December 20, 2017

Maybe I Missed My Calling


Hopefully you noticed a different look to the blog...black letters on a white background. I have been told by my graphics-trained wife that this combination is easier to read than the way things looked before. Also, the font size is bigger, again an adjustment for our aging eyes.

Please let me know what you think with a comment after this post. It is easy to put it back or make other modifications. After all, you are the ultimate boss!


Now, on to the post for today


Not too long ago was my last lesson. Twenty one youngsters, all in a 5th grade classroom were mostly quiet and as attentive as an 11 year old can be after lunch period. Name tags were on each desk.

After a deep breath I began what I hoped would be a meaningful, even enjoyable 40 minutes for "my" kids. Modifying some of the teaching materials to better connect with their lives and experiences, I led them through some key words and concepts. We consulted a large map and learned how much of the food and many of the products we consume and buy come from countries all around the world. Special cards were handed out to teach another lesson about the global economy. All too quickly, my time was up and I had to say goodbye.

As I was packing up to leave, the classroom teacher stopped me while all the kids looked on expectantly. She handed me a framed picture of the class that each child had signed to thank me for our time together. A round of applause and shouts of  "Thank you, Mr Lowry" followed me out the door.

It was moments like these that made the planning and time worth it.  



For the last year I have volunteered with the Junior Achievement program at a nearby elementary school. Last spring I taught a 4th grade class, this fall I have just wrapped up the lessons with 5th graders. I have enjoyed the experience enough to sign up for next year.

At first, walking into a classroom of 21 or 22 kids is intimidating. After all, I am old enough to be their grandfather. I don't want to bore them. I have to be careful to use examples they can relate to without trying too hard. I have a specific lesson plan to complete in 40 minutes each week. I must find a balance between maintaining control and making each child feel comfortable in my presence.

And, I enjoyed it tremendously. There was a flutter of nerves as I drove to the school each week, hoping I was prepared and the kids would be attentive. But, once I started everything seemed to just flow. Rarely consulting the teaching book, I became wrapped up in the presentation. I could quickly judge if the material was sparking any interest or it would be best to skip to the next section.

My mom was a teacher, full time, part time, and as a classroom volunteer, for 40 years. My uncle and grandfather were library system directors and university provosts, so I guess I have it in my genes. For the last twenty years of my working life I was a management consultant, which, come to think of it, is a type of teacher.

Playing records on the radio was fun. It was the perfect life for a young man in the late 60's and early 70's and a nice boost to the ego to be a local celebrity. I don't regret my career choice at all.

But, I guess it is natural to wonder what life would have been if I had followed a different path, maybe into education or teaching. After leaving the classroom now I feel a natural affinity for that setting and the ability to be a positive influence on the young lives sitting at all those desks. 

Retirement gives me the opportunity to have a taste of a life that might have been.



45 comments:

  1. Sorry, but the new white background is hard on the eyes. Perhaps there is a softer color if want to change from the old background. Regardless of background, your blog is outstanding and I am still struggling after four years of retirement.

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    1. I am sorry to read that you are still struggling. If I can be of any help, drop me an email.

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  2. Much better with the new background. I find black to be very hard to read.

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  3. I like this background; easy to read and looks clean.

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  4. Love the new background, the font could be a teeny bit larger?

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    1. I took the font from 12 to 14. I tried 16 but that seemed too big.

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  5. I have to be honest, I liked the dark background. Looked a little more distinctive and personal. The white background looks more generic to me. But I am here for content, not an esthetic experience. Either will work.

    Rick in Oregon

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    1. Generic seems to be the common complaint about this layout, and it is. Hopefully, the content will keep everyone coming back.

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  6. Any book publisher would heartily agree with your change to black letters placed on a white background. I wish more online content would follow your example, it is much easier to read.

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  7. Generally, I avoid reading white on black backgrounds - thanks for the change.

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  8. A number of years ago a few of us at work volunteered to be teachers at an inner city school in Syracuse which was mostly black kids. Granted it was 20+ years ago, but I still remember one young girl in particular. She was really interested in everything I had to say, particularly when it came around to comments about being anything you want to be. She really clung to me a lot and I always wondered what happened to her. She had a chance to go far but I suspect she got caught up in the typical inner city life of a place like Syracuse, which would have been a waste. I bring that up because I have really no excuse for not doing a similar stint today. Your article may galvanize me to do the right thing again.

    And count me in with the majority of your responders. I like the new background; much easier to read.

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    1. It may be a cliche, but it is true: children are our future, which is good since we have made a fine mess of things. To impact even one life when interacting with kids is a joyful experience.

      The school where I volunteer is lower middle class. Over 90% of the children receive a free lunch. But, they come to school in clean clothes and eager to learn. Helping them for only 40 minutes a week isn't much, but I hope shows them their opportunities.

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  9. Re: background - I find the light background too bright.
    Volunteering allows us to explore our interests and remain engaged. I volunteer with the local elementary school as a "dignitary". We assist with some of the programming - read, tie skates at the ice rink, participate in the school events (this week I'm doing a reading at the Christmas concert; I haven't participated in a Christmas concert for more than 50 yrs!). It's a way of keeping students/school connected with the community and the community with the school. You are obviously an educator. Just think of the influence you may have on these young people. They are always watching and I'm conscious of being a good example.

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    1. Besides the "teaching" with Junior Achievement, I really enjoyed the several years I acted as a mentor and support for recently released prisoners, which was educational. too. Yes, that side of volunteering is very satisfying.

