They Call Me Mom – Review and Q&A With Pete Springer

If you haven’t met Pete Springer yet, you are in for a treat. Genuinely kind and encouraging, driven to recognize and appreciate others, and humble to a fault; he is the sort of human we need representing our species should aliens ask to speak with our leader.

What does that have to do with people calling him “Mom?” Pete worked as an elementary school teacher for 31 years. After retirement, he wrote a book. And, I read it.

© Chel Owens

In true Pete fashion, he wrote in order to help others. His non-fiction They Call Me Mom is chock-full of advice and instruction for teachers of all levels. He’s included plenty of his own experiences, admonitions, and the occasional touching or humorous anecdote.

One story, about a girl from a family being raised by a single mother, brought me to happy-tears. That same story is also on his blog: “The Trip.” There’s a bit of a name change of the protagonist, but the gist of the story is that a cute, little second-grader informs Mr. Springer that she is saving all of her money in order to take her family on a trip.

I also enjoyed reading about Pete’s mishaps before discovering he wanted to be a teacher, including stints as a tree-planter and Olympics event ticket-seller. His mishaps after discovering teaching are equally entertaining but, naturally, more heart-warming.

With every anecdote, Pete masterfully turns the events and morals to a life lesson. The man simply exudes being a teacher; he can’t seem to help it.

If that weren’t enough, Pete agreed to answer a few questions:

1. You have a lot of advice in your book. If you could give a new teacher only three tips, what would they be?
A. Believe that you do have the power to make a difference.  Some child is going to go on to do great things because of you.  What an amazing feeling and immense responsibility!
B. I can’t take credit for this one, but I believe it with all my heart:  Maya Angelou—”I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
C. If I could, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat with one change—look after yourself as well as you do your students.  If you don’t take care of yourself, then you can’t help them.

2. Many male teachers prefer higher grades or positions of authority. Did you ever regret staying in elementary school?
Never.  Everyone has to find the right age for himself/herself.  I seriously thought about becoming a principal, but I would have missed having my own classroom too much and hanging out with “my kids” each day.  It was like being part of a big family.  I could have taught middle school, high school, or even college, but I felt like I could impact the most people by teaching elementary school.

3. With both you and your wife teaching, did you find a work/life balance more difficult?
Having a spouse in the same profession was a good thing because both of us knew exactly how the other was feeling when one of us had a bad day.  Sometimes we felt like talking about it, and other times we didn’t.  My wife and I laughed a lot together, and there were times we’d end up in hysterics over some of the absurdities of schools and children.

4. When do teachers use the bathroom?
Next to never.  I always tried to leave my room for a few minutes at lunch, but I didn’t even manage that some days.  In an emergency (a couple of times a year), I might call the office or another teacher to ask them to send somebody to my room for a minute.  If no one were available, sometimes we’d call another teacher who was on their break.  Sometimes I brought my entire class to the next-door neighbor’s classroom for a couple of minutes when there was no other option. They could also do the same.

And, he gave us a bonus answer!
Extra tidbits of wisdom:  Teaching is a team effort.  Don’t try to do it all alone.  You need to keep the parents informed because they want to know what’s going on, and most will be super appreciative of your efforts.  Don’t live on an island—engage with the other teachers to see how you can find ways to work together to improve the program.  Remember to have fun with your class.  Years later, they aren’t going to remember your math or writing lessons. But they will remember that you ran around on the playground with them, dressed up in ridiculous costumes with them, and went to their extracurricular activities because you cared about them more than anything else.

From Amazon, where you can purchase your own!

If you or someone you know would like a short, sweet book on teaching; pick up a copy today. I’m not a teacher and still benefitted from his recommendations. After all, are we not all teachers in some capacity?

Keep a lookout for Pete in the future as well! He’s working on a fictional story for YA, next!

From Pete’s blog:

My name is Pete Springer. I taught elementary school for thirty-one years (grades 2-6) at Pine Hill School in Eureka, CA. Even though I retired over three years ago, my passion will always lie with supporting education, kids, and teachers.

When I came out of the teaching program many years ago, I realized how unprepared I was for what was in store for me in the classroom. My college education focused mostly on learning theory rather than the practical day-to-day challenges that all teachers face. Thankfully, I had some great mentors to lean on to help support me in the early part of my career.

I have made it my mission to pay it forward to the next generation of teachers. I was a master teacher to four student teachers, and I have several former students who are now teachers, including one who teaches at my former elementary school. That is pretty cool!

