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

Dear Teacher

Dear Smile Fingers,
I sleep in my bed with Blankie and not in the car turned around so I couldn’t see you until Milk Hands took me out and said hi and buh-bye and you leaned in and said I’ve gotten fat and you don’t know where my brother is oh no you don’t and bed is good but the car is gooder.

—–

Dear Mrs. Smith,
Mom made me pull out all my school clothes, she put them in a box. She said [in a Mom voice] “We aren’t going to use these, so we may as well pack them up.” Then she made me put away the stuff from my desk we got from you. You remember when we went to your house and threw candy at you? [laughs] I don’t know where to put my folders so I put them under the bed but don’t tell Mom. I miss when you read to us but not when you made me put my book away.

—–

Dear Teacher,
I only know a little about you; from the e-mails you send, the Zoom meetings I overhear, and the morning videos you share every day. I spoke to you forever ago, at carpool pickup after school, but never appreciated what you did before that time.
Most days, I can’t get my son to get off the floor if he’s determined to melt there. Yet, every day; you taught him, motivated him, got him to work, and loved him. Your stinkeye is legendary.
As I tucked my baby into bed, I remembered how you smiled and talked to him at pickup. As we folded the school clothes and sorted the school folders, I remembered the school conferences and class parties you held. You were surrounded by noise and chaos but thrived and guided so all those children also thrived.
You’re amazing -I thought you should know.
I’m not sure what to tell you, as normal keeps getting put off till later, except for, “Thank you.” Thank you for the magic you performed for every person for every day. I know you’ll get to do it again; will you stick around till the baby’s old enough?
Anyway, thank you. And sorry about the candy-throwing.

 

Written for the teachers.

©2020 Chelsea Owens

WINNER of the Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest

So sorry for the delay in this announcement. The judge had a busy day and a headache-d night.

At long last you may know that the winner is:

Woe is everyone

by Deb Whittam

Long have the halls been silent,
The chairs empty, the locker doors thrown open.
Long have the weeds grown,
Unchecked, through the days of winter, cold and dull.
Long has the toilets been clean,
The stains and smears of adolescence finally washed away.
Peace has reigned.
As the bell sounds for the first time,
The rodents, the cleaners, the teachers,
Grimace their despair.
School’s back.
So sad.

—–

Congratulations, Deb! You are the most terrible poet of the week!

Many poets’ works made me grimace today, but Deb’s stood out. She made me believe I was reading a serious poem, then artfully threw the meter off course whilst adding elements like rodents and “smears of adolescence” in there.

But the terrible poetry doesn’t stop there! Read the others, if you are able:

Untitled piece

by Trent McDonald

Teacher, teacher,
Be aware
I just dropped my pencil
Under there
Ha!
I made the teacher
Say “Underwear”!
Principle, Principle
Don’t be blue
I know I took advantage
Of the teacher who’s new
Darn!
He sent my butt home
For my mother to chew
Mother, Mother
Don’t be mad
Only nine months to summer
Then we’ll be glad
Huh!
What’s she mean
It won’t be the worst nine months
She ever had….

—–

SIDDOWN N SHUDDUP!

by Bruce Goodman

Hello Everyone! Welcome back to school!
Murray, SIDDOWN N SHUDDUP!
Paula, I hope your summer time was cool!
Wayne, SIDDOWN N SHUDDUP!
Shirley, you’re acting like a fool.
Frank, SIDDOWN N SHUDDUP!
William, you’re full of bull.
Jeanette, SIDDOWN N SHUDDUP!
Winifred, no you can’t; it’s against the rule.
Neil, SIDDOWN N SHUDDUP!
Oh for goodness sake! I can’t wait for the Christmas break when we celebrate Yule.
EVERYONE! SIDDOWN N SHUDDUP!
Let’s see who does the bester
In this first semester.
YOU’RE HERE TO LEARN SO SIDDOWN N SHUDDUP!

