Tag Archives: Profession

September 6 – Three Days

by Marilea Rabasa

teacher (426x640)

When I was a teacher twenty years ago, one of my assignments was as a long-term substitute. The teacher left lots of engaging assignments, and I did my best to implement them. The students had a break from their “real” teacher, and I felt little pressure to invest myself in the assignments because I knew I’d be leaving. That attitude, and my subsequent behavior, could have brought on tragic consequences.

Shirley was a pretty, soft-spoken girl in this class. She rarely smiled and I sensed that she was unhappy. But I left her alone. I had twenty-three other students to attend to. It was two weeks before I asked her if she had a problem she wanted to talk about, and she broke down in tears. I was relieved that she was so able to open up. She said that she was treated very badly at home. Shirley lived with a much older sister and her children, and this sister resented her living there. I asked her if there was any physical abuse and she said no; they just made her feel like she wasn’t welcome. Shirley said she was so miserable she wanted to die. I told Shirley I should tell the counselor about this, but she begged me not to say anything because she was afraid it would make things worse. This is where I made a huge error in judgment. Partly because I lacked experience with child abuse and partly because I had promised Shirley I wouldn’t tell, I naively hoped that the problem would correct itself.

But for three days I didn’t sleep well. I had a terrible sense of misgiving, and finally realized that I had to tell Shirley’s counselor what she had told me. There was immediate intervention, and Shirley was placed in a foster home where she eventually finished high school.

The weight of those three days still burdens me sometimes when I think of how my poor judgment could have proved disastrous. The fact that I was a substitute in no way should have diminished my responsibility to my students. My inexperience would have been a poor excuse if anything had happened to Shirley. Needless to say, after that I was very vigilant with my students, and often went to their counselors with my concerns.

But a larger truth I realize now as I’m telling this story is that we teachers are all imperfect, vulnerable human beings who have been given a large and important responsibility to care for other people’s children. How we regard that responsibility is at least as important as what we do in the classroom. That is the lesson we learn. We will make mistakes. If we are good, well-intentioned people who strive to do our best, are open to critical reflection and can learn from those mistakes, then I believe the teaching profession is better off with us than without us. And that’s what making a difference is all about.

Marilea is a retired teacher. Toward the end of her career she earned a Master of Arts in Teaching. This was a critical step on her life journey because it concentrated on reflective practice. Now she has time to reflect back on her life and put her stories down on paper. 

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February 20 – A Big Red Bird is all that Remains of My Past

by Pat Bean

“It’s surprising how much memory is built around things unnoticed at the time.” — Barbara Kingsolver

grandmothers-red-bird

Today, I hung all memories from the past on my wall.

The year was 1978 when I found myself single with two of my five children still left to support. It wasn’t an easy time, especially that first month when I had to borrow money to pay rent. Although there have been many difficult times since that day, as there are for all who occupy this planet, my life from this point forward only got better and better.

I spent the next 26 years finishing up a 37-year career in journalism, following it–and twice where my heart led me to go.

My career took me to the Star-Telegram in Fort Worth, Texas, for three years, then to Ogden, Utah, as features editor for the Standard-Examiner. I stayed for three years here before love took me to Las Vegas for eight months that included a stint working for the Las Vegas Sun.

When love betrayed me, I took myself away from the neon lights to Twin Falls, Idaho, where I stayed for two years as regional editor for the Times-News. It was then back to Ogden, where my former newspaper offered me a job as assistant city editor.

In 1987, I answered my heart once again and moved to Erda, Utah, and undertook a daily 56-mile commute to my job in Ogden. But in 1989, I moved back to Ogden alone, and happily stayed there until 2004, at which time I sold my home and bought my RV, Gypsy Lee.

With few exceptions, everything I owned was either packed into my 22-foot home on the road, sold or given away. The exceptions, mostly books, were eventually stored at my youngest daughter’s home here in Tucson, where I recently moved into a small apartment after almost nine years spent living on the road exploring America from sea to shining sea.

Sunday, my daughter brought me a few of those bins. And this morning, I hung the only remaining possession that remained from 1978 on the wall of my apartment.