While I was teaching, I decided that one day I would write books for children. That ship is now in the harbor. I took some writing workshops, found a critique group, joined SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), and I’m nearing the end of writing my first middle-grade novel. I’m writing for middle-school boys, as I don’t feel there are enough good books for that age level.

Interview answers, photo, and bio © Pete Springer
Blog post © Chel Owens

© Chel Owens

99 thoughts on “They Call Me Mom – Review and Q&A With Pete Springer

    1. Thank you, Priscilla. It is written from my heart. It was a fun excuse to write about many of the students who touched my life.

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          1. I’m in my last of a twenty year career in Idaho. We left California about 25 years ago. I teach high school English—full tilt: strategic to AP over the years. Whew! Maybe I do have a couple of stories to share.

            Liked by 1 person

    1. Right on, Pam! Go Lumberjacks!—one of the best nicknames of any school out there. I graduated from Humboldt in 1983 and got my teaching credential in 1984.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Could be. When I moved down to the primary level, I used to bring my class to the library. For many second-graders, it was their first library card. I’m involved with the Humboldt Childre’s Author Festival Committee now—a great group of people who help fundraise to bring about twenty-five nationally known children’s authors into our local schools biennially. A couple of the librarians from the Humboldt County Library are on that committee. I think Rhonda Wittenberg (spelling?) has been a librarian there for a long time. You might remember her.

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          1. Ronda is awesome! She was my supervisor. I worked with JoAn Bauer as well. I remember the early days of the author festival when we had amazing writers like Clyde Robert Bulla, Sue Alexander, and Walter Dean Myers (plus the San Souci brothers and many others). I am interested in the festival! Can you contact me? cricketmusings@gmail.com

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    1. I was fortunate to work with some of the best—some of the finest people I know. At the same time, there is no denying there are plenty who should be doing something else.

      One of the reasons there is a teacher shortage in many places in the United States is the lack of administrative and parental support. Sadly, the solution to this problem is that the standards to becoming a teacher are lowered, further exacerbating the problem.

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  1. Thanks so much for reading my book and the kind write-up, Chel. Part of what makes a good teacher is we try to encourage our students to chase their dreams. I know I’m not your teacher, but I am way older than you.😎 (I mean, WAY OLDER!) Now, you’re going to have to tolerate me encouraging you to do the same. You’re a talented writer with a keen wit. It will put a smile on my face when I’m holding your book in my hands. Much luck to you and your family.

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  2. Reblogged this on Pete Springer and commented:

    Thanks so much to a talented writer and fellow blogger, Chel Owens, for her kind and supportive write-up of my book. If you are a fan of poetry and short stories, then please check out her blog. Even though I’m not a poet, I enjoy reading her regular A Mused Poetry contest selections. I see big things on the horizon for Chel, and I’m glad to be following her blog. I recommend you do the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pete and I followed each other almost from the beginning of his blogging. I loved his book and it had great insights and recommendations to experienced as well as new teachers. As a retired teacher and administrator, I smiled all the way through reading his book. It reminded me so many of my classroom events.
    I chuckled at the bathroom question. I wonder if all the teachers, like Pete and myself, are trained to have an internal clock of bathroom time!
    I enjoyed reading this review and your interview Q&A with Pete, Chelsea. I agree with him – write that book, Chelsea!

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    1. ❤ Thanks for telling me, Miriam. I think I found both of you through Carrot Ranch. My mother was a teacher and I’ve maintained a friendship with many of my former teachers and my children’s teachers.

      I know that I’m behind on The Book Wagon. I hope to make time in a few months!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I just told Pete that I volunteered to format your poetry book. You do the selection of poems, editing, group them in different sections if you want to. What I did was to put the poems one on each page in case I want to change the sequence. After you’re sure of the sequence, group the poems together in sections or chapters. At that point, I moved the sequence of the sections to make them flow.

        You can start by selecting the poems to put them in one folder and put some poems you won’t consider at all in another folder. This part takes time. After that, it’s a matter of editing and piece them together.

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    2. Let’s gang up on her, Miriam!

      There should be some kind of award for bladder control. 😊 “I’d like to thank the Academy…”

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Recess—yes. I usually escaped for a few minutes. During a movie—no way. That’s how we get trapped. We can’t leave the classroom unless there’s an adult in charge. Sometimes recess is the only time you get to help a child who needs it one on one.