—–

Untitled piece

by Gary

Is it really back to school
In that uniform so uncool
Yep
Do I have to Combe my hair
I’m not allowed to rock in my chair
Yep
Come again, I have to get up at Half past Six
Then get on the school bus with the other lunatics
Yep
Have to eat a healthy school lunch
And in the class I’m not allowed to munch
Yep
I have to learn my nine times tables
And I need to write my name on all the coat labels
Yep
I’m not allowed to pick my nose
While having to write boring prose
Yep
Not allowed to play games of my mobile phone
And if the teacher shouts I’m not allowed to moan
Yep
Must not run and play along the school corridors
And no pulling funny faces at the other choristers
Yep
When I ask a question I must raise my hand
Even when in Latin it’s impossible to understand
Yep
I have to fully button up my school shirt
Always keep the blazer on to hide all the dirt
Yep
Not supposed to throw objects at the head-boy
Be nice to your classmates and certainly don’t annoy
Yep
On no grounds can I fight or swear
Don’t attack the other kids with the set square
Yep
Need to pick my feet up so no scrapping only the floorboards
And certainly I’m not supposed to do rude doodles on the blackboards
Yep
I HATE SCHOOL……

—–

Back to school

by Ruth Scribbles

“Why oh why?”

The children cry

“Yipee Skippy!”

The parents are trippin’

“Kids are goin’ back to school!”

School daze begin again

Hallelujah! Amen!!

Wait!

What?

You need clean clothes

And play clothes TOO!

paper and pencils

And have to work at home too??

OH! NO!!!

BACK to school BLUES!!

—–

Going Back

by Joem18b

my dad was on parole
which was a rigamarole

then he goofed up
but then he fessed up

and back he went to the Big House
quiet as a mouse

i know how he felt, it was a bummer
like with me at the end of each summer

—–

The Fall

by LWBUT

The Summer joys shelv’d

like books to a library.

Autumn faces droop.

—–

Thank you to everyone for playing. Come back tomorrow for next week’s contest!!

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Deb: D. Wallace Peach created this graphic that you can use (if you want) for a badge of honor as the winner:

The Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest

Welcome to the Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest #41!!

For some guidance, click a basic description here. Entrants assume all risks associated with poeming, reading, and laughing painfully.

Here are the specifics for this week:

  1. Topic, topic; who’s got a topic? Ooh! I do; I do!
    It’s Back to School!
    Thank you, Timmy. Now, next time let’s remember to raise our hands.
  2. No teacher actually reads those 500-word essays, so keep the Length above 4 words and below 200. For those in the advanced math group, that’s 4<p<200, where p is poem and 4 is 4 and 200 is 200.
  3. Teacher, should we Rhyme? If you wish, this occasion.
  4. Just Make it terrible! The superintendent of all the area schools must feel compelled to visit and deliver a lecture on “Why One Never Poems Without Reason,” followed by a light refreshment of watered-down punch.
  5. Naturally, this assignment must be rated appropriate for general audiences.

You have till 8:00 a.m. MST next Friday (September 6) to submit a poem.

Use the form below to remain anonymous for a week.

For a more social experience and immediate fame, include your poem or a link to it in the comments.

Share with your friends (and enemies).

Have fun!

 

 

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Photo credit:
Image by klimkin from Pixabay

Surviving Teaching and Finding Joy

Not surprising, the amazing schoolteacher, Jennie, writes of her attitude shift in teaching and her subsequent ascension to perfect preschool teacher. 🙂

A Teacher's Reflections

Times have changed.  Teaching has far more demands than it used to.  Required paperwork, overcrowded classes, and lack of support begins to take its toll.  At first it all seems manageable.  That fire of wanting to teach keeps the motor running.  Then bit by bit, as demands and expectations increase, it becomes more difficult to keep the fire burning.  The love becomes lost.

Teachers are quitting.

