The Ants Go Marching

I start my morning most days with bus duty.  While some of us complain whenever our duty week rolls around, I see it as a nice way to practice for my retirement job of Wal-Mart greeter, and it’s a beautiful start to my day. I have posted about it previously here. Life as we know it unfolds every morning as the Himalaya Mountains, or at least the Bridger Range, gets conquered by a whole bunch of excited kids. You can watch them here.

Somehow, The Ants Go Marching certainly springs to mind as I watch them, but then the pragmatic realist in me comes out, and different songs find my personal playlist.

While many artists have recorded “Try to Remember” and “The Way We Were,” I don’t think anyone has done it better than Gladys Knight and the Pips on a live recording. If I may paraphrase from the lyrics:

” Everybody is talking about the good old days, right. Everybody the good old days. Let’s talk about the good old days. Come to think of it, as bad as we think they are, these will become the good old days for our children. Why don’t we try to remember, the kind of September, when life was slow, and oh, so mellow. Try to remember, and if you remember, then, follow. Why does it seem that the past was always better? We look back and we think, the water was warmer, the grass was greener, the skies were bluer, and the smiles were….bright.”

How will our students look back on their good old days? What will they remember?

I’m afraid that too many will not look back with fondness. A few of us more experienced educators rallied around a Whitney Houston song, “The Greatest Love of All,” recorded and released in 1987. We could recite the first verse: “I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride, to make it easier. Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be.”

Beautiful, isn’t it.

But the pragmatic realist in me hears more and more of our kids singing the second verse: “Everybody’s searching for a hero, people need someone to look up to. I never found anyone who fulfilled my need. A lonely place to be, and so I learned to depend on me. I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone’s shadow. If I fail, if I succeed, at least I lived as I believed. No matter what they take from me, they can’t take away my dignity. Because the greatest love of all, is happening to me. I’ve found the greatest love of all inside of me.”

Have we become so focused on raising test scores, getting the loudest bells and whistles into our classrooms, that we have forgotten that we are teaching children? Have we become so caught up in the problems of teaching in uncertain times that we have forgotten how difficult it still is to be 12 years old?

Many of our memories of our good old days include our teachers, indeed, they are why many of us are in the profession. I’m sure they faced many of the same challenges we are facing today. But I don’t remember that they ever brought them into our classrooms.

Through the years, I have shared “21 Memos From Your Child” with parent and teacher groups. I would like to share it with this audience.


21 Memos From Your Child1. Don’t spoil me. I know quite well that I ought not to have all that I ask for. I’m only testing you.2. Don’t be afraid to be firm with me. I prefer it, it makes me feel more secure.3. Don’t let me form bad habits. I have to rely on you to detect them in the early stages.4. Don’t make me feel smaller than I am. It only makes me behave stupidly “big”.5. Don’t correct me in front of other people, if you can help it. I’ll take much more notice if you talk with me in private.6. Don’t make me feel my mistakes are sins. It upsets my sense of values.7. Don’t protect me from consequences. I need to learn the painful way, sometimes.8. Don’t be too upset when I say “I hate you.” It isn’t you I hate, but your power to thwart me.9. Don’t take too much notice of my small ailments. Sometimes they get me the attention I need.10. Don’t nag. If you do, I shall have to protect myself by appearing deaf.11. Don’t forget that I cannot explain myself as well as I should like. This is why I’m not always very accurate.12. Don’t make rash promises. Remember that I feel badly let down when promises are broken.13. Don’t tax my honesty too much. I’m easily frightened into telling lies.14. Don’t be inconsistent. That completely confuses me and makes me lose faith in you.15. Don’t tell me my fears are silly. They are terribly real and you can do so much to reassure me if you understand.16. Don’t put me off when I ask questions. If you do, you will find that I stop asking and seek my information elsewhere.17. Don’t ever suggest that you are perfect or infallible. It gives me too great a shock when I discover that you are neither.18. Don’t ever think it is beneath your dignity to apologize to me. An honest apology makes me feel surprisingly warm toward you.19. Don’t forget how quickly I am growing up. It must be very difficult to keep pace with me, but please do try.20. Don’t forget I love experimenting. I couldn’t get on without it, so please put up with it.21. Don’t forget that I can’t thrive without lots of understanding love, but I don’t need to tell you, do I?

If I had permission from the artist, I would insert a powerful image here. It is of a student carrying three suitcases down a hallway. One suitcase is homelessness, one is hunger, the third is sickness. He asks, “Can someone help me with these, I’m late to math class.”

Does it matter what math level he is working on? If his scores are red, yellow or green?

But then it is 8:00 in the morning, the buses are pulling in, the Ants Are Marching. And I have one more song playing on my playlist. Thank God for the Oak Ridge Boys.

Again, all is well in my world, and I’m ready for whatever will cross my life today.

And so it goes…


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