Saturday, November 9, 2013

Show & Tell: In Jeopardy, Bad Teachers & Veterans Day

For someone who has retired and is supposed to have free time, I find myself recognizing this truism…

I'm so busy now I don't know how I ever found time to work before. 

Of course, part of that could be launching my new (ad)venture in real estate. 

But I don't think so. Somehow I have managed to fill in all the spaces between the hour hands with stuff to do. Lots of stuff to do. Main difference is that, for the most part, it's all stuff I like or want to do except I never, ever seem to find enough time to devote to writing. So before that gets away from me, I have three important things I wanted to share… So we'll call this post Show &Tell…

Show & Tell #1…

My blogging buddy & teacher friend John Pearson is a contestant on the Jeopardy Teachers Tournament. (Some of you may know him as Mister Teacher). 

How cool is that? The tournament begins Monday (that's Nov. 11). You can check out the times and station by clicking here.  His episode airs on Thursday. So let's all support John and give it a watch. 

Show & Tell #2…

For the most part, pretty much all my training in my latest (ad)venture has been pretty good unlike the beating one normally takes in teacher professional development days. 

In fact, these real estate people take their professional training pretty seriously. They lock the doors when it's time to begin. So, if you aren't there on time, you are out of luck. You actually have to pay attention or the monitor will come by and tell you to. In the last one I attended, they fined you if your cell phone went off because it's supposed to be turned off or silenced. See what I mean. No shenanigans. No siree, Missy.

But, most importantly, they take their food and snackage seriously. One session I attended had a catered lunch with turkey pesto, chicken salad and crab cake sandwiches, goat cheese  empanadas, wild rice salad, fresh fruit salad and sweet potato chips. We also had a morning snack and an afternoon snack. Snacks ranged from ice cream to a variety of delicious popcorn to fresh fruit.

All of that was a very good thing since the instruction (for the first time since I've been doing this) was sub-par. (And by sub-par, let me just say it took 25 minutes to highlight one item. Really. Yes. Really. I would have rather poked my eye out with a pencil.) At least the food and snackage was enough compensate for it.

Which brings me to two other truisms…
#1… If you're a bad teacher, you shouldn't teach. Anyone. At any place. At any time. For any reason. And I mean period (and not an Obama period either).

#2… If for some reason, you must have a bad teacher, then the food and snackage needs to be of high enough quality to compensate for the bad teacher. Raise your hand if you agree. Thought so.

Show & Tell #3…

Howard the Shelter Cat with his favorite Marine Corp blanket
And finally, Monday, Nov. 11 is Veterans Day. 

And while I  believe everyone should thank veterans all the time, at least remember those who safeguard our freedoms on this special day. While I appreciate all veterans, Howard the Shelter Cat and I are particularly fond of Marines. 

Semper Fi.



Sunday, October 27, 2013

Missing (NOT), Howard Time & Goodbyes

I talked to a former business associate of 25-plus years who later subsequently became more of a friend, and she asked me about my retirement from teaching and whether I missed it.

Well, I can honestly say, "Hmmmm. No, not really."

I mean, I miss the kids somewhat, but  not really because I still talk to them. Plus, I do volunteer stuff within the educational realm. So, no, not really. And, I certainly don't miss very many of the "big people." (And all you teacher-types out there know exactly what I mean.)

But all that got me to thinking, and you know what happens when that happens. Jeepers creepers, it's list making time. So here it is…

Richie's (partial) list of things she doesn't miss…

•Hails Bails, the bells or the music or whatever it is that moves teachers from one time block to the next. It's nice to be what I like to call as "Howard time." As the saying goes… a picture is worth a thousand words…

Howard The Shelter Cat on Howard Time

•Defining my existence and scheduling my life by publications deadlines--underclassmen photos, senior photos, first yearbook sales, first deadline, cover deadline, endsheet deadline, story idea deadlines, first story deadline, revisions due, blah, blah, blah, blah.

•Twenty minute lunches that masquerade as "30 minute duty free lunches." Welcome to my slice of heave: I can eat whenever I want, with whom I want and for how long I want. 

•Being interrupted every second and unable to complete anything. 

•Servers that don't work when it rains or when the wind blows a certain way or when you have this major assignment for the kiddos…


Oh… I could go on and on and on… but no need to… I probably have a list somewhere of things I never liked about teaching archived on this blog.

But back to my friend, Nancy…She reminded me of one of the things I did miss or do miss in these first few months of Retirement City. It's during this time that you sort of discover what people really were friends and who just masqueraded as such. 

Nancy is not a masquerader. She and I plan on lunch once her picture day taking rush is over. 

And, as far as those other folks? Well, let's just say I'm changing their ringtone to: "Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye…"

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Zombies, Crazies & Survival Tips

Perhaps it's because another full moon is headed our way towards the end of the month.

Or maybe it's because Halloween is just around the corner along with all the stuff that witches brew brings.

I don't know. All if know is that my Crazy Magnet is stuck in the "on" position and I need to know speedy quick how to unstick it. If I  thought WD-40 would do the trick, why I'd stockpile pallets of that greasy stuff in my garage and call it a day.

