Back to School

It’s that time of year again. The lazy days of lounging at the pool are replaced with harried schedules. Today, August fourteenth, is opening  day for many Florida schools. I retired from teaching third grade four years ago. I still think about and pray for teachers often, especially since I know so many who are still on the front lines, including my daughter.

Life in school is a subculture. It always amazed me how so few adults could be so out numbered by children and maintain control of a community. My years as a teacher were blessed by good administrators and parents who supported the staff. When children came to school they knew what kind of behavior was expected and they usually conformed. Just think about how hard it can be for practically anyone to stay in their seat, and raise their hand to speak. But they did.

I always thought the best teachers are those who can inspire students to learn. My favorite teacher as a child was my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Masters. Back then, sixth grade was still part of elementary school and we had one teacher the entire day. Mrs. Masters plastered her classroom walls with inspirational writing. Messages like “you can do it if you try” and “never give up” worked with me. Whenever I thought something was hard I would keep trying to do better.

I’ll admit, I didn’t always have an easy life as a teacher. It’s a challenging profession. Teachers have to think on their feet. They carry a huge responsibility of maintaining discipline and teaching at the same time. One year I had a group of rough boys in my class. I went to the assistant principal for help. He had a sign in his office, “Tough times never last, tough people do.” I asked him if I could make a copy of it to hang near my desk. That sign kept me from quitting that year.

At night I still have dreams about teaching.  In my reoccurring dream kids are usually running around the classroom, and I can’t find my math book to begin the lesson. I suppose it’s typical. That was always one of my biggest fears. Not being prepared. Organization is the key to everything for teachers.

Each day began with over the top multi-tasking. Taking attendance on my computer, listening to announcements, collecting homework, and reading notes from parents. If this wasn’t enough, some students required prodding to begin their morning board work. After all, idle minds make for a devil’s playground!

Reading was always the first subject taught to third graders. Afterwards depending on the day of the week, the students participated in art music, or P.E.  That was my planning time, often spent in meetings with other staff or making copies.  Math was usually after lunch. Somewhere in the six hour day we squeezed in writing, science, and social studies. It was hard to plan for and teach five subjects. It became harder when special reading intervention groups were instituted at the end of the day.

When the dismissal bell rang there was teacher “duty” to make sure every student left the campus safely. Then I could relax with a diet coke and read my emails before I gathered up all the papers to grade at home.

But I loved school. I loved the kids and they kept me coming back year after year. Teachers have a huge impact on students. Some children spend more time with their teachers than they do with their parents. I doubt if many teachers have time to read this, but I commend you for the work you do. If you can keep a child interested in learning, you are a success.

 

 

 

The Folk Art of the Suwannee River

When Stephen Foster wrote the song Old Folks at Home there was no music business as we know it. Sound recording had not been invented. Yet, in the small community of White Springs Florida, a state park is dedicated to his memory.  All because Foster  looked on a map for the name of a southern river which had two syllables. He had never seen the Suwannee River, but he liked the sound of the name and changed the spelling to “Swannee” to make the meter work. How’s that for poetic license?

IMG_6519Last week my husband and I camped at the Stephen Foster Cultural Center State Park . It was founded as a memorial to Stephen Foster due to its location on the Suwannee River. (Remember, the river that Stephen Foster never saw, but wrote a song about?)

IMG_9544The Florida Federation of Music Clubs admired Foster and obtained contributions of land in White Springs.  Later a commission  formed to direct the building of a 97-bell carillon on  property which plays Foster’s music. The park opened in 1950, almost one hundred years after Old Folks at Home was published. Did you know Stephen Foster is considered the pioneer of American pop music? He wrote two hundred songs between 1850 and 1864.  Old Susanna and Camptown Races  are two of my favorites.  These melodies are catchy. Once you start humming them, you can’t stop!

IMG_9556During our stay we learned of the park’s mission to support folk art. What is folk art? Art that’s created by nonprofessionals.  In America, folk art might be considered blue-collar or rural art. It can be self taught, and is often functional. Quilting, sewing, and knitting are all examples of folk art.  Folk art also includes music which expresses a community’s values and identity. At the park I enjoyed meeting several folk artists who demonstrate their talent in the Craft Square.

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Richard Darlington, a resident of White Springs, creates affordable earings and flies for serious fishermen.

IMG_9548Chris Jacobs from Miami crochets broomstick lace which can be worn as a scarf.

