Michele Luck is old school, meaning she is the type of teacher whom those of us who bade farewell to 40 long ago had in school.
She takes no excuses, accepts no labels and sets high standards. She believes she is a good teacher and she loves teaching.
Because of that, and because she realizes there's a lot that new teachers need to know and older teachers need to be reminded of, Luck wrote a book: A Lesson Plan for Teachers, New and Old: A Guide for Student Teachers, New Teachers, and the Experienced Ones!
It is a simple, bare-bones, meat-and-potatoes, easy-to-read, self-published how-to book that is comfort food to those who, like Luck, think they were born to teach.
"Why do you get up each morning, put on your working face, and step into that tropical forest that could grow and flourish or wilt and wither all at your hand?" she writes early in the book. "Assuming you are a teacher, and not just one of those among us that took the job for the three-month vacation (like that really happens), you already know the answer to the question. You are a teacher because, simply stated, you are."
Luck wrote the book for her student teacher last year because she knew the student would have questions and concerns in her new career. In the book, Luck discusses classroom organization, planning, making your mark from the first day, grades, supporting other teachers, and the variety of students and their excuses a teacher will run into.
"I wrote it, never thinking of it as a product, just as a nice gift to give her confidence for her first year," Luck said. "Since giving her, and a few fellow teachers, digital copies a year ago, I have since had it published."
Christy Hill, 25, a first-year civics and citizenship teacher at Bryan Station High School, said she has learned a lot from Luck and from her book.
One day in October, she came to Luck in the midst of a "minor freak-out."
"I said, 'I don't know how to do all this,'" Hill recalled. "There is a lot we have to do besides teaching and planning."
Luck handed her a manuscript of her book, which was being published that day, and told her to read it.
"I thought she was joking," Hill said, adding that she couldn't imagine how Luck had time to write a book. "I said OK. I'll do that."
Hill hasn't regretted it.
"I learned to keep expectations very high, no matter what," she said. "I learned to not even let my students get into the habit of making excuses. I would rather they get a lower grade in my class than set them up for failure in the future. That is the biggest thing I got from her book."
Having taught in grades six through 12 for nine years, Luck said she knows what works for her and she thinks it will work for others.
Luck said she was an "Army brat," attending 17 schools as she was growing up, seven of them while in high school alone.
She eventually married a man from Kentucky, and they moved to Frankfort, where she taught in Franklin County schools for six years. Luck also has a nursing degree and has worked in the business world.
"I did everything but teach," she said. I ran around it in every direction possible. And yet, I ran training groups for the company I worked for and I tutored in the nursing department. So, I always was teaching."
She completed a secondary education program at the University of Kentucky that led to a master's degree and state teacher certification.
Her first teaching assignment was in Franklin County, where she taught for six years. She moved back to Lexington and taught at Lexington Traditional Magnet School before remarrying more than a year ago.
While living in Owensboro where her husband taught, Luck taught in nearby Henderson.
When her husband sold his home, they moved back to Lexington.
"Bryan Station was my first choice of a place to work," said Luck, who is in her first year there. "I knew I wanted high school. I like the higher order of thinking with high school students.
"I also like the diversity," she said. "I think our kids need to learn from each other, and if they don't, nothing will change in the world.
"Plus, I like a challenge," Luck said. "Since I don't take excuses, I also don't accept titles and labels put on me. Those titles and those labels that are put on Bryan Station need to be broken down, too."
Luck teaches three advanced-placement world history classes and three general world history classes.
Throughout the book, Luck emphasizes the need for a natural love of teaching that can't be taught, and a strong focus on expecting excellence from the students.
"You have to be willing to hold out when success does not seem possible," she writes. "You have to be willing to listen to parents yell at you for failing their child or for expecting them to do 20 minutes of homework when they have more important things to do, like their football practice or dance lessons. You have to be tough enough to be excluded by your co-workers when they feel like you are rocking their comfortable system of do-nothingness."
From day one, Luck says, a teacher must take command of the classroom. She maintains seating arrangements and changes them and the desks from time to time. And she sticks to the rules once they're set.
"It is mostly follow-through," said Hill, the first-year teacher. "It is something that I am working on improving as a first-year teacher as well. Don't make empty threats. Always follow through. Make sure if they don't follow the expectations you set, then there has to be some kind of consequence."
Hill's attitude means that the book already is serving its intent.
"The problem we are having in the public school systems now is the retention of new teachers," she said. "They are overwhelmed and under-prepared to step into the classroom. There is no amount of college education that could prepare a new teacher, in practical terms, for the classroom of today."
Luck will be signing copies of her book at noon on Jan. 3 at Half Price Books in Hamburg. The book also is available on Amazon.com and www.lulu.com.