The Dream Teacher Blog

You Call Her PupPup!

by Cindi on September 25, 2019

David and I got married with a passel of children already in tow so we didn’t ever have what I referred to as a “common denominator child,” one that would be related to everyone in the house. Instead, after we’d been married 14 years, and our kids were all grown and gone, David started talking about a dog.

He scoured the internet and all the shelters in the surrounding counties and found “Jet,” a black hound mix in Caswell County. We traveled there to look at him and while he laid his little puppy head on David’s shoulder, I picked up others and said, “How about this one? This one?” But he was certain. Jet was the one. It was then that we found out she was actually Jetta…a girl, not a boy. And she was ours.

We placed her in a crate in the back of the car, one we had purchased along with a collar, a leash, and a ton of toys…and off we went. We were barely out of the parking lot when she started…HOWLING…howling like a wolf.

I tried talking to her to calm her, including having a conversation about her name – I wasn’t a fan of Jetta, and David said she needed a “country” name since she was a coonhound…”like a flower,” he said. We gave “Daisy” a try, but decided that wasn’t right. I called my sister to ask her how she named her dog. She said, “Just talk to her…you’ll figure it out. It’ll just come out in your conversation.” So I turned around and said, “We’re gonna have fun with you! We’re gonna go for walks and go to dog parks. I’ve never even been to a dog park! You’re gonna open up a whole new world for us. Wait! A whole new world! That’s it. You’re Princess Jasmine from Aladdin…Jasmine is a flower name, too…we’ll call you Jazzy…or Jazz.”

Well, Jazz never happened, and I don’t know that we ever really called her Jasmine, but Jazzy stuck. Taylor called her “Shazzy” when she was two, and Shazzy Gull (she couldn’t say Jazzy or girl), and Jazzy Girl she was. I didn’t notice it at first, but one time Taylor spent the night with me, and she sat straight up in the bed at 3AM and said, “Hey! You call her PupPup!” And I realized that I had, indeed, been calling her that. “Jazzy Girl” became “Jazzy Girl Best in the World” which became her social media hashtag. She liked it when I posted her pictures.

Her favorite words were “treat” and “squirrel.”
We had to spell them around her.
Also, she always looked like she was smiling.
Maybe because she was.

Jazzy was a hyper girl who LOVED children. When the grandkids would come over, she would jump on them and chase them. We would have to get her wigglies out so I would grab up the kids on my hips and run around the yard, screaming, “RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!” The kids would squeal, and Jazzy would chase, and once she was tired, we could all come back in the house and get back to normal. We could also yell, “Rub your belly” and she would drop, waiting for the kids to rub her.

The words “Do you wanna go for a ride?”
would send her running in circles.

We taught Jazzy to give us “five” – put up her paw – for a treat. Most of my meals for eleven years included, as I called it, getting “five-ten-fifteen-twenty” from Jazzy while I was eating. Even as she got sicker, she still sat beside me during meals. I’ll be looking for her when I eat popcorn for the rest of my life. She had her own bowl.

But she was David’s girl, our Caswell County Coon Dawg, and she loved him so much. When he was still working, she would go to the window at 5:00, like she could tell time, and wait for him. Once he had surgery, and she continued to bring her toys and lay them on his pillow all day to comfort him.

Waiting for Daddy

She was our Princess Jasmine of the Kingdom Rigsbee, Jazzy Girl, Jazzy Belle, Shazzy, and as I recently told her – she will always be my PupPup.

This will forever be “Jazzy’s yard.”
She did important things there.

Somewhere just across the Rainbow Bridge, Chance (BuddyBuddy), Boomer (BooMan), Ramsey (Ramselina), Lucky (LuckLuck), and Mike (who didn’t live long enough to get a nickname) are all running alongside her, and they’re all barking, “Run for your life!”

We’ll miss you, sweet girl.

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Not Ready for Pasture

by Cindi on June 6, 2019

In August of 2017, I stood before a group of HR Coordinators and announced my retirement. The word they heard, “retirement,” represented so many things for them – relaxing at the beach, reading good books, spending time with the grandkids – but that’s not what it meant to me. I explained to them that I was retiring from my position as a teacher-on-loan for our state department of education so that I could return to the classroom. Since I live only four miles from another state, I would have the opportunity to retire in one state and work in another.

Everyone encouraged me – “You’ll have no problem getting a job” – they even gave me teacher gifts, including a candle with a label reading “Dream Big” and a small light in the shape of an apple (for the teacher). I signed all the necessary paperwork and began filling out applications. I would be ready to teach on January 2, 2018.