IMG_9551Marie Longo sews baby quilts for the Pregnancy Care Center of White Springs.

IMG_9552A quilt top hangs on the wall of the fabric arts cottage.  Someone rescued it from a dumpster in Live Oak.  This quilt top was sewn from remnants of old clothing thought to be over one hundred years old.

Antique shops are a great place for folk art.  The Adams General Store in nearby White Springs is worth seeing. Built in 1865, the building contains unbelievable finds. But go early, due to a lack of air conditioning.

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I can’t conclude this post without some mention of the Suwannee River. Unlike Foster, I did see it.

330The Suwannee is considered a black water river. Originating in Georgia, the river flows south through forested swamps. Decayed vegetation stains the water the color of coffee.  At Big Shoals, located outside of White Springs, a nine foot drop in elevation creates class three rapids. Here, the natural brown color of the water is more evident.

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At age 37 Stephen Foster experienced a persistent fever which resulted in his death. He died in 1864 with thirty-eight cents to his name.  And like the deep Suwannee River, Stephen Foster’s melodies live on today.

 

 

 

The Time Capsules of Dover Shores

Since my last post, Dover Shores: Thanks for the Memories, many readers submitted comments about their experiences at the school.  Two time capsules are buried on the property.  One is reported to contain memorabilia from the 1980’s. I’m curious about its contents. When I think about the eighties I remember Ronald Regan was president.  Air Jordan athletic shoes were a status symbol.  TV shows like Masters of the Universe prompted action figure toys for boys. My Little Pony and Care Bears were popular with girls. The decade birthed the great grandfather of video games: Atari game systems. Remember Pacman?

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Did you know the oldest time capsule in the United States dates back to 1795? It was found in 2015 by irrigation workers under the cornerstone of the Boston Statehouse. A conservator from the Boston Museum of Art opened it. The brass box contained faded newspapers and coins dating from the 1650’s. A metal plate at the bottom identified Samuel Adams as the governor of Massachusetts at the time. The contents were displayed at the museum, and then reburied under the  cornerstone.

Why do people make time capsules? Usually they intend to communicate the present culture with future generations.  This link for creating a time capsule includes ideas about which objects make good representations of our current lives. The problem with buried capsules is too often their location is forgotten or the contents are destroyed by groundwater.

When I retired from Dover Shores, I brought home my own personal time capsule in a file folder.  I’m not sure what other teachers do with the countless cards and pictures they receive from children, but I kept some of my favorites.

 

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This thank you card was written by an anonymous student in 2005. I think somebody wanted to demonstrate their skill with the “Chinese S” design. It was a big fad at the time. Kids drew these designs all over their homework. I asked them to stop writing it on their papers, but maybe the artist thought I’d appreciate it on a thank you card.

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One time  I was out sick and a substitute took my class. When I returned to school this letter from one of the boys was on my desk. It said:  “Thank you for teaching us and I hope you feel better. Sorry for any trouble I’ve made. I hope I can help you have a great day. I’ll try to talk to some of the bad kids and I’ll tell them that you have a cold and they won’t really talk that much. I’ll try my best for my behavior and I’m sure the children will behave themselves. I’m not really used to substitute teachers because they don’t know things. But you’re always prepared. Rule #5 Be Prepared. Your one of the funnest people that are teachers. You are the nicest teacher in the world. Hope you feel better.”

And guess what? That note did make me feel better.

On May 20, 2017 Dover Shores is hosting a “Farewell to the Buildings” picnic from 11:00 to 1:00.* (new time)  The DSE community is welcome to walk the halls once again before demolition. Food can be purchased on site or families can bring their own picnic basket. Visitors are welcome to view the DSE museum of history and greet Mr. Bragg.

And by the way, if anyone has detailed information about the location of those time capsules please call the school office.

 

Remember…

Do your best and help the rest!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dover Shores: Thanks for the Memories

On May 31, the last dismissal bell of the school year will signal the end of an era for  Dover Shores Elementary. Soon the buildings of Dover Shores  will be demolished to make way for new construction. As the fateful day approaches it is met with mixed emotions by students, parents, and staff.

Certainly everyone will benefit from an updated facility.  The school, located in Orlando and built in 1960, shows many signs of wear and tear. But there has always been something special about this place. It exhibits a character all its own.

I taught third grade at Dover Shores for seven years and still return weekly as a volunteer. I love the outdoor open concept of this quaint school. Walkways connect the various sections of campus. Beautiful oak trees provide shady areas for parents to meet their child for lunch.

