Who is Renae Frase?
A few days ago while out shopping, my husband needed to make a quick stop at the local WalMart. We had just been to the grocery store so, since there were perishables in the trunk, we really did intend for this stop to be fast. Since it was an in-out visit, I elected to stay in the car.
We pulled into the parking lot nose-to-nose with an older, brown car. In that car was a middle-aged woman who was busy applying mascara to her lashes. When she finished her lashes she busied herself with rubbing foundation all over her face and neck. As soon as that was done she began applying more mascara. After finishing that task she flossed her teeth then watched herself in the rearview mirror as she put on fresh lipstick. She flossed some more then pulled out her mascara and went to work on her eyelashes again. After that (and while in a very visible spot in the parking lot) she applied deodorant then proceeded to pad her bra. I assume she was satisfied with this because she started applying more mascara to her eyelashes. The older man she was with arrived at his car at about the same time my husband returned and I could see as they were leaving that she had control of the mirror and was busy rubbing more foundation on her neck.
What has that got to do with education? Precisely this: nothing. I thought it was ridiculous and wanted to share it. Also, I wanted to tell you a bit about myself and what I just described is totally the opposite of me. Every morning I wash my face in the shower, then, in the privacy of my bathroom, I put on deodorant. This is the extent of my primping ’cause from here I’ll dress and go about my day. With me, WYSIWYG – at least, I hope so.
Several years back, I went to a laundromat with my best friend. She carried a box with her and, while we waited on the laundry, busied herself with cutting out all kinds of little pictures she had tirelessly colored. Not satisfied to see me sitting idle, she handed me a spare pair of scissors and put me to work also.
This embarrassed me. Here were two adults sitting in public cutting out “paper dolls” and I had no idea what she was intending to do with them. A couple weeks later I visited her classroom and saw all kinds of “things” she had created with these small pictures. I was hooked. I wasn’t really clear what I was doing, but I fell in love with it.
Not long after that I got married and moved to another state. My new husband was just starting out on his new career – teaching. He previously had been working in radio (and has returned to radio on a part-time basis) and has a degree in mass media. He had returned to college to get his teaching credentials before we married. Marriage didn’t stop his education. His new employer required more coursework than the state did and he wanted to get his masters degree so for six summers we moved into the dorm and he continued to pump up the gray matter.
That first summer we were married, and first time with summer school, my hubby came back to the dorm after class and said that he had met his new boss. He said she was nice but he also voiced some concern about the upcoming school year. She had told him she expected every teacher who would be working under her, to have as much in the way of personal educational materials and supplies as she had. She also mentioned that she had been teaching for twenty years.
My husband is no idiot. He’s one of those people that classmates are envious of because he pulls A’s without studying – even in graduate school. But this assignment was out of his league. He was working on a masters in curriculum and instruction, but to sit down and color small pictures then cut them out and laminate them was not his idea of fun. He loathed it!
I loved it! We went to the local teacher’s supply store and picked up a few books to work from then I went to work creating file folder games. I had quite a few ready by the time school started and spent the year creating bulletin boards, planning parties, creating more file folder games and did various other things in/for the classroom. Eventually I began creating my own designs and had more ideas than I was able to follow through on.
A few years later my hubby’s new boss (that earlier one only lasted a year) came by for a visit. She showed up unexpectedly at a moment when I had stripped his room in order to redecorate. Apparently she assumed this was the normal decor and didn’t like what she saw. They scheduled him to go to a workshop they were giving for a few select teachers, on creating learning centers. He took me with him. I was really disappointed with what I found. They had made what was essentially over-sized file folder games on a poster board, laminated them and stuck them to the wall. They called this one poster a “learning center.”
Hubby was supposed to choose from what they had and make a copy of it for himself. I was invited to do the same but I didn’t like anything I saw. Neither did he. He ended up taking the stuff they had to make a poster with some sort of penguin. We both elected to go through the presenter’s pictures and create different “learning centers” of our own. He used a big, green jar and put math problems on individual pickles. I don’t remember what I did but I believe I had finished three original posters during this visit. While there I had a short conversation with the woman who was putting on this “make and take” workshop. She asked where I got my pictures from and I told her I used old coloring books. Not long after that I heard her passing out this information as though it was her idea and she was getting pats on the back for the great resource idea (grumble… grumble…).