Children have changed, too.  Their lives have less (or little) room for play. Most of their waking hours are structured – from school to sports to after school activities.  Oh, and then the homework.  Frankly, homework in the early grades should be reading.  Period.

Children are often coming to school feeling everything from anger to being overwhelmed. They may not know why, they just know they aren’t feeling happy.

Is it any wonder that America’s children are ranked 26th in reading  among the world?

View original post 530 more words

Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Four

“Thank you, Mr. LongDog,” Dr. L. said, shooting nervous glances at the brown-bunned woman peering over her clipboard.

A few members of the class laughed again; Wil barely refraining from snickering, herself. She felt sorry for Dr. L. He was clearly flustered and the laughing didn’t help. That sympathy, however, vanished with what happened next.

“We’ll, erm, need to break into groups,” Dr. L. continued. He looked faint at the idea, then scratched the back of his head and cast his glance around the room for inspiration. Something must have hit, for then he raised his pointer finger in a pose of scientific discovery. “Ah!” he announced, “I’ll sort you like they did at the training.”

Looping his lab coat-shod arms in a wide air gesture, he said, “You six, here, are one group.” He walked to the cluster in which Wil sat. “You -um- seven are a group…”

Wil didn’t hear the rest. She was too mindful of her stomach dropping in dread. Kind, patient Jenny Sanders was fine. Even that quiet kid she barely knew (Bobby? Something?) wasn’t bad. The problem was that Dr. L.’s sweeping loop of her seven desk group included the ever-obnoxious Carl Hurn. She felt sick. “Uuuhhrrg.”

“Did you say something, Wil?” Jenny asked. She seemed concerned, although maybe that came more from a desire to avoid infection. Wil noticed Jenny’s eyes flit the distance between their desks.

“Fine,” Wil answered. “I’m fine.” She tried not to glance in the direction of Carl’s desk. Instead, she focused on reading over the paper of instructions.

Bobby cleared his throat. “Looks like,” he began in an unsteady timbre -Carl snickered and Bobby ignored him- “Looks like we need to circle up first.”

They all acquiesced a grumble and moved the class furniture accordingly.

“Then,” Bobby continued, “we need the things on this list.” He raised his own paper and pointed at the bullet point words.

“I got it,” a girl, whom Wil didn’t know, volunteered. She rose, grabbed her own paper, and headed to the supply cupboard.

“I wonder if it’ll even open,” Wil muttered.

To her surprise, Jenny giggled. She met Wil’s eye. “This is kind of odd for Ol’ Lombard,” Jenny said. “But, it’s also nice to not spend the whole period trying not to sleep.”

Someone snorted. It was Carl. “Says the Teacher’s Pet.”

A boy to Carl’s left punched him lightly in the arm. “Shut the -” he glanced up and paled a bit, causing Wil to whip around and see that their ‘visitor’ was peering in their direction. She whipped back forward. The puncher cleared his throat and leaned closer to Carl. “Shut up, alright?”

Carl’s expression looked sheepish. Wil was amazed, up until she turned back to Jenny and caught the open admiration on the girl’s face.

“Got ’em,” a voice said, interrupting Wil’s observations. The girl who’d volunteered to collect materials had returned. She set two glass phials, a few strips of colored paper, and several opaque bottles on her desk. Plopping into her seat behind the supplies, she asked, “Now what?”

 

Continued from Eighty-Three.
Keep reading to Eighty-Five.

Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Three

Unfortunately for Wil, Dr. L. had attended a mandatory training over the weekend. This training, he now stopped mid-lecture to lament to the class, involved hands-on activities. He’d had to practice with actual people and be told, no, he couldn’t just talk about science.

The conclusion of his complaints to Wil’s class was that the school wanted him to change the way he taught. Wil groaned in sync with a chorus of fellow sympathizers. She wasn’t the only teenager who used Dr. L.’s lectures to finish activities like text conversations or homework due in the next period.