IMG_9127I spoke with Mrs. Jessica Green, who attended Dover Shores as a child, and returned as a teacher in 2005.  When I asked Mrs. Green if anything about education has remained the same, she smiled and said, “until now, only the buildings of Dover Shores.”

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Next year DSE students and staff will be housed at the neighboring campus of Englewood Elementary. In August of 2018 they  return to a new facility where all grade levels and administrative offices are under one roof.  “I’ll miss the outdoor concept,” Mrs. Green stated, “but we need upgraded technology and better air conditioning.” She plans to stay in education and enjoys seeing her students’ confidence and abilities grow during each school year.

IMG_9125Mrs. Green is one example of the many fine teachers at Dover Shores. Principal, Dr. Randall Hart, values the commitment of his staff who continue to be relationship driven and put the needs of students first. “Forty percent of the instructional staff has taught at this school for ten years or longer,” Dr. Hart commented. He believes a community built on caring for one another helps retain teachers year after year.

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Mr. Bob Bragg taught at Dover Shores for thirty-four years until retiring in 2013. Recently he organized a small library to help others remember the history of the school. Actress Delta Burke,  St. Louis pitcher Cody Allen, and Paul Wilson of the NY Mets are among many successful Americans educated at Dover Shores. The historical information he collected will be preserved in the new building.  Mr.  Bragg saw many changes take place during his long career. When asked what he enjoyed most he responded, “teaching cursive handwriting.”

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Parents have contributed much to the success of the school. Every year for the past thirty years Dover Shores received the Golden School Award.  Each year DSE volunteers log over 8,000 hours of service.  PTA President Mrs. Michella Johnson, and Vice President Mr. Paul Messermith, are pictured as they prepare for staff appreciation week.  Mrs. Johnson has a favorite memory of helping kindergartners on field day. She encouraged a child to overcome the fear of participating in a new game.

A parent designed and painted the kid friendly murals on the exterior walls of various buildings. A sea life mural welcomes students to the second grade “pod.”

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Second grade classrooms extend off a central garden patio, in continuation of the outdoor theme.

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Fifth grade student, Isabella Johnson,  attended Dover Shores since kindergarten. “I feel sad about the school being torn down because my great uncle helped build it,” Isabella shared. She has special memories of her school as a place where the “teachers are always nice and help the kids understand.”

 

 

A Church Built on the Rock

On the first full day of our Nova Scotia vacation we stepped onto the balcony of our bed and breakfast eager to view famous Peggy’s Cove. Except for a beacon from the lighthouse, visibility was poor.  Nova Scotia is known for variable weather. A thick fog rolled in overnight from the Atlantic Ocean. Hoping the fog would lift, my husband and I ventured out to explore the area.  The first landmark we encountered was St. John’s Anglican Church. An open door to the chapel intrigued us. Once inside, we were greeted by a volunteer from the parish who told us people of the cove have worshipped here since 1885.

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The paintings displayed in the chapel impressed me.  Our volunteer guide explained their importance. The first, Storm and Turbulence, features a group of terrified fisherman clinging to the sides of their boat during a terrible storm. One man points across a raging sea. The second painting, Calm and Serenity, depicts Jesus Christ walking on the water with his arm outstretched toward the fishermen. Like the biblical message of Matthew 14:25, the mural communicates the supernatural power of Christ to calm our fears.  The artist, William deGarthe lived in Peggy’s Cove for years. His work relates the dangers of life at sea and the faith of local fishermen. The deGarthe Museum in the village houses many of his works.

Our guide told us six families founded Peggy’s Cove in 1811. Lured by the rich fishing grounds of nearby St. Margaret Bay, these early settlers battled storms, fog, and jagged rocks to eek out a living from the sea.  Some say the village was named for the bay, I prefer the romantic legend about a shipwreck with a lone survivor named Peggy. The young woman fell in love and later married the man who rescued her.  People would come from miles around to listen to “Peggy of the Cove” tell stories.  “Peggy of the Cove” later became Peggy’s Cove.

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Besides their times of trouble on the water, the fishermen experienced hardships on land. The village sits on granite bedrock. Gardening is futile. Drilling is impossible.  For years the community obtained water through a process of collecting rainwater and purifying it with ultraviolet light. Even so, this water is not considered safe for drinking. We were advised to drink bottled water during our stay.

