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The Last Hurrah of General Jackson

Short mystery story published online on

"Death Scents"

Published online and in Magazine format

"Oh No, I have to speak in public" and "Teaching Pearls"

Business writing--Working Writer Magazine
Academic writing--No Shortage of Work online

by: Joan Ramirez
Source: No Shortage of Work—online publication Fall, 2011

So many people talk about what is wrong with teaching today. I am going to tell you what is right. Last year, I completed my student teaching in a wonderful elementary school in New York City with several exceptional special education students in the third grade. One in particular has a stuttering problem and felt uncomfortable every time he had to talk in front of the class. In addition, he has test phobia in math. He tried several times to take a subtraction/addition test and quit after he was only half way through. On the fourth try, I told him that his dream of becoming a policeman will never come true if he can’t do math operations. He thought about it and finished the day. On the fifth try, he started the test, got frustrated, and was ready to quit–partly because he was so upset about his stuttering during response time earlier in the day. I told him to breathe deeply, think positive, and focus. He kept going. When he handed in his paper, he turned to me and said, “I tried harder this time, Mrs. Ramirez. I didn’t quit.”
That made my day. I helped a child to learn. A precious gift.
On another day, I worked with a boy who wears an FM device and is very self-conscious because of same. In addition, he is small in size for his age and self-conscious in gym. When I worked with him on math problems, he told me that he likes to learn but wants to be like everyone else. I told him that each of us has special gifts to offer, and we are all special in our own way. Little by little, I drew him out of his shell. Before long, we were partners on a math team and competed against two other kids. After a while, he picked someone his own age to be his teammate. However, I told him that I would always be there if he needed me. Again, it was great to see a child flourish in learning through positive support.
My third encounter was a recent assignment in a school in New Jersey with a middle grade young girl who told me of her desire to be a songwriter. With limited English, she composed a song that spoke of her feelings on life in middle grade. She also told me that she has composed many other songs. I told her to keep on writing. Before the end of the day, she sang a little of the song to me. As I was about to take the children to their parents, she handed me a card. When I arrived home, I read the message: “Dear Mrs. Ramirez, Thank you for listening to me. You are a patient and great teacher. Someday I hope to sing you my finished work.” I gave her my email and encouraged her to keep on going.
These are but a few of the wonderful encounters that I have had as a teacher with creative minds yearning to achieve.
In the fall, I hope to have my own class to nurture and encourage and share the successes that I’ve had in my professional life. To teach, as the saying goes, truly does touch and change, for the better, another life.

Teen Essay

Award-winning story on