A year or two later I was voted PTA Chair. This was also the year that Abe’s school was evaluated in order to keep certifications up-to-date. I busied myself decorating his room and had stuff everywhere. I didn’t just put up an occasional poster, I gathered posters, games, books, whatever I could find that would interest and educate a child, and put them in the appropriate grouping. After the evaluation, when the Superintendent talked about what they had found, my hubby was commended for his room decorations. The boss said he’d never seen a reading center that large before.
The last year my husband taught full time he assigned the students to work in couples, select a topic, and create their own learning center. They had a full quarter to work on the project and I was there to help them.
Abe worked in a one-teacher, multi-grade school. This assignment worked well as the 5th grade girl was able to team up with the 8th grade girl, and the boys were able to make similar pairings. But there was one child left over – a second grader. With the exception of this young girl all the students were in the upper grades and could handle the task. But this wasn’t your ordinary child. She didn’t want to be left out and asked me to be her partner.
Let me tell you about this kid. She was in second grade, but reading on an upper grade level and comprehending what she was reading. When I put up a poster on which you match the mommy animal with the baby animal, she ran up and helped me tape it to the door, then started matching them immediately. When she had finished all she knew and wanted help finishing it, I pulled out the dictionary and taught her how to use it. She read the definitions in the dictionary, discussed some of the descriptions with me, then correctly matched the remaining animals.
While the other students were selecting the type of subjects you might expect for this project, (things like space, airplanes, snakes, horses, etc…) my second grade partner chose to do a center on China. I went to the public library and borrowed several kids books on her chosen subject. With a big grin when she saw them, she devoured these books. She would quickly do her other assignments (and did them well) so we could go to work on her project. She made a couple posters, did some paper art, and would even bring chop sticks to eat her lunch with. (She was quite proficient with these.)
When my husband quit teaching I gave all my materials to my best friend, the one who had introduced me to this insanity several years earlier. She was teaching high school in upstate New York at the time, but there was a chance that she would go back into elementary at some point. The next year she accepted the position of principal at a school not far from where I had lived in Arkansas and we also returned to the state. Although she was principal, it was a small, parochial school and she had grades 1-8. Much of my materials that I had given her were destroyed in a flood but she still had boxes full of the stuff and was able to use them.
How do I know she used them? Just before Christmas break she called asking for help. Her aide had some personal problems and was unable to continue working. I was hired as the aide and finished out the school year with her. The next year I was offered the position as kindergarten teacher but my car wouldn’t hold up for the half-hour drive through the Arkansas hills. My husband drove a half-hour the opposite direction and had mostly flat terrain, but that didn’t solve the problem. My car wasn’t healthy enough to make his trip either. Despite it running well and being drivable, I ended up selling it for $150 to a man who thought the price was too high.
But not being able to go to school didn’t stop me from wanting my hands on the materials. Like I said, a lot of the stuff I had made earlier was destroyed in a flood, so I spent the next two years creating things for my friend’s classroom.
Now my friend has moved away and holds a position as an Associate Superintendent in another state. We still keep in touch. In fact, she helped inspire this project. With her encouragement and my husband’s keen eye, they sorta keep me in line. I considered decorating one of my fonts pages (Silly’s Munchies) with an animated cat barfing up a hairball but the thought of what their reactions would be when they saw it held me back.
They also make sure I keep the site educationally useful. When my friend moved she had to take some tests in order to get the certifications required in her new state. She was really busy and asked me to track down the information for her and gather all the info she would need in order to get her transcripts. Several weeks later I ran across a site online that was offering a downloadable tutor for a test that was being given at Sylvan. I remembered that she had to take a test at Sylvan so I automatically put the two together and got excited because here was something useful. I wrote to the man who was offering this tutor and he gave me permission to post it on my site. When my husband got home that evening, I was eagerly telling him about it and he got the strangest look on his face and responded with, “Huh?” What I thought was the teacher’s certification test turned out to be the MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer), or something like that. I ate my crow and apologized to the man who was willing to allow me to post his exam, and tried to explain the mix up.
Why don’t I get my degree and teach or go back into the classroom as an aide? I don’t want to. I had the chance this year. One place wanted to interview me for the position of kindergarten teacher and someone else suggested I check into a preschool position at the school where she taught. My first response was, “Awwright!!! That would be fun!!!”, but I quickly thought better of it. I love the children and I’d have my own classroom to decorate, but there are so many things about teaching that leave me less than thrilled and these things keep me out of it. So, I’m putting my time into this site, learning HTML in the process, and finding things that may be helpful to some poor teacher out there somewhere.