Welcome to the School Days, Reminiscences series in which my champion bloggers and authors share reminiscences of their school days. It’s my small way of thanking them for their support and of letting you know about their services and publications.
This week, I am pleased to introduce Yvette Prior, a blogger and multi-talented friend. Yvette writes about a wide range of topics and in a variety of genres on her priorhouse blog. I always appreciate her different ways of looking at things and her positive views of the world. Do pop over to take a look. I’m sure you will enjoy it.
It’s probably best I allow Yvette to tell you a little of herself before we get started on the interview:
Yvette Prior is a blogger, author, teacher, psychologist, and researcher. Yvette has been married to Chris for 22 years and they live on the East Coast of Virginia. They have two boys, now adults, and a step-daughter who is expecting her second child next year. Yvette has been teaching — on and off — elementary students and college level, since the 1990s. In 2018, Yvette became a Certified Higher Education Professional and currently teaches college and works part-time as a work psychologist.
In middle school, Yvette won public speaking awards, which led to the wonderful opportunity of attending a Performing Arts High School.
In college, she changed her major a few times before finally discovering the Education department.
Right after graduating, she decided to put her career to the side in order to stay home and raise her children. While doing so, she still worked part-time, which included teaching science education and five years of teaching elementary art.
As her children grew, she had the chance to go back to school and earn advanced degrees in psychology. While finishing up her dissertation, she healed from an invasive fungal infection, which was a challenging nightmare, but then also had positive outcomes. She now has a stronger bioterrian and continues to feel empowered by knowing alternative medicine and by remembering how precious life is. She is not a religious person, but she is a woman of faith and gives God all the glory for any and every success.
Let’s talk school. First, could you tell us where you attended school?
Buffalo, New York.
Did you attend a government, private or independent school?
I started off at private for preschool and kindergarten. My mother became a Presbyterian and we withdrew from private Catholic and went to public. I went to a public “magnet” school for high school where I majored in performing arts.
What is the highest level of education you achieved?
I earned my Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.
What work or profession did you choose after school and was there anything in school that influenced this choice?
As noted in the intro, after earning my undergrad in Education, I stayed home with children. I worked part-time (to stay fresh and bring in some money) and at first worked in a restaurant, where I was promoted to management and it was becoming a career. However, we then moved coast to coast, twice, and I taught at the Youth Science Institute of California and the Science Museum of Virginia. I then taught elementary art at two different private schools. I currently teach college and work part-time as a psychologist. In the next few years, I hope to do more research about work rewards and motivation and also hope to finish up some writing projects.
What is your earliest memory of school?
An early memory from school was when my 4th grade, silver-haired teacher, said she was, “flabbergasted” with me. She had left the room and a few of us started dancing around. When she returned, she scolded everyone, but then got close to my face and said, “I am especially flabbergasted with you, Yvette.” I went home and asked my mother what it meant… and then she found out about it. That word always reminds me of that teacher.
What memories do you have of learning to read?
I remember reading stations and recall the teacher using a jumbo book and audio recording to teach us words.
What memories do you have of learning to write?
My 6th grade English teacher, Mr. Calderelli, taught me to write. However, on the second day of school, he threw an eraser towards my desk because a few of us were still talking. I cannot recall all the details, but he apologized and I was moved to the front of the room. We then connected and he became my favorite teacher. I had perfect attendance and won little awards. He published my writing in Buffalo’s “Our Best” – a short piece arguing against the death penalty. In hindsight, I see how that eraser event could have had a different outcome, and I am grateful it was a catalyst for bonding.
I have a post on my blog dedicated to Mr. C here.
(Norah’s note: If you haven’t yet read that post, or even if you have, I recommend you visit it and have a read. It is a fine example of Yvette’s work.)
What do you remember about math classes?
I recall Mr. Smyth, in 7th grade honors math, showing us newspaper ads and having us figure out sale prices using percentages. I sometimes think of him when I see holiday ads.
What do you remember about history classes?
My 8th grade teacher gave fun assignments for extra credit. Sometimes a little extra credit allows more students to “win” and attain that sense of success with a better grade. Recently, I heard a teacher brag about how “tough” she was, but I think she is missing out on what makes a great teacher. Quality teaching is not defined by toughness, or being the sage on the stage; instead, the goal is to engage diverse learners and help them effectively meet course objectives. And sometimes – a little extra credit option can breathe needed motivation into students
What was your favourite subject?
My favorite subject was Trigonometry in high school. I started off by blowing off class. However, midway through the year, school became important to me and I buckled down and got caught up on my own. I studied hard using Barron’s review books — and even skipped a few parties to study. I finished the class well, but the best takeaways were discovering that self-learning mode and finding such a fun area of math.
What did you like best about school?
I liked the structure. I also liked when teachers were nice to students – like Mrs. Short and Mrs. George.
What did you like least about school?
My least favorite part about schools is that teachers (and the system) can sometimes be too harsh. There are mean teachers and sometimes the punishment for small infractions are overly punitive. This means students do not always connect the punishment with the behavior and so instead of behavior change – we have hurt students. Sometimes teachers are “too concerned about tasks” and not “concerned enough with the learner.”
What do you think schools (in general) do well?
Today’s schools are culturally sensitive, still improving, but they have come a long way over the last 40 years. I like the work of Ruby Payne with regards to culture and economic differences.
Many schools also do a great job at educating a large number of students at one time. I know an art teacher who provides art lessons to 2,000 students a week – and she says it is awesome.
I also think schools do well with “certain” students (the ones that conform, right-handed girls, etc.).
How do you think schools could be improved?
I think schools could be improved if teachers were better trained with behavioral conditioning strategies and learned more about the powerful use of reinforcements. Teachers also need to make sure they are in tune with cognitive factors of learning (free will, moods, thoughts, and feelings) and the biological changes that growing children go through on their educational journey. Also, we need to sometimes give students a little power, along with rules and structure, but we need to empower more – especially for breeding leaders.
Classrooms need less sitting and more physical activity. Not just PE, but we need to let students move more.
Schools can also be improved if we taught emotion management at earlier ages and target the five Emotional Intelligence domains before middle school.
Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school, Yvette, then and now. It seems education is as much a part of your life as it is of mine. I appreciate your suggestions for improving schools and agree with what you say about the system. It is always good to hear from an educator and how their early experiences being schooled affect their attitudes to learning and teaching. Thank you for contributing your voice to this series.
Thank you, Norah, for inviting me to share in this series. And thanks to all the teachers out there who give so much of their lives to invest in students and help them on their educational journey.
Find out more about Yvette Prior on her blog.
Find out more about Yvette’s books here.
To purchase your own copy of her books, click on the book title or image.
Lady by the River (stories of perseverance and self-help resources)
Avian Friends (Poems about nature, faith, appreciating life, and coping with grief)
Conversate (Tips for Parenting Teens)
Look for future interviews in this series to be posted on Sunday evenings AEST.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your comments. Please share your thoughts.