Friday, April 9, 2010

Teaching: 101

Last week, I had the opportunity to address the Glendale Elementary Writers' Club, thanks to my friend Kathy M. and the founder of the group, Ms. Cindi Jones.

Well, of course, I was a nervous wreck. The only thing I'd ever taught was Sunday School for pre-schoolers when I was in my mid-twenties.

I was terrible at it back then. I used to bribe them to sit down at the beginning of class by giving them Kool-aid and those little gem-colored suckers on string-loops, the ones you could buy by the cellophane yard. The hyperactivity/sugar connection never dawned on me. Plus, they failed to appreciate all the work that went into each class. It took lots of colored felt and valuable Saturday night hours to cut out all those people, commandment tablets, doves, you name it, whatever was necessary to re-enact Bible stories on the magic blue-felt covered lesson board. As a kid, I'd always loved to watch Miss Furniss take out her little felt props--sheep, shepherds, the altar where that one guy was supposed to slay his son until God said, "Nah, not really, Abraham, I kid! I kid because I love."

Anyway, when it was MY turn to use the felt board, I was thrilled to work my magic. Only my kids weren't nearly as impressed. They had no idea how much work went into making my little gray felt tomb for Jesus, complete with the roll-away stone. My strongest memories of those years are mainly little kids jumping up and yelling "Hurry, take me potty, I'm gonna wet my pants!" Once, when the kids were actually listening to the lesson, a little boy raised his hand and I was elated. "Good!" I thought. He's interested, and he has a question. When I called on him, he asked in all seriousness "Does God ever jump?"

But I digress.

Partly because of the holiday weekend and partly because some of the writers chose to go to hiphop club instead (and who can blame them?), there was a small turnout. But I think it went OK. I bribed them with buttons and song cards this time, and they seemed to really enjoy writing their "Six-Word Memoirs." (Thanks for the idea, Mrs. Nixon. Anyone interested in what I'm talking about can go to

Anyway, the above pic shows some future writers of America. And I was happy and proud to meet them.

P.S. Kudos to Ms. Jones for starting a writers group for elementary kids. I wish we'd had one.
I'd have sucked at hiphop.


  1. I'd forgotten all about those lollipops on waxy string loops. Yuck! Something about them always rubbed me the wrong way and I don't know why.

  2. Toon, I always loved those lollipops because you could suck on the string even after the lollipop was gone. That's what we did, during the Depression. (Thanks for reading and commenting.)

  3. Renee, I, along with Zoe's 5th grade teacher, Miss Nelson, did a writer's group for her class. It was frustrating at first but after six weeks, most of the kids were coming up with the most amazing metaphors and started actually enjoying writing poetry!!! Hang in there. It's so worth it.

  4. Man oh man. There's nothing like teaching Sunday School to give you an appreciation for what an art teaching is. Good for you for braving the front of the classroom! I love how evocative your writing is. I can picture all the antsy kids, hopped up on sugar and bladders near-bursting.

  5. Thanks, Joybells. I'm not really sure what, if anything, the kids learned. Maybe the lesson was mine--kids know someone who hasn't a clue what she's doing when the see one. I still do one-on-one volunteering at one of our inner-city schools. Eye-opening and saddening with tiny glimmers of hope. Lots of the kids' parents are in jail or addicts or absent altogether. My heart goes out to them. Not always sure why/what I'm doing but it feels like something that needs to be done. Just showing up every week and playing it by ear. Thanks for commenting!