasures of my life has been getting to know my former students as adults.  My dear friend and teaching buddy (and more) “gave” this week, Teacher Appreciation Week, to her students.  I am sure she would take this as flattery, rather than copying,as I wish to acknowledge my students, grown, and almost grown.  It has been a gift to teach you.

A couple of weekends ago, one of my former first (second and third) graders visited me from Seattle.  To see her as a grown up woman, talk to her of our lives, and to share experiences, hopes, dreams, and friends was such a gift.  This is not the first of my former students to visit me, across the country from where I taught them.  I have enjoyed contact with former students through Facebook, as well.   That has been almost as good as a face-to-face visit, if not quite.

The years melt away when we gain adulthood.  This, I knew from my much younger brothers and sisters.  I was grown when some of them were born, and yet, now, they have protected me, cared for me, and given me courage and fortitude to carry on, not to mention, just plain loved me.

My former students, turned adult, have trusted me to teach their own children, and encouraged me, as well.  I am so proud of them.  When I taught them, they were either goofy middle-schoolers, or green-as-grass primary schoolers.  It didn’t matter.  I loved them just the same.  They taught me more than I ever taught them.  They built my character more than I ever helped them develop theirs.  They became more than I ever was or hope to be.

So, thanks for the memories.  Thanks for the lessons.  Thanks for sharing your lives with me more than I could ever share mine.  Be happy.  Be safe.  Be loved (though, I will always love you).  Be YOU!  Happy Teacher Appreciation Week, because this teacher really appreciates you.

Middle Schoolers, not your ordinary human beings…


First of all, let me begin by saying I have a middle school niece and nephew that I love dearly.  They are so remarkable, it wrenches my heart.  Ordinary, they are not.

They go to our neighborhood school which is private and Catholic.  This school is also remarkable.  There are eleven classes ranging from 3 year-olds up to eighth grade.  The school has incredibly caring and hard-working teachers and administrators, an award-winning curriculum, and an immaculately well-kept facility.  The parents are warm, friendly, and supportive.  Each day begins and ends with prayer.

Having the teachers gather to pray every morning before school is a brilliant stroke of genius, in my opinion.  As a thirty-eight year veteran of teaching in the public school system, I know how much prayer can do to get you through the day!  I taught all grades one through eight in my career.  I prayed independently and silently every day.  I know for a fact, I would never have survived without prayer.

Fast forward to this past week, when I substituted for the English and Religion teacher of the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades at St. Leo’s.  Let me tell you, it was not sparkles and rainbows.

These are good kids, but they are not ordinary.  These people eat well.  Most of the boys are significantly taller than I am.  Their feet are long, not unlike water skis.  The girls are tall, too, and have an endless number of things to talk about.  (I can relate.)  The boys have booming, breaking voices.  The things they think are funny are puzzling to me, while they find them hysterical.  They must all breakfast on coffee and chocolate and Fruit Loops.  Their energy levels are off the charts!

Oh, my.  I did survive.  After some recovery time, I may have flourished.  That remains to be seen, but right now, I am just worn out.  I’ll be going back next week, and thank God I have a weekend to recoup and regroup.  Yes, middle schoolers are a species unto their own, and I do have prayer.  Alleluia and Amen.