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one of a kind December 23, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — goldstarsforeveryone @ 7:15 pm

Where has the time gone – Listen to this while you read.

I’m a little addicted to books. In the way that some people drink whiskey everyday or other women buy shoes.

My coworkers and friends think I’m crazy because every “holiday season” I buy specific book for every single kid in my room. I could easily get something from the dollar store or oriental trading, but i want these gifts to be  important. The most significant gift i every received as a kid was a book from my kindergarten teacher when I was  5 years old. It was called Kitty’s New Doll and I could still retell and draw for you the entire picture book.

Growing up in a big family, being the youngest with a  large age gap to the eldest, there just wasn’t books at my level around the house. I was always gazing at my dad’s encyclopedias from the 60’s or my sister’s pharmacological organic chemistry books. To have a book that someone thoughtfully picked out, that was on my level and explained why they thought I would like it, meant the world to me.

That incredible thoughtful teacher was Mrs. Murnane. When I was in kindergarten she seemed like a giant, but the nicest most sweet giant you would ever meet. I can remember every single detail of the year I spent with her. I can remember the color of the birthday cake I colored in the packet she gave us when i was learning to memorize my birthday and phone number. I remember exactly how to make the frosting Christmas tree out of an icecream cone, frosting, and jawbreakers.

When i think about my students and the person I want to be, I think about teachers like her. These saintlike insanely thoughtful  people who were more concerned with the student and how they learned rather than the busy pressure of teaching. When my grandmother died this august, the one I’m named after, Mrs. Murnane came to her wake and funeral. It had been over 20 years, but she still remembered me and described the yellow floral smock dress I always wore. When My school had it’s 70th anniversary this year, she came. We hugged and reminisced with the same stories  we tell every time we see each other. I was able to introduce my students to her and they were so awed that I now teach them 3rd grade next the room she taught me kindergarten.

I am so proud to carry on her tradition of getting to know my students and finding  books that will hopefully, inspire them to enjoy reading as much as I do. When I think about it now, what mattered most about that gift was she took the time to pick a book out and tell me why she wanted me to have it. Although, I’m pretty sure she could have given me a blank sheet of paper and i would have kept it forever.


ketchup packets for some, minature american flags for all. September 23, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — goldstarsforeveryone @ 12:08 am

Listen to this while reading.

At first site you truly can never suspect the students who will end up being mischievous. The first day, week, even month they are all angels as they survey you for weaknesses and possible openings. They sometimes build up an image of excellence only to reveal their true self at later date with another authoritarian present. There is a permanent place on my fridge devoted to the escapades of one such student.

She was like the perfect image of a thrift store Easter Sunday. I knew her 2 years before she made it to my classroom in a pastel flowery printed dress, knee high black socks with sandals, and a large straw hat. In my eyes, these are the kinds experiments in fashion that need to be encouraged.

True to her image she proved to be a bright young lady fascinated by pioneer times and consistently dressed as if she and Laura Ingalls Wilder were first cousins. Like most brilliant people her eccentricity overshadowed the fact that she was disorganized mess. Papers rarely made their way to my in box, but unusual research reports, book reviews, and drawings were plentiful.

and now my favorite story of…

The Adventures of Riley Spetz and the Case of the Ketchup Contraband

What do want?


When do we want it?


These are the kinds of cheers I imagined Riley to be leading in the lunchroom under the watchful eyes of Miss Shirley our 3rd grade lunch mom. I’m not sure when Riley decided that the amount of ketchup packet per kid was paltry at best, but needless to say she was not taking this lunchtime atrocity lying down.

After doing her best to convince our, highly androgonous mullified, hot lunch head to give her more packets she stormed out into the makeshift mess hall of a gym to devise a plan.

The next day she donned one of her well known balloony type pastel dresses, which wound up being a perfect cover for the family size bottle of ketchup. After sneaking it out of her locker, blumblingly walking it down to the lunchroom, she liberated the her peers from their  ketchup tyranny. They drenched their nuggets in ketchup and almost escaped without anyone knowing until they made their walk down the hallway back to their lockers.

As a beaming Riley made her victorious walk down the hallway she slid over a pencil right in front of her locker. . In one fell swoop her ketchup bottle went flying, burst open, and left not one student without at least one dot of tomatoey shrapnel. Storms of students slowly walked to the nurses office being careful not to slip on the remnants of the bottle with the office aides gasping as it looked like a massacre had a occurred outside.

The jig was up for Riley and her punishment from home included a required her to pay off the family size bottle of ketchup she illegally smuggled into school. Riley didn’t learn her lesson as this behavior continued all year…

I imagine one day she’ll go on to write books about pioneer spies.

* names have been changed to protect the innocent.


confessions. September 20, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — goldstarsforeveryone @ 6:18 pm

Listen to this while reading.

i hated third grade.

I hated more than any other grade. Even in the years i had nuns for teachers, third grade tops out as the worst year of my schooling existence.

Her name was Mrs. Wagner and she was retiring that year. Which was amazing for us because we became the benefactors of her expansive collection of teacher garb. Entering third grade my grandmother, who in my 7 year old mind was really my mother, was diagnosed with colon cancer. Apparently she had had it for sometime, but ignored pains that grew until she only had 6 months left. She never drank, never smoked, always wrote cards to her friends, but cancer was taking over her body without anyone even knowing.

Most of fall of third grade was spend with grandma hanging out, making cards, watching TGIF like we always did. She spent a lot of time teaching me how to be a lady through tea parties and teepee making. We played 500 rummy, colored, read poems, cheerleaded, and cooked. I can remember every moment, scent and dress like i am 7 again and lying under the table of their 2nd floor apartment.

When she passed away an anger took over me that I had never felt. It was a loss so great that I desperately clung to her prayer card as if I held on to it long enough she could reappear. One day it dropped out of my desk and another student picked it up and brought it Mrs. Wagner. She called me up and yelled at me for having it in school. It was that day i stopped paying attention to anything she said and made it my mission to just give up on 3rd grade. I read books that were too small for me and refused to learn multiplication. Resulting in several F’s on my report card.

It didn’t help that my mom became the other 3rd grade teacher so not only was a failing, but everyday was a parent teacher conference in the teacher’s lounge. She would teach the other class through telling embarrassing stories of our family, which made lunch time ridiculous. The year ended and after she spent years showing me teaching was not worth the time or effort, she encouraged me to major in business in college.

But here i am.

18 years later

I never once thought that grading papers and assigning seats was an appealing job, but here i am.

Never in my life in I ever think I would be teaching 3rd grade.

This week I asked them about their dreams and had a student who didn’t want to share. When she handed a small piece of crumpled paper in which she revealed that her older sister had died. She explained that although she doesn’t have a dream job for when she grows up, the always has dreams about her sister being a butterfly.

This year, teaching is part academic and part grief counseling, but it’s in those moments that I’m glad that i’m the one that gets to speak to them everyday.Their sentences and stories are heartbreaking and i’m just glad someone can be the one to write them back, let them know that things do eventually get better and remind them of how strong they actually are, and hope that, at the very least, they will never hate third grade.


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Filed under: Uncategorized — goldstarsforeveryone @ 5:46 pm

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