Forget about the Zombie Apocalypse. It's the Crazies Apocalypse that I'm worried about.  They're everywhere. No, silly, not Zombies, but Crazies. On the roads, in the stores, on the phone. Here. There. Everywhere. And, I do not like them here nor there. I do not like them anywhere. No siree, Missy. (Hails Bails, I think they even may have had a hand in that whole government shut down thing.)

Luckily, after teaching high school for 27 years, I've developed some slick Ninja moves to survive the Crazies Apocalypse.  Now I am not admitting I've done any of these things, but here are some tips that just might save your sanity…

  • Start waving at someone--anyone--even if you don't know them  and walk briskly toward the person you don't know to get away from the Crazy. Of course, the person you don't know might think you're a tad bit crazy and start waving at someone else, which then, of course, will cause a Crazies Chain Reaction and explain why we're headed for the Crazies Apocalypse.
  • If you're approached in a  parking lot, act like you've lost your car (which for me isn't too much of a stretch most of the time) and keep hitting the horn button. Not only will you find your car, but you'll drown out the Crazy.
  • If you have a nifty bluetooth headset, you can always pretend to be answering your phone and carry on a sane conversation with yourself. (I wonder if that would be considered an oxymoron in my case? I'm pretty sure I've got the moron covered, not so sure about the oxy.)
  • If you're in the supermarket, either hide behind the Halloween costumes until the coast is clear or start trying on Halloween masks, so no one will recognize you. Of course, you probably should remove the mask once you get to the check out counter or you might face an entirely different problem. Something involving numbers like 10 to 20, if you know what I mean.
  • If you're in your classroom, well unfortunately, your options are limited and involve handfuls of emergency chocolate. Lucky for you, if you were hiding down that Halloween isle in the grocery store trying on masks, you probably picked up a bag or two and are all set.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Back-to-School, New (Ad)ventures & the Class of 2017

Jack at the end of the summer pool party
Most of my teaching buddies found their way back to school this week marking the beginning of that fun-filled extravaganza that we fondly and not-so-fondly refer to as teacher in-service.  Since I retired at the end of last year, this is my first back-to-school in 27 years that I am not going back-to-school.

I had several teacher friends ask me how I felt about that. Well, so far, I must say, I'm feeling pretty darn tootin' good about it. So good in fact, I threw an end-of-the-summer party for my teacher friends and felt blessed that it wasn't the end of my summer yet.

I wish I could say that I spent my summer doing a whole lot of nothing. Instead, I spent most of it launching my new real estate (ad)venture and loving every minute of it.  You can check out my new (ad)venture at and my new blog at

One of the perks of retirement and being your own boss is that you get to spend some time navigating through all the social media and internet postings. One of my former students posted a link to buzzfeed that listed "32 Extremely Upsetting Facts About the Class of 2017." Most of these kiddos were probably born in 1999.

I pared the list down to my top 5…

Favorite 5 Upsetting Facts About the Class of 2017

#5…They have never lived in a world with monthly texting limits.

#4…The Backstreet Boys have been a band longer than they've been alive

#3…For them Star Wars has never been a trilogy

#2…Eminem is old enough to be their dad.

And my #1 Favorite from the list… drum roll pan-leese…

#1…This looks like something out of a fantasy novel to them…

Here's wishing all my teacher friends a great year!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Beige, Training & Christmas in July

Less than two months into my new real estate (ad)venture and I find myself in an interesting position–at the bottom of the educational food chain and way off the charts of the learning curve.

It is a rather interesting place to be and has provided me with a rather new perspective from a learner's point of view instead of a teacher's point of view.

I have become beige.

And not by design either. 

Since I have been spending quite a bit of time in a variety of training sessions offered by a variety of groups, I have discovered–whether intentionally or unintentionally–"experts" tend to view beginners much like most people view beige walls–uninteresting, unobtrusive and rather invisible.

In a technology session I attended, I was the only beginner. The Internet went down. People were frantically trying to "fix" their laptops. I announced, "Hey, it's not your laptop, the Internet's down." 

Nothing but beige. 

"No really. The Internet's down," I said again.

More beige.

Someone then came into the room and informed everyone, "The Internet's down."

"Ohhhhh," said the others as if hearing the proclamation for the first time.

See what I mean? Beige. Beige. Beige. I have other examples, but I think you know what I mean here.

About a week ago, I started training with my real estate company. Thankfully, the trainer is pretty amazing. While I know lots of teachers who hand out chocolate as an incentive, I don't know very many teachers who can get their students in July to vie  for left over chocolate Santas or Easter Bunnies as a reward.

Nothing beige about that.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Independence Day & New Beginnings

It seems fitting to start writing and posting again at the beginning of July. With Independence Day just around the corner, I find myself semi-independent now that I've launched into this retirement-from-teaching-thing and latched on to this redefining-and-reinventing-yourself-thing and, let's not forget, the starting-your-own-real-estate-business thing.

Many of you wondered how all that would effect this writing thing especially since my little hiatus from posting expanded into a much longer span of time than I intended. I just felt bone tired (or as one of my favorite principals used to say, "I feel as if I was ridden hard and put up wet). But more importantly, I really floundered trying to find the funny in things anymore.

