A gray haired, first grade teacher dons her disguise and slips back into school—first as a window washer, next as the lunch lady, and finally as the fire inspector.
This is The Teacher Who Would Not Retire and she is determined to return to her beloved students (Blue Marlin Publications 2002; ages 4 and up). Each time, they recognize her by her distinctive ballet slippers, and chant excitedly, “We see you here! We see you there! We see your slippers everywhere!”
School teachers all over the country are returning to their classrooms this fall, many with the enthusiasm and dedication of Mrs. Belle, if not the subterfuge. Their hearts will warm to the news that her students’ parents rallied to her cause, creating “Mrs. Belle Day” every Friday at Laurelville Town School. She was invited to read weekly with her much loved kids in a cozy corner of the library. (Sounds like much less stress than many current day classrooms…)
Authors Sheila and Letty Sustrin are twin sisters who taught kindergarten and first grade until 1998 and shared the honor of 1978 Teacher of the Year in the Brentwood, NY school district. Both missed teaching immensely after retiring, but say “Their second careers are as rewarding as their first…” This first book came out in 2002, followed by three others in the series over ten years—definitely an active retirement. The Sustrin sister’s website shares, “They like to think they are helping to bridge the gap between youngsters and retirees.”
Mrs. Belle is actually forced into retirement, which could make for interesting discussions, and her heartfelt “NO! NO! I WILL NOT GO!” is sure to tickle kids’ funny bones—most have uttered those same words at some time or another. Illustrations by cartoonist-animator Thomas H. Bone III will make them laugh along with her antics. For me the pictures are reminiscent of The Jetsons, the much loved futuristic cartoon once enjoyed on Saturday mornings with a bowl of Fruit Loops or Cocoa Puffs. They’re sure to engage children’s attention to all the action.
The authors and illustrator have paired up to produce three more books in this fun series and they are all definitely worth reading to kids. They would also make great gifts for the teachers in your life—perhaps the “Movie Star” sequel most of all.
In the second book Mrs. Belle pitches in as the new Head Camp Teacher. She is game for every activity, however her ballet slippers result in several incidents—but in the end she’s still dancing.
In the third book she becomes a movie star after winning “Everybody’s Favorite Teacher” in a contest and her biography is filmed. Dressed as an infant for the first segment she looks much like Baby Huey (if you’re still with me—and the old Saturday morning cartoons!)
Lastly, in book four, Mrs. Belle discovers a new planet (Planet “Bellerina”), meets the President and heads off to Space School—she is no slouch in retirement. Scientific terms such as gravity and simulators are introduced and a message from a real teacher sent to Space Camp stars at the end, making this one the most traditionally educational.
All are available from Blue Marlin Publications in addition to the usual vendors. Look for the sequels:
The Teacher Who Would Not Retire Goes to Camp
The Teacher Who Would Not Retire Becomes a Movie Star
The Teacher Who Would Not Retire Discovers a New Planet
Find free coloring pages for the above books here.
Find additional Positive Aging picture books on my Resource List.
It’s important not to treat talk about aging as taboo—kids, like many adults in our culture, then view getting older only as a negative looming in their future according to Elizabeth Larkin Ed.D. and G. Patricia Wilson Ed.D in the Journal of Intergenerational Relationships. Instead we can encourage them to see aging as “…including a wide range of capabilities and interests.”
Simply ask a few simple questions of a child after reading one of these books together:
- Do you know what retirement means?
- What kinds of things do older people like to do after they retire from a job?
- Do you think older people can learn new things?
The goal is to broaden their understanding of the possibilities as we get older. Children benefit in many ways when we, the adults, open conversations about our continued growth and development. Be sure and mention the authors are retired teachers. (Read here about the benefits to children.)
Whether reading in a classroom, or cuddled up to a parent or grandparent, kids can build upon their pre-conceived notions of “old” for a more nuanced understanding of what it really means to grow older beyond the teen and young adult years. “Teachers…can include the idea of aging in the curriculum simply by introducing children’s literature with older adult characters so the topic is comfortably discussable,” say Larkin and Wilson. (Read more on teaching about aging here.)
This series of four books about an active retired teacher seems a perfect way to open the conversation with school age kids.
(Source of journal information and quotes: Journal of Intergenerational Relationships. Vol. 11, No. 1, 2013. Pages 4-17)
Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book. I was not required to write a review and I received no payment for this post.