And I waited. I did get an interview pretty quickly. It was such a scary experience I blogged about it. It was dreadful, but I still had hope.

I waited some more. I had another interview, and it was perfect! It was in a brand new school (I helped open a brand new school once! I talked about developing a positive culture and other “new school” topics.) The administrators were great – no “test” like I had during that first interview. I left feeling pretty good.

I never heard from them again.

Now my confidence was wavering. But I didn’t give up. Another interview came and went, and y’all! I just KNEW I got that job. I answered everything correctly. The principal gave me a tour of the school when we were done. That’s a good sign, right? But I never heard from him again either.

I swear that interview went so well, several months later I joked that I expected the principal to call me and say, “I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch to offer you the job. I’ve been in a coma….” Meanwhile, I was seeing article after article about a teaching shortage in the state where I was applying. What was happening?!!

So off I went to another interview…this one at the local community college. The Dean walked out with me: “I don’t know how this is going to turn out, but you need to get yourself back into a classroom. Every word that came out of your mouth was from the heart of a teacher.”

I waited. I did hear back from them: “We’ve decided to go in another direction…”

And that was it. I continued to apply. I applied for media assistant, Exceptional Children’s assistant, and substitute teacher. I offered to drive a school bus, take up money at the ballgames…I told them I love faculty meetings (I do.) But I heard nothing.

People told me it was age discrimination. I considered removing any indication of time from my resume, keeping my graduation date a secret. My cover letters explained that although I’m a grandparent, I’m still really cool. I told myself it was geographical, that jumping from state to state isn’t as easy as I had imagined.

A year and a half went by, and I wondered if I had ever known what I was doing as a teacher. Had I not had all those experiences? Hadn’t I taught (and loved) every kind of kid from the gang members to the cow milkers? Didn’t I hug my Latina Lovelies and my Vietnamese refugees every day? Hadn’t I taken school work to sick children in the hospitals and the homeless shelters? Hadn’t I sat on the floor and rocked a suicidal student in the rubber room of an Emergency Department?

Had I really been honored, along with 53 State Teachers of the Year, by a President of the United States in the Rose Garden at the White House? Hadn’t I met with a Secretary of Education three times? Had I learned about teaching all over the world at the first International Summit on the Teaching Profession?

Didn’t I train teachers, especially new ones, for almost a decade? Didn’t I speak to education majors and tell them what to expect? Didn’t I guide so many educators who were questioning their career choices?

But I couldn’t get a job as a substitute or even a bus driver? My heart was broken.

One day I started thinking about changing my plan, and I sent out resumes in my own state, wondering all the while if what I should really do was just give up and head out to pasture.

Within hours, I had emails, then….I had interviews, then….I was offered a job. In a school. With children.

The day I signed my contract, I asked my new principal if she was a magical fairy princess. I felt like I’d been tapped with a wand.

I’ll share my story with students someday. I’ll definitely share it with teachers. The moral will be “Never Give Up.” The other moral will be “Sometimes You Have to Change Your Dream (or Your Location.”)

I’ll keep my house near the ocean and get there when I can.

But this teacher is going HOME.

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Looking Up

by Cindi on October 19, 2018

I was driving along, thinking about the teaching conference ahead, when she said, “Wow. That’s a really cool cloud.” I looked up briefly, eyes off the road to the sky, and thought the clouds looked normal to me. Then she started identifying them: “That one’s a cumulus, that’s a cirrus, and that’s a cirrostratus.” My friend Jean was a science teacher, and I was her captive student in the car – she was always teaching.

That night, after checking into our hotel, we went to a movie, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. It was 1991, and we were middle school team leaders, young teachers with small children at home; we were energetic and passionate about our careers, heading across the state to learn a few things and bring new information back to our school.

In the hotel room that night I picked up whatever book my students were reading in language arts, and Jean picked up something else: Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. I asked her if she was seriously reading that stuff, and she started explaining the theory to me, step by step. I told her she was brilliant and entertaining, but I was ready to sleep. I closed my eyes that night with my hotel roommate still reading with the light on. I smiled, happy to have the opportunity to hang out every day with such smart teachers.

We continued on…teaching down the hall from each other for three more years. Then we were selected to change schools, to move across the county after a city-school/county-school district merge. Four of us would transfer to a different middle school, an attempt to provide familiar faces for our eighth graders who were also moving. We taught together there for four additional years.

As it turned out, Jean would teach 8th grade science to three of my own children, standing in front of them in the classroom and then sitting beside me in faculty meetings. I found myself in her home on many after school occasions; I bought the baby shower cake when her son was on the way and the chips and dip to card night.