 But I think I got my funnyback again.

Some of you have wondered how I can continue to write on Bellringers now that I've launched this real estate thing. Well, my dears, let me assure you that I have found an unusual blending of these two worlds and will trudge on. (In fact, schools and homes both have bells in common, do they not? OK, OK, OK so maybe just a tad bit of a stretch there.)

In addition, to beginning my real estate business, I also will continue teaching and working with high schoolers at journalism workshops and hope to also branch out and mentor new advisers. So, you see, I have not completely abandoned my passion to teach and for education. Already I have a plethora of stories to tell and will begin posting those soon.

In the meantime, stay with me as I chronicle my real estate and teaching adventures. To all my teaching friends out there, hope you find time to relax this summer, and to all my new real estate friends, welcome and get ready. We're going to have some kind of fun now!

Oh… one more thing… I would be remiss as I declare my independence as an entrepreneur (don't you like the way that sounds) if I failed to shamelessly plug myself. So, my dears, if you need any real estate assistance, let me know. Even if you don't live in Texas, I can refer you to other agents who can assist you. So there it is. My plug. Let's hope that generates some sparks (and not the set-your-hair-on-fire kind either).

Thursday, April 25, 2013

-30- Marks the End & A New Beginning

Writer's note: After much thought and consideration, I finally decided to retire at the end of the school year. Below is a column that more or less gives my reasons why. And while I am ending my teaching career, I have several new beginnings I am excited about and will write about later. And, of course, I am hoping this decision will provide more opportunities to devote to blogging… again. 


For years now in my teaching career, I’ve felt like Lucy Ricardo working on the candy assembly line, but without the benefit of eating all that chocolate.
It doesn’t help that our schools tend to look like factories filled with teachers who fanatically and frenetically try to keep pace in an environment that rewards uniformity.

Like Lucy, I have found myself working at warp speed, expected to churn out cookie-cutter children all wrapped up and ready to go as “lifelong learners,” “productive citizens” or whatever other education buzzword is trending at the time. This, of course, must occur in a “stimulating and challenging environment” and be packaged in a neat little box lined with a “better future.”

At the educational factory, the operative words are “standards” and “measurements” and “outcomes” – all topped off with standardized testing to make sure everything and everyone is properly and uniformly measured. Over the years, I’ve watched more young teachers than I can count run a white flag up their own standard and quickly retreat to another profession.

Like Lucy, they’ve said in so many words: “Listen, Ethel, I think we’re fighting a losing game.”

A few years ago, I stumbled upon a study cleverly entitled, “The Widget Effect.” The report showed how administrators and school systems treat teachers, not as individual professionals, “but rather as interchangeable parts.”  

The study called us “widgets” and predicted that public education would never really improve until administrators and policymakers quit viewing teachers that way. Finally, someone was singing my song.

I’m not sure how this widget thing has become so entrenched in our educational system. It’s not like it works anywhere else. If someone swapped a Bill Gates or a Warren Buffett with a mediocre-no-name CEO, the results would be, well, quite different.

So why do we think we can swap out the Gloria Shields, the Mary Pulliams and the Dow Tates of our little educational world with interchangeable widgets and still yield the same results?

The widget metaphor has stuck with me like an obnoxious radio jingle. I haven’t been able to shake it off or ignore it. Instead, it’s made me only that much more defiant. Just because school feels like a factory, that doesn’t mean I have to act like a widget.

So I’ve tried to work harder and smarter, and eventually, that’s meant I’ve also worked longer hours. I’ve tried to do more, achieve more and be more until I’ve begun to feel like I belong in that Army recruiting commercial.

I’ve attended seminars, taught workshops and learned new things to bring to my classroom. I’ve embraced the latest technology, joined committees, mentored others and blogged religiously about my trials, tribulations and successes.

Rebelling against widgetry earns you a certain stature. I’ve been called many things. Some good, some bad and some that rhyme with what my students call me, Richie. The worst, though, has come when I’ve been brusquely dismissed as not being a “real teacher” because, you know, I teach an elective – another word for “pointless” in widget-speak.

I’ve survived three school districts, more than a half-dozen superintendents and eight principals. Every year, I’ve struggled to show that somehow my work matters in my classroom and my student publications.

No interchangeable widget here. No sirree, Missy. Not me.

Along the way, I’ve managed to stay married to one man, raised my own two children, gained weight, lost weight, battled a kidney disease, watched cancer erase both parents, walked 60 miles for the Three-Day for the Cure, written a book, championed the First Amendment and become fearless.

Most importantly, during that time, I’ve had the privilege of engaging in the education of hundreds of children, and because of them, I’ve become a better, stronger person – one who cannot and will not be unceremoniously reduced to a widget.

And so because I am too stubborn to succumb to The Widget Effect, this year marks the end of my career in public education. Twenty-seven years has earned me a graceful exit rather than a retreat. No white flags here. I may not have prevailed, but I have endured.

That’s probably the best outcome anyone could hope for in a broken system waiting to get fixed. The assembly line may have beaten Lucy, but it didn’t break me.