Paula Reed’s Teaching Reflections

Our own legendary Jeffco teacher, Paula Reed, reflects on her years of teaching. An interesting and amazing read for all. Look at how school has changed! Thanks to Paula for her many years of service and dedication to Jeffco and Columbine. We love you!

Today was my last freshman orientation. I’ve been reflecting a bit on my first years at Columbine as I enter my last year there.

My first day of teaching at Columbine I had no pre-printed set of guidelines. (Some call this a syllabus–it’s not.) At any rate, to have such a thing would have meant typing it, or maybe having the English department secretary type it, from scratch, year after year on ditto paper. This was a pain because if you made a mistake, you couldn’t correct it. I wrote the grading scale and class rules on the chalkboard and called it good.

It wasn’t long before copy machines became the norm, and the guidelines were printed but never amended–again, because they’d have to be typed afresh.

Thank God by the time we had to start getting parent signatures on these to prove we had made it clear to students and parents alike that students caught cheating would get zeros (as they always have), we had computers and could update files easily.

On the first, first day of school, I handed out index cards, and kids wrote their names, parents’ names, and phone numbers on them. I put these in a little recipe box, and whenever I made phone calls home about grades, etc., I noted it on the kid’s card. I did that for years.

Now, it’s all online.

I used to have a three-ring notebook for every class, and I swapped them out as the day progressed. I also had a planner in which I wrote in pencil, in case a lesson took more or less time than anticipated. Now, everything is in my online planning book and my Google Drive.

My first grade book was a tiny green spiral. I hand-wrote names and skipped lines between kids so I could write grades down on one line, and every now and then, on the line below, I’d total up points to make final grade calculation easier. (It was hard to get a huge list of grades into the calculator with no mistakes!) Attendance went on another set of pages.

Then I got a super-duper, state-of-the-art, giant brown grade book with three lines for every kid. Points for each assignment were written on one line, a running tally could be kept below, and the third line was for attendance. So cool!

Now, I enter grades online. Where I once had to call parents to notify them of kids who were failing, it is now up to the parent to check. If they don’t, an autodialer will call once a week. I used to have to call home after three unexcused absences. Now, an autodialer does it for every absence.

Speaking of attendance, when I first came to Columbine, I wrote attendance down in my book every period, but I only sent it to the office 5th hour on a little white slip of paper. That was the school’s official attendance count for the day. Those little white sheets still show up in my SAT folder on testing-day! The list of kids with excused absences appeared on a sheet of paper in my mailbox every morning.

Then we graduated to the big-time, and we took attendance on bubble sheets and sent those to the office every class period! Printouts of excused and unexcused showed up in my mailbox.

Now, I take attendance on a computer, and parents can find out in real time whether or not their kid is in class.

When I first started teaching, I highlighted the names of athletes in my grade book because once a week I had to turn in a handwritten list of names of athletes with D’s or F’s. Now, I press a button every Tuesday and everyone who needs to know athletes’ grades knows.

I don’t have a Smartboard, but neither do I have a chalkboard anymore. I have a whiteboard. It also doesn’t go from floor to ceiling like the Columbine chalkboards of yore. There may a former student or two out there who remembers writing stuff up so high I couldn’t even reach it standing on a chair! (I’m talking to you, Theresa Allison!)

When I first began teaching, I almost always wore skirts and dresses and never, ever jeans. Now it’s jeans every Friday, and even dressy ones other days of the week, and that is more formal than some of my younger colleagues.

It feels like ages ago and last week, all at the same time–this, my 31st year as a Rebel.