As I stood back and looked at this simple sketch of a cardinal, which belonged to my grandmother, whom I adored and whom died when I was only ten years old, tears came into my eyes

The colored-pencil drawing, which even for a while accompanied me in my RV travels, held a lifetime of memories. It is the only thing I own that connects me to my past. As a person who prefers to look forward not backward, I have no regrets that there is nothing else.

But my heart tells me that this red bird may be the most precious thing I own today.

Pat Bean, who thinks of herself as a wondering-wanderer, is a former journalist who lived in an RV for almost nine years and recently moved into a third-floor apartment in Tucson. Her passions are writing, reading, hiking, birds, art, family and her canine companion, Pepper.

February 8 – One Dazzling Day

by Juliana Lightle

When people ask me who I am, I tell this true tale of one dazzling day:

The rancher next door called one Saturday morning begging for help. Three truckloads of yearling cattle had arrived; several of his cowboys had committed a no-show.

I pulled on jeans and boots, brushed my hair, and headed for the pens and chutes. I held their legs while they were “cut”, shot them full of meds, and branded. In four hours we worked over 300 head.

Lunchtime arrived. In one hour my volunteer job at the state park gift shop began.

No time for a bath; I smelled of smoke, blood, and poop. In one-half hour I applied make-up, mascara, blush, sprayed perfume all over me, changed clothes, and headed for work.

At five, I closed shop, went to the restroom, changed into the third outfit of the day and headed for a health care volunteer gala.

Two hours later I attended the opera, silently singing along.

Woohoo!!

Juliana Lightle writes on the canyon rim. Her new blog, Writing on the Rim, will appear in the next week. She raises horses, teaches high school, sings with a master chorale, and wanders.

September 29 — Reading with Rachel

by Kali’ P. Rourke

“Hi, my name is Rachel.”

She looked down and protectively wrapped her arms around herself. Then she looked straight at me with big, brown eyes.

I introduced myself and asked if she would like to find a place to sit. We were in the library of her middle school, and there were long tables with incredibly uncomfortable little plastic chairs grouped around them.

The smell of books, children and an occasional whiff of whatever the cafeteria was serving that day filled the air. I let her lead the way to a table near the back of the room and she sat with her back to the bookshelves. I took a chair across from her and so began our first mentoring session.

I tried active listening, the way I had read mentoring should be done…but that assumed that the other person was talking. Rachel wasn’t saying much at all, and I found myself floundering, just asking one leading question after another with little response.

I tried telling her about myself, seeking in vain to find some common ground we could tread. I was thanking God that I was an extrovert, so this was not the root canal experience it might be for some people, but I also felt that Rachel tested the outer limits of my social skills.

Finally, something I said clicked. I saw it slot into place just from the look in her eyes, and like an anxious angler, I cautiously tugged on the bait line to see how far she would advance.

“So you like art?” I asked, leaning forward slightly. “Who is your favorite artist?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” she said, “But I really like pictures of oceans.”

“I think I might want to be a marine biologist some day.”

“Really, “I asked, “What do you have to do to become a marine biologist?”

“Um…go to college, I guess.” The corners of her lips drooped in a defeated curve and I realized this was something she hadn’t thought through at all. It was as much a child’s dream as wanting to be a ballerina or an astronaut and she had no idea that it might be within her grasp.

I suggested that we get a book about marine biologists, preferably with lots of pictures, and we set off to the check out desk to find the first of many marine biology books that we would bond over in the coming months.

In time, I would share in the grimy truth of Rachel’s home life, her incredible challenges and mourn her ultimate decision to fail that year of school and to terminate our mentoring relationship.

I learned far more from her than she learned from me, but she inspired me to help create a much better program than the one I had joined. I think of Rachel often, and her face is the one before me when I give speeches and presentations about mentoring and the difference it can make in young people’s lives.

“Blessings always, sweet Rachel.”