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  10. Bob, I'm not a fan of the bright white background either. I struggled for a long time with my web site colors, and finally decided on a light gray with black letters. Take a look. http://www.abe-software.com/

    Keith

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    1. I did darken this site one color notch. I looked at your site and we appear to be about the same. I go one more shade darker but will give it a few days.

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  11. Bob, it looks like you're using black on light gray, and it displays just fine. I like it a lot better than the previous white on black.

    We presbyopians appreciate the larger font, too!

    I understand your joy of teaching. I served eight years at Navy training commands, which at times was like being a Roman gladiator on the floor of the Coliseum. Yet today I really enjoy getting together with a group in a financial seminar or a surfing lesson. If I had to teach every week at a certain time or place then it'd be too much like a job, but I'm fulfilled by an occasional hour or two.

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    1. My mom came home from teaching exhausted and then had to spend a few hours grading papers, preparing lesson plans, or otherwise involve herself in her job. I know she loved the teaching part, but the rest started to really wear her down.

      Like you, I enjoy the one or two exposures a week so I don't feel as though I am working.

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  12. Personally, I thought your other design seemed classier. This grayish blue/white seems so generic. It might help to make the side bars a different color and highlight the main post. Just my 2 cents worth.
    As for your time in the classroom, I think that's a fabulous way to stay in touch with what's going on with kids and for them to make a connection with their elders.
    b

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    1. That was what i was going for with the previous look. It also seemed different from most other blogs. But, I will admit this is easier to read.

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  13. I find the black on white easier to read. Love it.

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  14. Great post and congratulations on helping these young people and our future!

    I liked the darker background and white lettering...I found it easier to read than this which also looks a bit generic!

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    1. Thanks, Carol. I could go back to the old look, or modify this one a bit after all the input is in and I have lived with it for awhile.

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  15. I like the new, but any light grey or light grey blue and definitely black lettering would be fine. Also agree about slightly larger font.

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  16. What a great experience! You are brave--I would rather face a room full of law students any day!

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    1. Didn't you face fish in the wild seas off Alaska? I would rather face law students any day!

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  17. Black on Yellow is the most observed color combo - hence street signs. I am enjoying the black on gray. The continuation of blue on the side is nice as well.
    Teaching is amazing. So glad you had a good experience. JA is a wonderful program and important in the schools. They offered me (as a teacher) the resources and connections to teach basic banking and finance to sixth graders. My students were empowered! Hope you continue the volunteering in this, very important, area.

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    1. The classroom teacher seemed to enjoy and need the 40 minute break when I was teaching. She caught up on paperwork and planning, but was also quick to help when some students were struggling with an exercise. Her presence in the room helped keep everyone under control.

      Part of the 4th and 5th grader JA curriculum is to explain basic functions and concepts of our economic system. Frankly, I think that is the most important part of what I was teaching since schools, and parents, don't focus on that type of material.

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  18. Whatever color this is works for me. White lettering on dark background sends me away. I think your message is more important than some exotic background. I worked in inner city schools and wondered about some of the children years later. One little boy still tugs at my heart. He, a little black child, undersized with a speech impediment, begged me to take him home with me. I fear he was bullied at school and not nurtured at home.

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    1. Just in my limited exposure to these kids this past year made it obvious that some were probably going to do well in life, and others would struggle. The kids who eagerly answered my questions, made a real effort to complete whatever small task we were doing, or even remembered the definition of a word like entrepreneur from week to week stood out in each classroom.

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  19. Hi Bob, your post today is inspirational.I used to volunteer in a "publishing workshop" at the elementary school where my daughter attended.It was very rewarding to work with children while they created their stories. At the end of the process we presented each child with a bound book for them to take home. Thanks for reminding me of how rewarding this type of volunteer work can be.

    Re: New Look - You are taking all these opinions in stride, so I will offer mine. Betty is right about the black on white, but you are using a light gray background which adds glare to the black letters. Have you tried it on pure white? Adding color to your headings area will help add softness and contrast while drawing attention there. Maybe use the same blue as your title and continue with the black letters. The increased font size is great. Don't have to wear my cheaters anymore!

    Thanks again for a great reminder to take time to nurture our future leaders.

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    1. While any volunteer opportunity is worth our time and effort, those that involve children, abused women, and recently released prisoners seem to tug at my heartstrings the most. As our government seems to be marginalizing these people more and more, it is up to us, as individuals, to show our care and concern.

      I had pure white as the background and thought it looked a bit too stark. What you see now is one notch away. I may experiment with color in the header area. Good thoughts.

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  20. I prefer the newer version (black letters on a gray background). For my eyes, it makes reading your blog MUCH easier. The previous black background verged on being painful to read, so I often cut my time on your site short. This is a huge improvement. Glad you made the switch!

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    1. Great! Glad you like the different look.

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  21. Hi Bob! I'm another one who vastly prefers the black letters on a lighter background. I very seldom read "black" websites (yours was the exception of course!) but find your new look much more 'positive!" And good for you for sharing your knowledge with others by teaching. You didn't miss your calling...you just delayed it a while. ~Kathy

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  22. Most of my career years involved teaching in one form or another, and I loved it. In my first career as a speech-language pathologist, I worked with children and adolescents one-on-one doing asssessments and therapy (individual instruction). As a university professor, I taught in large lecture halls a bit, but mostly smaller classes. I especially liked teaching graduate students and mentoring them in doing their research. Just as you describe, it is very satisfying work, especially when you are passionate about what you are teaching, and really reach some students.

    Jude

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    1. I don't think I would do well as a full time teacher in a public school: too much politics and keeping parents happy rather than actual teaching.

      But, in smaller doses or smaller settings I would enjoy the experience.

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