Monday, September 2, 2013

My Mother was a Teacher...

Labor Day when I was growing up (back in the dark ages), meant the next day started the new school year.

Since Mom was a teacher, she had to start the week before we did to get ready for her classroom of thirty fourth graders.

Sometimes I'd get to go along to help her arrange the books on the shelves, put the desks in line, put up the bulletin know, all those things a teacher does to get ready.

For the last several years before she retired, Mom taught at Woodward Elementary School.

That's her room. There, just to the right of the entry, on the second floor. Do you see it?

When she first started teaching there, it was before the renovations to make the building more energy efficient (this was in the late 60's - we didn't call it "green" back then!). The ceilings were 16 feet high, and the windows went from 9-year-old waist high all the way up. Big iron steam heaters lined the wall under the windows, with a shelf along the top of the heaters where Mom put plants. Mostly geraniums, if I remember right.

Before she taught here, there were two other schools in Kalamazoo: Oakwood and Roosevelt.

Roosevelt School was torn down more than twenty years ago.
Until then it was the focal point of the east side community.

Before we moved to Kalamazoo, she worked as a substitute teacher in Ohio and in Chicago, where Dad went to seminary.

Mom was the kind of teacher you don't see anymore - at least not very often. Schools were different back then - the concept of what education meant was different, too. But my mom was old fashioned, even then.

One tradition she continued up until the day she retired was story time. Every day after lunch, she read classic children's literature to her students. She introduced hundreds of children to Charlotte's Web, Little House on the Prairie, Stuart Little and more during her teaching career.

Fifteen minutes a day. Every day. Reading to children, some of whom had never had a book read to them before.

Of course, that wasn't the only tradition she kept. She also packed one of these in her lunch every day:

Mom didn't only teach her class of fourth graders, though. She also raised two children, played piano and organ at church, hosted countless people at our house for dinner or dessert, was a patient pastor's wife, and even put up with me.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is called jealousy.
Do you see the expression on my face?
And the discarded doll in the background?
Mom had to deal with that and much more!

Yes, Labor Day meant back to school, Mom going back to work, and everyone getting a little older.

First Day of School
I'm guessing this is around 1965

Labor Day this year is pretty quiet around our house - a rest from our labors :)

What are your Labor Day traditions? Or share your favorite memories....

And we'll enjoy a slice of Mom's favorite pie together in her honor: Custard!

Go to this re-run blog post for the recipe: Mom's Favorite Custard Pie

And enjoy your holiday!!!


  1. My mom was a teacher too and even after she became a stay-at-home mom, she remained a teacher.

    My sister has just started her 30th year of teaching this past week.

    Thanks for the custard pie reminder and the memory of Ding Dongs.

    1. It's funny, but I had forgotten Ding Dongs used to be wrapped in foil until I saw this picture. The plastic they use now just isn't the same!

      My mom always wanted to be a stay at home mom, too, but she also loved the teaching. She stayed home until I went to kindergarten, though, and then went back to teaching. My dad was a part-time pastor of a church plant (which means full time work at part time pay), so in those days they needed her income.

  2. Seriously -- no gratuitous Thatcher picture? How can I monitor if he's growing into his ears? Gah!!!! :-)

    Love this trip down memory lane. Makes me nostalgic about going back to school and I have to go back tomorrow. Poor little kiddies with her toes crammed into shoes and backpacks as big as they are. I bet when your mom taught the students all went home for lunch too.

    1. Sorry, Kav. I promise a Thatcher picture in the future! He isn't changing as quickly, but I will keep you updated :)

      And in our school district, we had neighborhood schools until 1971 when they instituted busing. I won't tell you my entire opinion of busing (forced integration), but it was a failed experiment that destroyed neighborhoods.

      BUT, up until 1971, yes. The elementary students all walked home for lunch. We had a one hour lunch break. We'd rush home, eat whatever sandwich or meal our at-home parent had fixed (my dad was my at-home parent - his hours were more flexible), and then rush back to school to play in the playground until the bell rang.

      Imagine. Unsupervised play, spring, winter and fall. We were outside as much as we could be :)

      I hope you have a good year! Enjoy those students!

  3. Jan, that's so nice that you have the old photos of the school! Such fun memories, I'm sure.

    My dad was a professor at Western KY University. I can remember going with him to his office and hanging out, playing around with pens in his desk, pretending to grade papers. :) Until my elementary school built a new building, we were located in an old building on campus. I can remember walking to the cafeteria each day for lunch, going right past his office building. And he'd come outside to wave at us. So exciting for a first grader! And what wonderful memories. :)

    1. Now that's a wonderful memory, Missy! I can't imagine what your classmates thought when your dad waved to you - they were green with envy, I'm sure!