Later, as I traveled the state as North Carolina’s Teacher of the Year, Jean had become an administrator by then, and she would invite me to her school to present to the staff. Four separate times I stood before her colleagues in the school’s media center and told them stories of teaching side-by-side with her. Every time was a reunion, a “Remember when this happened?” “Remember that student?” “Where is that teacher now?” Every time.

Every time was a chance to catch up on our own kids, too, the ones that she taught and the ones I had celebrated at baby showers and watched as toddlers in the protective shadow of their amazing mom.

She remained the most brilliant of stars, and I was happy every time I saw her. She was a piece of my past, one of the few who, as I always say, “knew me when I was me.”

But tonight I was crushed by an email…then a news article…about a car that crossed a center line. And now, my friend Jean, the teacher down the hall, has been taken away from her students, the school that she loved, and her family.

I’ll continue, though, as I have for years, to think of her every time I look at a cloud.

I’m pretty sure – Mrs. Ransom, team leader of the Dolphin Team at Chewning Middle School – I’ll see you there.

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Daddy’s Trailer

July 1, 2018

Up until today I couldn’t have told you what year my Daddy bought his utility trailer. I do remember, though, when I saw him use it for the first time. I’d left my house, passing Loehmann’s Plaza, our nearby shopping center, and saw him unloading a lawn mower on the side of the road. I didn’t know it at the time, but he had just accepted a post-retirement job as a landscaper with a family friend’s company.

I waved at my Daddy and kept on going; the encounter was reminiscent of the hundreds of times since I’d gotten my driver’s …

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Retirement So Far…

January 3, 2018

Last August, I provided training for approximately 300 beginning teachers across eight school districts just prior to their first days of teaching. As I shared my teacher stories with them and talked of my own students across the years, I realized just how much I envied them, how I wished I was making plans for my own classroom again.

So on September 1st, I submitted retirement paperwork to my state with plans to drive four miles to the adjoining state and begin a brand new career. I stayed awake many nights during the months those papers were snaking around between …

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A Dream for Taylor

June 25, 2017

The first time I wrote a tribute to my granddaughter Taylor, she was four months old. It was a poem that was later published online, on a site called “momwriterslitmag,” and although it was written eleven years ago, I still know that little baby Taylor like it was yesterday:

To Taylor, From Nana

I was there
the first time
you saw a balloon.

I watched your eyes,
blinking wide with wonder,
and your little feet
kicking and punching
the excited air around you.

I was thinking
about ee cummings
who wrote,
“who knows if the moon’s a balloon?”
and thought

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The Gift

April 2, 2017

Here we are again. I was here less than a year and a half ago when we lost Chance. I was here two months later when we lost Mike. Just weeks after that, we lost Boomer. The Boomer blogpost never happened because losing three granddogs within two months, each with their own tragic story, was too much. Sometimes there are no words. And when I went for my yearly physical the next week, my doctor asked me how things were going. I burst into tears. Over dogs.

I loved them all. I miss them all. Too many gone. …

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Wings

August 26, 2016

It was early September when my Daddy died, September 8th to be exact. It was four days after my 47th birthday and four days before my year round school took a three week intersession break. Because of the timeliness of that break, I did something unheard of: I left my family at home and went to the beach by myself. By myself!

I graded student journals by the ocean and kept glancing over at the pier, thinking I’d see my Daddy there as I had hundreds of times, fishing for something…but catching nothing…and happy to be there anyway. I …

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Talking Too Much

January 25, 2016

I was a fresh-faced North Carolina Teacher of the Year when I showed up at the State Teacher of the Year Conference in Dallas in January of 2009. I was nervous – I would be spending a week with fifty-four total strangers, the most amazing teachers in the country. And I had been named one of four finalists chosen to represent them, an honor I haven’t wrapped my head around to this day, seven years later.

It would take very little time for those fifty-four teachers to be colleagues, friends, even soulmates. But that first night I felt like I …

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For the Love of a Dog, pt. 2

January 10, 2016

My mama used to tell me two things: that when I get to Heaven, I’ll see God’s big dusty book that has all the bad things I’ve ever done listed in it, and while I’m there I’ll have the opportunity to ask him anything I want. I have always known what I would ask if given that chance:

What happened to my cat Fluffy?

Oh, there were rumors. All the neighborhood children said she was poisoned by an old neighbor lady we referred to as “the witch.” I don’t know if that’s true, but that question has haunted me since …

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