Due to these conditions, the population of Peggy’s Cove has decreased. Consequently, St. John’s Church has also declined in membership.  When faced with the possibility of closing the church, the few remaining members realized the unique opportunity of their location. Thousands of tourists come to the cove during the summer months to photograph the famous lighthouse and tour the quaint fishing village.

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Volunteers decided to open the chapel on weekdays to minister to tourists. Visitors are welcome to share their prayer requests. I felt led to submit a written request along with my  email address. A few weeks ago I received an email from one of the church leaders who thanked me for my visit and asked if I needed additional prayer support. According to his note, over four thousand visitors from all over the world signed the St. John registry in 2016. The tiny congregation is amazed at the way God is blessing their efforts.

St. John’s Anglican Church is a testimony to a statement Jesus made in Matthew 16:18.  “On this rock, I will build my church.”  You can connect with them through Facebook at Friends of Peggy’s Cove Church.

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A Historic Amusement

How do you feel about April Fools’ Day? Some people relish this opportunity to play tricks on others. My feeble attempts to trick others never seem to work. Maybe my tricks aren’t creative enough, or tricking people is out of my character.

When I taught school the children usually told the same falsehoods to one another. “You’re shoes are untied.” Or “A spider is crawling up your back!” If a person was caught off guard and flinched, the joker felt he or she had succeeded. They would jeer “April Fools ” and everyone laughed, except the “fool.”

How did  April Fools’ Day begin? After researching the subject, I learned that it may have originated with the Hilaria festival of the Romans.  They celebrated the first day of the year which exceeded the night. The festival honored Cybele, mother of the gods. It was a time of rejoicing. No one was allowed to show any expressions of sorrow.  The Romans considered it a good day to marry or be born. Share that with anyone you know with a birthday on April first.

The English promoted their own theory during the 1700’s.  For some, April first commemorated the day Noah sent out the first dove to look for land. The dove returned and did not bring back any proof  the water receded. This started the tradition of tricking people by sending them on “fools errands”.

Not suprising, the media has also participated in April Fools’ jokes. In 1957 the BBC featured an article about Swiss farmers picking crops of spaghetti. It resulted in a flood of requests for spaghetti plants.  By the way, did you know donuts come from seeds that look like little cheerios?

April Fools’ Day can be a stress reliever if the humor is harmless and doesn’t focus on ridiculing others. What’s your opinion?  Leave a comment.

 

 

 

The Mystique of a New Year

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New year, new you. How often have I heard that phrase? The magazines for sale at the grocery checkout claim anyone can lose ten pounds in one week. I’d like to lose the fat, lose the flab, and get the body I’ve always wanted. Maybe 2017 is the year I will reach my ideal weight. The new year arrives with hope, motivation, and maybe change.

In the past, I’ve made resolutions. My resolutions are usually about some kind of self improvement. I’ve heard some people pray and ask God for a “word for the year.” I admit I was skeptical about this. What makes January 1 so special?  God can speak to us in a variety of ways, according to his timing.  But praying seemed better than resolving.  Praying might lead to the right resolution.  I don’t usually get this personal or spiritual with my posts, but I want to share a prayer I wrote in my journal on January 1, 2017.

Lord, you are Holy.  You are worthy. Thank you for abundant life. It’s a new year Lord. A new year makes for a new beginning.  I pray that I will be open to your word…open to your spirit…open to you. I pray for your will to be done in my life. May I step out of your way, Lord.  Father, some people hear a word which is their word for the year. Is this possible? Is it real? I look to you Lord. Do you have a word for me?

I stopped writing, closed my eyes and waited.  My spirit heard the word, “Go.” You’ve got to be kidding, I thought, “Go?” I wrote it down and waited again. Nothing.

I thanked the Lord for the word, and closed my journal.

My mind was filled with questions. Will this year be a year of travel? Will it be a year for  new experiences? Will I be challenged to step out of my comfort zone? To “Go” means to leave the place you are. “Go” can apply to the physical or spiritual realm. It can mean leaving the fears and failures of the past behind.

The word “Go” is a lot like God, mysterious.

There’s a problem with resolutions. They can be limiting. God’s vision for us is much bigger than our own.  A new year brings an opportunity to be open to his vision, his leading. The question remains, will I have the faith to follow?

Friends, I’m excited to see what opportunities God will bring in 2017.  I believe “Go” means more than going on a diet. At least I hope so.