Monday, October 14, 2013

New Teacher Blues Revisited

My room the day before I started teaching.
Really bare. And below, my room today.

by Hilde Garcia

Three years ago, I became a full time teacher and I wrote this post. What's amazing is that three years later, it still applies.

Now, this amazing room, pictured here will be reinvented in a new building this January.  And I will come up with new class procedures I am sure because it is a new space.  Things are bound to be different.
And here? My new sunny room, done quite done yet, but on its way!
What will it look like?

But I will still decorate it the way I want. I will still read aloud to my students and I will still wonder why the education budget in our country is always the first thing that is cut.

During this holiday season, think of one way you can support your local school, your neighborhood teacher, the kid next door.  You don't have to have a kid in school to make a difference. You can volunteer at a school, vote to help legislation, donate supplies or funds, or simply believe in your local school.

Some samples of stained glass art my
students did for this holiday art this year.

From all of us here at Pen and Ink, we wish you the merriest of holiday seasons and a safe and happy new year. We writers are a special group. We have so much power and can change the world one story at a time.

Thank you for your contributions to children's literature.

Reposted from 2012.

Five Best Things about Teaching
by Hilde Garcia

5. I have my own classroom. 
I was able to decorate it the way I envisioned amazing learning should look like. I love walking into it and smelling the wood floors, seeing the sunlight filter in through the 1920’s gigantic glass windows. I love the room best when it’s quiet, before my students arrive, and the lights are off. It reminds me of school days long ago.

4. Reading aloud to my students.
My sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Sybil Dobbs, would keep the lights off after lunch, have us sit and rest our heads, and then read to us. That was the year I went down the river with Tom and Huck, found a garden with Mary, and got into trouble as red heads often do, especially when they are orphans. Those timeless classics, Tom Sawyer, The Secret Garden and Anne of Green Gables have stayed with me throughout the years. So I too, now, turn off the lights and read a loud to my children. Old classics and new ones as well.

3. Teaching.
I love planning my lessons in my old fashioned planner. I love making up cool projects and assignments to inspire the kids. I love when I get notes from them on how much they love my class and how much we laugh. They think what I do is fun and they love learning. What could be better praise?

2. My colleagues.
They are truly amazing, each and every one. I am very fortunate to teach in a dual immersion language program and we have five languages at one school site- English, Spanish, French, German and Italian. On any given day, you can begin a conversation in one language and end in another. Our school-wide festivals are unique, bringing in every type of culture you can imagine. The warmth that permeates the hallway makes it a place I would go to even if I wasn’t on staff.

1. Knowing that I will make a mark on another human on the planet.
That has to be the best thing about teaching. It’s why I love to write, because I can touch someone like so many have touched me. My Kindergarten teacher left a indelible mark on me when she held up the color red and said the word red and the told me to color the apple red. I didn’t know English. I was scared. She was caring. The sunlight filtered into the room, through the big old-fashioned windows, and enveloped the room with a glow that made reading something special. She transformed my world and I have taken her gift with me. Now it’s my turn.

Five Worse Things about Teaching

5. Schedule.
Having a shortened school day and school year, but being expected to teach twice the amount of material in that time.

4. Support.
It’s lacking in some communities for education. It used to be that school was what you did as a child. Now, there are more options and it feels at times like teachers are fighting a losing battle against video games, television, marketing schemes, and parents who feel vacation has to happen during the school day. (I knew a parent that actually took the kids to Disneyland during the week because she felt like it- never mind that it was the week of our state testing.)

3. The technology gap.
It’s sad. Some schools have access to it and some don’t. Economics are not equal when it comes to schools, yet our government boasts that we give every child the opportunity for an education. But what type? If we want all our nation’s children to thrive and be ready for a 21st century world, then we have to educate them with 21st Century technology. A chalk and chalkboard will not do.

2. The lack of thematic integration.
We want the kids to connect with the world and work cooperatively with their peers, but we tell them to sit down, be quiet, look at page 50 and copy the questions. We are rigid with our curriculum, following one book, one style. With so many children and so many learning styles, we have to embrace more diversity in our teaching. Many schools are doing this now and it give s me hope that we will begin to see teaching that reflects the global interactions of our planet.

And the number one worse thing about being a teacher?

1. The budget.
Please stop cutting it. You can’t teach 40 kids in a class and expect that everyone is going to get one on one time. You can’t use most of your salary to buy supplies for your students, but we do. There are so many parents in public schools these days that donate constantly to their child’s class, establish booster clubs and foundations in order to raise money to provide art, music, and even paper. We have to find a way to cure the budget blues as a nation because our kids are worth it. They are us a few years ago. And there is no excuse for not having the money. We have to think creatively, like we are asking our kids to do. We should involve business, communities, volunteers. It does take a village. But it’s so well worth it. How do you stop unemployment? Begin educating students for the changes in the world so they can adapt and be employable in the future.


  1. Aw, this post brought tears to my eyes. I retired from teaching 3rd grade just over a year ago. I was a teacher for 30 years, and the things you mentioned in the first half of your post are EXACTLY the things that I miss the most. I miss being around the kids, and rejoicing over finding a 4 leaf clover on the playground, or watching a thunderstorm rage outside, and sharing what they had written or drawn with them. But those things you mentioned in the second half were the very things that made me glad to be out of the education business. It really is frightening what is happening to our country's education and what we AREN'T teaching our children that we should be!

    1. Thank you for your amazing reply to my post. I just got home after a full day. I am so tired, but I have a Science exam to create for an eager student who has to leave school before the exam is given on Wednesday. And she scores 100% every time, so here I am. I read these replies after school and it gave me energy to keep going. I think we loose many wonderful teachers precisely because of the administrative stuff that teachers are now required to do. There is less time in the school day to teach, more things you have to teach, more time spent away from your students, and less creativity and more data oriented results. I for one, bring all the stuff I loved about school into my room. On Friday, round one of Poetry Slams in Spanish. And next week, book reports with a twist. Create a story board or a merchandising product you would use to get people to read your book. That encompasses all the usual standards as well as persuasive essay, delivered orally.