“They’re even sending someone in to-” their teacher began, then cut off as a knock sounded on the classroom door.

They all turned to look as the knocker pushed into the room and stood expectantly just inside. She was a woman with a messy bun and a somewhat wrinkled pantsuit. Everything about her frowned, Wil thought, from the lines of the woman’s outfit to her down-turned spectacles.

Dr. L. stared in apprehension at her for a full minute; Wil couldn’t remember ever seeing him focus on a living object before. The woman cleared her throat. “Don’t mind me, please.” Her voice was a higher-pitched version of his, a nasal sort that put Wil in mind of a squirrel. A squirrel with a messy bun and frowning face. *Ahem*, she cleared things again. “Just pretend I’m not here.”

The class and, especially, Dr. L. watched her perch atop a lab stool, her clipboard grasped before her and her legs and feet drawn near to her body. When nothing else happened, she returned the bespectacled chemistry teacher’s gaze. “Well?”

“Oh!” He started, and seemed to remember where he was. “Oh! Right; right.” Shuffling back to his lecture table, Dr. L. began shifting through chemical bottles and loose papers. “It’s right here -I know they’re here somewhere…” he muttered.

“Dr. L.?” Jenny, the girl to Wil’s left, raised a hand.

The man she addressed peered near her in some confusion. “Yes, Ms. -?”

“Sanders, sir,” Jenny said politely. She always had to tell him and Wil always marveled at how patiently Jenny did so. “I think you left the experiment notes on your computer.”

The overhead lights glinted off Dr. L.’s lenses as he lifted and turned his face to the location Jenny referenced. “Ah!” he exclaimed, and walked over to pick the pile up. “Thank you, Ms. -?”

“Sanders.”

“Yes,” he agreed. Turning to Cash Delarge’s desk, he said, “Here, Mr. LeDog. Take a paper and pass them along.”

Wil sighed as a few people tittered. Chemistry was going to be a long class today.

 

Continued from Eighty-Two.
Keep reading to Eighty-Four.

Vance’s First Party

Little Vance hid behind his mother’s cape.

“What’s wrong, Vance?” his teacher asked. She kneeled, scratched at an ear, and peered at him.

Vance shivered.

“I think he’s shy,” his mother said. “This is his first Halloween party.”

“Owooooh!” the teacher howled. “Perfectly understandable.”  Rising, she said, “Why don’t you pick a scary story from the cauldron, and we’ll read it.”

Vance shuffled forward. He removed a favorite.

“Ah! Attack of the Garlic! Excellent.” Pawing it open, she began reading.

A mummy, ghoul, and another vampire joined Vance on the rug. Maybe this party wouldn’t be so bad, after all.

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Written, tested, tasted for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Halloweensie Contest.

The Dot

Stock photo

Whilst considering my favorite children’s books, I realized that most made the list based on favorites of my childhood. Not to become set in my old ways, however, I have found several excellent additions in seeking out books for the children I have since produced.

Such is the case with The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds.

It tells the very simple story of a young girl named Vashti who is determined that she cannot do art. Her teacher, meanwhile, is just as certain that Vashti can.

I love how we get an idea of the personalities of the characters in a few lines of actions: Vashti’s practical stabbing of a dot onto paper shows her attitude, and her teacher’s encouragement and action of framing that first dot demonstrate understanding.

Teaching is, and has always been, a career plagued by under-appreciation. Teachers are responsible for connecting with a classroom or more of children, dumping information into little brains, and somehow still maintaining order. They also care for their students, cry about poor life situations, and think about hundreds to thousands of past lives they’ve been touched by.

The Dot is not just about a young girl finding courage to express herself. It is also the story of what every teacher aims for: a lesson learned, a life improved, and the benefits passed on to others.

It’s short, simple, sweet, artistic, and touching. If you haven’t, spend a minute reading it. Since it’s more recent, I even found readings of it online.