“[L]ife is still the most incredible reality show around—far more real than the stuff labeled as ‘reality television.’ The good news is we are the director, producer, and writer of that show. If it’s a big flop, then that’s on us.”

Pete Springer, in the comments of “Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?

Oh, Boy! by Pete Springer

Who knows when I first met Pete Springer? The guy is amazing. Not only was he an educator for 31 years, he’s published a book on teaching (that I read and reviewed!) and is working on publishing a novel for young adults. In his free time, he continues to influence and praise the work of teachers, administrators, hairstylists, family members, waitresses, and a stray dog that looked like he needed a pat on the head.*

Photo of Pete Springer

His only fault was trusting me, Chel Owens, to write a post over at his blog. At least he was gracious enough to repair some of that damage with a post of his own, below.

I give you: Oh, Boy! by Pete Springer

First, I apologize in advance for the list of stereotypical comments that are about to come. I detest making sweeping generalizations about anything, except lima beans—they all suck! When you’re a guy, you can get away with saying stupid and crude remarks like, “this sucks,” because the bar is set so low, and no one expects us to utter anything resembling intelligence.

Boys? I’ve seen my share of them over the years. After all, I’m the youngest of four boys. I also taught elementary school for 31 years, so I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing the biology and maturity of boys and girls.

Photo Credit to Cleyder Duque on Pexels

What people say about girls maturing faster than boys is generally true. I taught in grades 2-6, so I can provide many first-hand accounts to support that opinion. The difference between 2nd and 3rd-grade boys and girls is enormous. (We’re talking Grand Canyon.) I often laughed to myself, looking out at my sea of faces. Most of the girls were attentive and would do anything asked of them.

Meanwhile, boys were often wiggling and unable to sit still. Several times a year, this involved falling out of their chairs. I recall calling a parent once to tell him that his child got injured at school, falling out of his seat.

Just because males are slower to develop than our female counterparts, we must not overlook their creativity. For example, 2nd and 3rd-grade boys don’t look at pencils as tools for writing but as objects to fly through space while making sounds like “speeeesh.” One of the techniques that usually gathered my students’ attention was to stop talking. Awakened from their slumber, they’d look around to see what was happening. “Now that Springer has stopped yammering, maybe I’ll pay attention.” A select few were so oblivious that they didn’t notice the quiet and continued their Apollo space missions while I looked on in wonder.

Speaking of pencils, boys take special pride in sharpening pencils to tiny nubs. I have no idea why this is just a guy thing. Some of my boys would walk up to me in the middle of class to show me their tiny pencils, thinking I’d be impressed. I was not, and even less enthralled when several times a year, they’d get them stuck in the classroom pencil sharpener. My college professors from teacher prep classes neglected to tell me I’d become a skilled surgeon in extricating pencils from the sharpener.

Photo Credit to Pixabay

As boys move into upper elementary school, they become fascinated with jumping. While they no longer fall out of their seats, they have a curious habit of jumping up whenever passing under a doorway. My theory of why this happens is that as boys mature physically, they constantly want to test their bodies. For guys, it’s always about lifting more weight, running faster, and jumping higher. Since I’m declining in all those areas, I look for ways to hang on to my glory days. One of my bedtime rituals is cranking out 40 pushups to prove that I can still do it. 

Another truth for most elementary-aged boys is they love to laugh whenever someone farts. I’ve watched a classroom go from zero noise to uproarious laughter in seconds when someone passes gas. Some 6th-grade teachers like me were brave or foolish enough to take their classes on end-of-the-year sixth-grade campouts as a means of recognizing the end of the elementary school experience. Several times I had to sleep in the same cabin with my boys. With nearly 100% certainty, there came a time when someone would fart, and the rest of the group went into hysterics. What followed predictably was another “accidental” flatulence, and the cycle repeated itself until I instituted a “no farting” rule so that we could go to sleep. It was all rather pointless as there was no way of knowing who the offending parties were in a darkened cabin with twelve boys and no realistic way of enforcing such a stipulation.

People frequently ask me what my favorite grade was to teach, but the truth is there is something extraordinary about every age. I preferred teaching the girls through fourth grade because while the boys were all over the place, the girls were usually eager to please and respectful. By sixth grade, the boys had finally matured (minus the farting), but many of my 6th-grade girls became impossible and downright cruel to one another. While the boys could get quite competitive and sometimes lose their tempers during recess games, there seldom was any carryover once they’d calmed down. By the next recess, everybody was friends again. Unfortunately, such was often not the case with my sixth-grade girls. They had a habit of hanging on to grudges and not being able to let things go quite so quickly.

Photo by Norma Mortenson on Pexels.com

Our upper-grade classroom took on a rather distinctive odor when spring rolled around. I’d describe the smell as a combination of wet dog, vomit, and rotten eggs. The boys, especially those who hadn’t discovered deodorant, were usually the culprits. That was the point I broke out my award-winning hygiene lecture. (Add that to the laundry list of items my college professors failed to communicate.) Upper elementary students are not known for their sensitivity and uttered phrases like, “God, you stink!” to one another. Without fail, some boy would overcompensate by bathing himself in a half bottle of Old Spice aftershave. We all know how brutal that five o’clock shadow can be in 6th grade.

While I like many things about boys, I think it’s time to admit that men have managed to screw up the country after numerous chances. Let’s give the women a chance. Besides, that will provide us with more time to yell at the television during sporting events, drink more beer, and improve our belching and farting skills.

© 2021 Pete Springer


Pete blogs over at https://petespringerauthor.wordpress.com His very helpful and interesting book on teaching is available for purchase at: https://www.amazon.com/They-Call-Mom-Difference-Elementary/dp/1977200052.

Photo of Debbie and Pete Springer

*I have no evidence that Pete patted a dog on the head. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did, though, and even took that dog home and gave it a warm meal.

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