      I'm only in year one- this is a second career now that acting has taken a permanent back seat to my life, but writing fuels my teaching. I plan to start a kid run critique group and have them create mini novels. I did this two years ago as an intern with the 6th grade and it was brilliant. The kids that write the least wrote pages and pages. Thank you for your reply!!! Hilde

  2. I loved this post Hilde. I am so happy for your students that they get you as a teacher. What book are you reading to them right now?

    1. I am reading Linda Sue Park's A Single Shard. I have the kids captivated. We are noting amazing vocabulary and finally, the acting has paid off. You should hear my voices and see my gestures. I have taken the kids to 12th century Korea. We are up to the part where Tree Ear is looking for rice after his work with Min every day so they can have enough to survive the winter. Thank you for your support!! You are my muse.

  3. Hi Hilde, I agree with everything, best and worst. I would add other issues such as a political environment, where the administration is inflexible, budget is spent for things that don't support all students, and when other teachers won't collaborate or be supportive. These were reasons I left. But I won't say I'm a former teacher, because once a teacher . . . you always teach. Now I write and tutor students. I still deal with unreal expectations of parents, but one-on-one with my students is a blessing. Thank you for being such a caring, positive, and responsible teacher!

    1. Hi Penelope, thank you for always visiting our site. Without getting into trouble, yes, the administrative practices on the bigger levels, district, city, etc, don't always have a pulse on the day to day. We have a math program that all teachers dislike and our school district continues using it and we aren't the only ones. Other districts do similar things. My teacher friends and I talk and when a program that doesn't work is finally retired, you should hear the sigh of relief from all of us. It shouldn't be so hard. And I think the officials want to do what we suggest, but it's so hard to sometimes have things move swiftly that even they have their hands tied at times. I hope one day as a country we will make note of this and leave a different legacy for our students. Thank you for posting. Hilde

  4. Teachers change the world, one kid at a time. Maybe when today's kids grow up they'll be smart enough to make education of their kids a priority.

    1. That's what I am hoping. That they grow up and say, the buck stops here. And I speak up to them, always, I tell them they can own it all, if they educate themselves and become life long learners. I am doing it one kid at a time with my twins and one student at a time with my 32 awesome kids! Thank you for being a Pen and Ink reader. Hilde

  5. Hilde, it is easy to see your heart is in your work - and with the kids you teach.
    Terrific article - thoughtful and very aware. I have pinned it to my Teacher/Classroom board on Pinterest. I would also like to offer you and your class a FREE Skype Author Visit from me - mfinke at

    Books for Kids - Manuscript Critiques

    1. Margot, you and everyone who has commented today made my day and filled my bucket. I was feeling so sick today, really run down- it's been a long 8 weeks of getting adjusted- and all of your comments made me get a second wind. I plan to start critique groups with my students so they can develop a novel and incorporate technology into it as well and I would LOVE to have a skype visit from you. I think they would love it too. I have such a fantastic bunch of learners. I had planned on doing something big for writing. I will be in touch and we can plan it for whenever it is convenient for you too. But what a wonderful offer. Thank you so very much. And I can't believe you also pinned me. What a great day to be a teacher and a writer and have colleagues like all of you. Thank you for commenting. Hilde

  6. Hilde,

    Love, love your post. I agree with everything you wrote. I too, teach . I teach French and Spanish at the high school level. I am lucky in that my school is like a mini United Nations. The students get along well with one another. My love for other languages and cultures is what inspired me to write trilingual children's picture books. I first fell in love with picture books when I learned to read in English. My teacher had me read the Curious George series. As a polyglot that speaks four languages fluently, I try to instill in all of my students a fervent love for languages and other cultures. Reading your post made my day. Thank you!

    Nicole Weaver
    Award-Winning Athor

    1. Can I say reading your reply made mine? We are a family of polyglots too. My kids attend a dual immersion language program in Glendale. They are in the Spanish track, third grade. I teach the 4th and 5th grade combo class in that same track. It's hard, but amazing at the same time. Our district's pretty awesome as we have 7 languages offered at 9 school sites- Spanish, Italian, German, French, Armenian, Japanese and Korean. I hope I didn't miss any! Our school has all the European languages- Spanish, French, Italian and German. We can start a conversation in one language and finish in a different one entirely. We are cultivating amazing bonds between the cultures and our annual World Fest is nothing short of magnificent. So your school made me wish it was our high school. We are almost ready to graduate our first class. I teach the 5th grade Spanish, so next year, they will be the first ones to complete the program at our school site. I hope I get to loop up with them because it will be truly amazing to see them grow into graduates. Thank you so much for your kind words and for being a Pen and Ink Inkie!! Hilde

  7. Hi Hilde--This is such a big topic and your post sums up the highs and the lows so well. I think the students are lucky to have you Hilde. You so love teaching and the kids! Great picture too!

  8. You had me at reading to the kids in a darkened classroom... I too, share that wonderful memory, and it is one that I hold very close to my heart! I am so incredibly PROUD of you for sharing this tradition with your students. They will cherish it forever...

    Hilde, when I saw that photo of you in your classroom, my eyes just filled with tears! I remember you teaching our little co-op kids drama. I can still see Molly doing the mime mirroring with you. You reached out to my shy little girl and I was amazed to see her blossom before my eyes! Congratulations to you, and may your list of "best things" continue to grow each and every year! Did I mention how proud I am?? xoxo

  9. The doors to doors to doors says it all.
    Great image.


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