Kali’ P. Rourke is an avid volunteer in Austin, Texas and leads the board of the Seedling Foundation, which mentors children with incarcerated parents through a site based program called “Seedling’s Promise.” Seedling Foundation partners with the Austin Independent School District in positively affecting thousands of school children each year. Learn more at http://www.seedlingfoundation.net/images/stories/seedlingvideoicon.jpg and
 http://kalipr.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/58-a-promise-kept/

August 27–Lions, Elephants, Giraffes and the Aha Moment

by Pat Bean

Before this country went to war against Iraq, and while I was still a journalist, I wrote four editorials against such an invasion. As we all know, my efforts were for naught. In 2003, America attacked. It was an action that was not seen kindly by much of the rest of the world.

Four years later, on August 27, 2007, I found myself bouncing across a savannah in Tanzania  in a Land Rover, looking for lions and giraffes and elephants and ostriches, with my friend, Kim. Our driver and safari guide was Bilal, a native African who spoke English. We three had been together for five days, and so had  come to know a little bit about each other.

He worried about us two ladies, and asked who was going to take care of us when we were old. I guess he didn’t notice that I already was, although he did call me “Mama” as a sign of respect. Kim, who is quite a bit younger than me, didn’t get the same honorific.

Bilal, whom we finally figured out was divorced, said it was the duty of his oldest son to take of him when he was old. But we noted that it was his daughter he called on his radio at every opportunity, always asking if his grandson was being a good boy.

This particular day, for the first time, the subject of politics was raised. So why,” he asked, “does America fight in other countries?”

My outspoken friend was first to point out that not every American had been in favor of attacking Iraq. I added that as a journalist I had even publicly written newspaper columns against the invasion.

The three words that Bilal spoke next shocked me. “Who hid you?” He asked.

This was the day I realized how blessed I was to be an American woman.

Pat Bean was a newspaper journalist for 37 years. Today she lives and travels full time in a small RV with her dog, Maggie. Her passions are writing, travel, birds, nature, hiking and books.  Accompany her on her sojourns at Pat Bean’s Blog: Traveling with Maggie.

August 11 – OMG

by Carol Sanford

I’m sitting here at my computer, looking out the window to the lovely, sunny, Seattle afternoon. What a perfect day to feel terror wrapping its tendrils around the pit of my stomach.

I have only a few months left to begin bringing in enough money to stay put in the 55+ community I have grown to love.

Our community is income restricted, so there are many senior women in the financial weeds along with me. Some have seen their 401K’s decimated; others, like me, have made foolish choices about money.

I have a loving and generous family which helps keep me afloat, but the assistance I receive is coming to an end next March.

So I was thrilled to discover the Older Women’s Legacy Workshop, and the possibility of keeping body and soul together by teaching, something I love doing.

I purchased the OWL materials and have been offering the Workshop here at my residence gratis. I have gained valuable experience while giving my neighbors something priceless . . . a voice to tell bring their personal history to life.

Over the five-week Workshop, as class members got comfortable with one another and the class structure, they began writing from the heart. Some of the stories were very funny; others brought tears of recognition; still others had heads nodding in agreement . . . “Oh, yeah; I’ve been there too.”

With one Workshop under my belt and another one starting in September, I began feeling confident about taking the Workshop public. I created a brochure, business card, and a blog. Lots and lots of work. But I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.

I began making calls in earnest on Monday. It’s Wednesday and I still don’t have a Workshop set up. Self-doubt reared its ugly head earlier today: maybe my brochures are, in reality, pretty crappy; maybe I’m no good at selling myself; maybe the blog is a disaster; maybe no one has any money to spend on the Workshop; maybe no one likes me!

Ironically, I posted this morning about the positive psychological effects of blogging. According to one source, blogging releases dopamine, so I should be feeling calm and relaxed, as if I were listening to beautiful music while gentle waves lap on a sandy beach just outside my door.

Time passes. After my regular Wed. evening bridge game, I compulsively check my email. OMG. There it is: a response from the Creative Retirement Center. I fill out forms, fire up the scanner, send off the requested information.

Now I wait. And write a press release. And look at my Linkedin connections. And decide to advertise in local senior publications.

After retiring from the non-profit arena where I raised money and wrote and designed marketing materials, I’ve begun teaching the Older Women’s Legacy Workshop. I’m also a mixed-media artist and digital designer. You can visit my website: http://www.writefromlife.com