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    1. Compulsory school laws often drive teachers batty. Want to get a bunch of teachers fired up?—bring up the subject of mandatory state testing. That gets us every time as if there is nothing more important in the world. (I’m not even trying to restrain my sarcasm with this one.) As with any profession, there are amazing and not-so-great educators.

      I have nothing against home-schooling. It is the best option for some families. My only concern would be the social aspects (learning to work with others, being part of a team, etc.) that are hopefully taught in school.

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    1. I very much appreciated the opportunity to be on your blog, Norah. We, teachers, try to look out for one another. I love learning about how education is different in Australia.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Another thing teachers love is supportive parents like you, Robbie There are too many parents who feel like it is only the teacher’s responsibility to help a child learn in the United States. It is so awesome that you help your son with his studies.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Stevie. I was just looking at my list of upcoming books on my Kindle. I should be getting to Examining Kitchen Cupboards in the next month.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a fabulous interview! I loved what Pete said about teaching being a group effort. I totally believe that. It takes everyone involved to make it successful. Thank you for hosting, Chel! This was wonderful!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks! Yes, Pete elaborates more on that in his book, particularly in how one needs to be willing to see how others do it even if one doesn’t agree. I know I’ve been proud in the past, but that watching another helped me modify and improve my methods.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I have three older brothers, Jan. One was a teacher for forty years in Minnesota. He always used to use the analogy of school like being a three-legged-stool. The legs were represented by the administration, teacher, and home. The chair is never as sturdy if one of those pieces is missing or inefficient.

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  5. Once a teacher, always a teacher. I taught secondary and more recently mature adults, and the joy of breaking through, of seeing that look on someone’s face when they ‘get it’, makes it all worthwhile.
    Congratulations on your book, Pete, and thanks for a great interview, Chel.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I enjoyed your interview with Pete, particuarly the question about whether teachers go to the bathroom! He had an incredible career. I remember the moving story about the girl saving up for a trip from Pete’s blog.

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    1. Teachers go to the bathroom? 🤣 One of the funniest things that use to happen on a semi-regular basis was running into young children from my school (often from other classes) who would make a big production out of seeing a teacher in the supermarket or at a gas station. The best part was when their parents looked at me and wondered, “Who the heck is this guy?”😎

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      1. Oh my, yes! We know where a teacher lives who taught three of my boys. They’ve gotten used to it now, since she and I are friends, but going to her house was earth-shattering the first time.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ha ha! I’d forgotten about that. When we’re in elementary school, teachers don’t exist outside of the school. They just go into suspended animation at the end of the school day.

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  7. Hi Chel and Pete! Fabulous interview. Pete is one out of a million – his passion and dedication, even now, for teaching are inspirational. Reading this post made me miss my own primary school teaching years in Belgium. Yes, you do have an enormous responsibility and influence.

    The question “When do teachers use the bathroom?” cracked me up. I wonder whether that’s where I “learned” to rarely pee. Luckily, that came easy for me. You line the bathroom visits up with breaks.

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    1. Thanks, Liesbet! I was hoping Pete would crack up at the bathroom question as well! I guess it’s more a sad reality for some… 😀 I don’t know how my sons’ pregnant teachers have managed it!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. This is what I love about blogging—who knew that teachers’ bathroom habits would have gotten so much attention? Maybe Chel has found her calling by asking the “tough questions” that people want to know.🤣

      I would enjoy hearing about those teaching experiences in Belgium and how they compare to those in America, Liesbet.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m sure there are many differences! For example no substitute teachers or hired help during breaks, lunch hour, after school hours pick-up in Belgium… Religion/non-religion is a 2h/week class and the only subject in the curriculum we don’t teach ourselves in primary school (other than the previous subject) is sports. 🙂 Oh, primary school is ages 6-12. Kindergarten ages 2.5-6! Maybe we can meet in person one day, Pete, after “everyone” is vaccinated!?

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        1. That would be great. I just don’t think it will be on a boat in the middle of the ocean.😉 Traveling around on land, like you’re doing now, is more my speed.

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  8. what a wonderful review – I thoroughly enjoyed the book as well. And Pete is the real deal – he’s the kind of teacher everyone should have at some point. And the interview was helpful to learn a bit more about Pete; loved the Maya Angelou quote

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    1. So are you, Jim. I have a feeling I would have enjoyed being in one of your classes. Of course, that would mean I’d have to listen to talks on balance sheets and the like.😉

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Pete is such a kind, a genuine man whose love for teaching and his pupils shine through his words…I wish governments would look at their curriculum and guidelines and let teachers teach 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

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