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February 15, 2022 - 4:45pm

Teaching in Genesee County has its rewards, its life lessons, and its lighter side

posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in education, schools, news.

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Teaching has changed drastically over the years.  Teachers continue to work for our children, meeting all the demands put on them, but they also have humorous moments they will never forget in their careers.

In 1972, I was fortunate to get my first teaching job at Wolcott Street School in Le Roy. So many of my early memories took place at that school.  I always loved teaching and hopefully inspired young minds to always reach for the stars.  My memories stay embedded in my heart as a teacher. 

I will focus on the funny side of my teaching career. An early memory was teaching my third-grade students about deserts as one of the world's regions. I brought in the sand; students brought in cactus plants, we made a paper mache camel and a mural depicting life on a desert. Then, to make it seem authentic, I turned up the thermostat in my classroom to show what it was like to survive in a desert. First, I didn't realize you NEVER adjust the thermostat, and secondly, my thermostat was the main link to the 12 classrooms on my floor. 

I was prepared when I gave my first standardized test to my class. I had just clicked my husband's stopwatch when one of my students asked if she could use the restroom. Holding on to my stopwatch, I asked if she could wait.   Whether they needed to go to the bathroom or not, every child was asked to try from that day forward. I learned a sad life lesson that day. 

My very first observation by the principal was a math lesson. I was so nervous! It was about 10 minutes into my lesson when a little boy raised his hand and asked how the earth stays up in the sky. As my principal waited for my answer, I explained we would talk about that after my lesson. 

I always felt that you could turn any event into a lesson and an adventure. For example, I took my class for a walk, not knowing I needed permission first. We began walking down Main Street and approached the Wiss Hotel; Donnie Pangrazio's grandpa was outside and invited us in, so my class had a soda and returned to school.

By the time I returned, I was asked to see the principal. It seemed he had been flooded with calls about the wandering teacher and students.

One morning a 3rd-grade student shared how excited he was that his mom and dad bought a bicycle built for two; he asked me the bike's name. Unfortunately, I mistakenly told him it was a condom rather than tandem. There were many laughs over the years about that remark.

After our daughters were born, I got a job teaching in the Batavia School District. I continued to make memories.

I loved to take my students for a walk. We would walk over to Batavia, visiting the Holland Land Office Museum, Historical Batavia Cemetery, and other landmarks. One day, we stopped at Kibbe Park to talk about how important the Tonawanda Creek was to our early settlers. Unfortunately, the trip was cut short when I realized we were at a particular part of the park where young lovers would park.   As my students discovered the protection of their lovemaking, I realized immediately that we must leave the park.

I loved taking my class on field trips, and I was so lucky to have had an administrator who supported my overnight trips to Albany and New York City. A highlight of one of my NY trips was taking my class to Yankee stadium. I think every father in that class went as a chaperone. I have to admit I was not a baseball enthusiast. We had a tour of the stadium. I can still remember my class sitting in the Yankee dugout as I walked backward on the field to take their picture with my panoramic Instamatic camera. I noticed all the dads were smiling. I thought that was unusual until two burly men were at my side on the field out of nowhere. They were questioning me on what I was doing on the field. I thought that was a silly question explaining I was taking a picture of my class. They weren't impressed with my explanation and kept saying; you are on the Yankee Stadium field. After being escorted off the field by the unfriendly security, I noticed the fathers were laughing. Walking on the Yankee Stadium field is only reserved for the Yankees.

It was a huge responsibility to take children on an overnight field trip. I would do a room check every trip to ensure the children were ready for bed. Every room had a parent as a chaperone. One night on my room check, I kept knocking on the door to make sure the children in every room were ready for bed.  Finally, the door opened, and a young adult was staring at me with his girlfriend behind him, saying, no, we are not ready for bed. As I was trying to apologize, I made sure I put a post-it note on every student's door. I mistakenly thought we had the entire wing.  

I was constantly learning life lessons as a teacher. I always had classroom pets. I felt it taught the children responsibility, and for many, it was the first time they had a pet. For example, we had a hamster that would frequently escape, so I just left food out for Fluffy. One night I was told our hamster visited a parent's meeting in the faculty room and scared many of the members as he paraded around. That particular pet also attacked student permanent record folders, munching on the records.  

I hope some of my memories brought a smile to your face, and please understand my students did succeed academically.  I just felt if I made learning fun, they would also remember and create their memories. I know many of my colleagues have their humorous stories. I hope some of them will be inspired to share after reading this article. Times have changed drastically since the beginning of my career. First of all, you would never take your class on a walk without permission from the administration and the parents. Today, not many districts would grant an overnight field trip to 4th-and 5th-grade students. The only safe classroom pet is a fish, and you never adjust a thermostat. Most of all, bathroom breaks before any test are a must!

I am still teaching and creating memories. I hope mine brought a smile to your face.

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