Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Post – #Life – I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now! by Pete Springer

I am sure like me, there have been times when you have wondered what difference might have been made to your life, if your younger self had been gifted with the experience and knowledge you have accumulated over the years.

I invited several friends from the writing community to share their thoughts on this subject which I am sure you will enjoy as much as I did.

Today author Pete Springer shares his experiences in high school following a move to California in response to the prompt.

What I Wish I Knew Then by Pete Springer

Sometimes I feel like one of the luckiest people on Earth. I was born into a stable family with great parents and three terrific older brothers. I married a great lady, and we have an adult son who is making his mark in the world. We’re proud of the man he has become.

My career as an elementary teacher was rewarding, and I’m filled with pride as I watch many of my former students doing extraordinary things.

One of the things I’ve noticed about myself is that I tend to be more philosophical as I get older. Maybe that’s a symptom of having more time on my hands. It doesn’t necessarily mean I’m any smarter, but I do find myself thinking about some of the lessons I’ve learned.

If I could have one do-over in life, it would be my high school years. After a happy childhood, we moved cross-country to California when I was starting high school. Maybe it was the combination of being at an awkward age, moving to a new place, and not having the self-confidence to embrace new challenges at the time, but those years weren’t a particularly happy time. I wasn’t depressed, but I wasn’t joyful either.

High school was cliquish, and for a guy who didn’t fit in any of the groups, I found that I kept to myself more and didn’t have a lot of close friendships.

Around the time I turned eighteen, I made a thoughtful decision to expand my horizons and to get out of my comfort zone. No more playing it safe and always resorting to only familiar and comfortable things.

I found my true self during college. I tried new things with enthusiasm and put forth the best version of myself. Not every unique experience turned out the way I hoped it would, but I was no longer living in fear. Those feelings of empowerment made me feel better about myself, and people accepted me for me.

I went from a scared teenager to a confident adult—someone who could stand in front of a group of people and command their attention with an outgoing and fearless persona. Don’t get me wrong—I still am fearful in many situations, but I’ve learned that we feel best about ourselves when we embrace new challenges.

Why am I thinking about this today? Perhaps it’s because I’ve just accomplished one of my goals—the completion of the first draft of a middle-grade chapter book.

While I was teaching, one of my favorite things to do during a typical school day was to read to my students. Each day I got to be a performer and act out the voices of the authors’ characters. I could be brash, silly, humble, mean, or any other characteristic that I imagined the author intended. It was a rush to hook the kids into the plots and the characters. I always tried to leave them begging for more. “Don’t stop! Keep reading!”

Those phrases were music to my ears.

Pete didn’t just read to his class he also took his new baby son in for them to meet

When I was teaching, I made a decision that I was going to try and write a children’s book to recapture that feeling. Having taught many ages, I decided to target those children I was most familiar with—middle grades. After first writing a combination memoir/advice book for new teachers, I decided the time was right. I went to a writer’s conference, found a critique group, and I’m going for it. What started as a vision of 30,000 words became 50,000 when I finished the first draft.

I’m a realist—maybe this will never come to fruition, but I’m proud of myself for having the courage to go for it. Now I’ve moved into the rewriting and editing phases, and there’s still a ton of work ahead. While I self-published my first book, I’m inclined to try and go the traditional publishing route this time. I know—much longer odds and a lot more time to make it happen. (But hey, I’m retired.) If it doesn’t happen, at least I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing I didn’t stand on the sidelines, and I gave myself a chance. Perhaps this will be too preachy for some, but my advice as a sixty-year-old to that scared teenager is, “Don’t let fear hold you back.”

©Pete Springer 2022

My thanks to Pete for sharing his thoughts about this prompt and I am sure many can relate to his experiences of those formative years and how unsettling they can be.

About Pete Springer

My name is Pete Springer. I taught elementary school for thirty-one years (grades 2-6) at Pine Hill School in Eureka, CA. Even though I retired over three years ago, my passion will always lie with supporting education, kids, and teachers.

When I came out of the teaching program many years ago, I realized how unprepared I was for what was in store for me in the classroom. My college education focused mostly on learning theory rather than the practical day-to-day challenges that all teachers face. Thankfully, I had some great mentors to lean on to help support me in the early part of my career.

I have made it my mission to pay it forward to the next generation of teachers. I was a master teacher to four student teachers, and I have several former students who are now teachers, including one who teaches at my former elementary school. That is pretty cool!

While I was teaching, I decided that one day I would write books for children. That ship is now in the harbor. I took some writing workshops, found a writing critique group, joined SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), and I recently finished writing my first middle-grade novel. I’ve always connected with kids, and this is my new way of teaching.

My debut MG novel, Second Chance Summer, just got professionally edited, and I will be querying in the coming weeks.

One of the reviews for the book that I can also recommend

Pete Springer’s memoir about his first years teaching is a delightful story for new teachers and will have experienced educators nodding along with him. His early experiences remind all of us of the joy inherent in teaching:

“This job required about as much brainpower as my tree planting experience.”
“This is the story of how I fell in love with teaching and the joys and challenges that this noble profession provided to me over the course of thirty-one years.”

He breaks the book into chapters every teacher will understand:

How did i get here
Setting up your classroom
Working with students
Working with colleagues
Working with your boss

…and more. Aside from grading, parents, lunch duty, conferences, and yard duty, these are the biggest issues we teachers face. I’m a veteran teacher of thirty years and still I couldn’t wait to read Pete’s take on these timeless issues.

“Instead of saying, “Do everything my way, and you can become a successful teacher,” she was giving me her permission to find my way.”
“…storytelling was one of the most successful methods to get my students to pay attention.”
“…when we lose our calm, we are teaching them that it is okay to behave in this manner when something is not going right.”

Every new teacher will benefit from Pete’s daily experiences of what in the end results in a journey well traveled with more importance than most of us would car eto admit. Educational philosophies change. Favorite tools like iPads and Chromebooks change. What never changes is the fundamentals that Pete covers in this book:

“…tell the kids when I made similar mistakes growing up.”
“I do think that it is possible for parents or schools to provide too many rewards for kids.”

Overall an excellent book. If you’re a new teacher, I’d call this an essential read prior to your first day.  

Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon US – and:Amazon UK – Read more reviews:Goodreads – Website: Pete Springer WordPressTwitter: @OfficerWoof


Thank you for dropping in today and it would be wonderful if you could share Pete’s post.. thanks Sally

132 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Post – #Life – I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now! by Pete Springer

  1. I can relate to this as a teacher and it certainly resonates with me.
    I think though, maybe the opposite, in that I didn’t enjoy college or experience the full benefit.
    My courage came later with the play-work.
    But I definately think teaching is a great profession and I love reading to children too.
    Although my books are probably for a younger audience.
    Maybe a middle -grade story one day (I’m working on that) but for now still the picture story book routes with the bus. LOL

    Liked by 5 people

    • The beauty of writing, Sue, is there is an audience whatever age we write for. I volunteer twice a week at an assisted living center in our community. I’m reading MG books to the seniors. I leave each time feeling joyful because I’m connecting with them through literature. There is no better feeling!

      Liked by 3 people

      • Pete that sounds good.
        I like to go to creative writing groups sessions because the prompt is usually outside my normal writing style and I love just writing spontaniously.
        I’ve always loved inspiring children in their writing.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Pete, very pleased to meet you.I really enjoyed your post and you speak a lot of sense. I was never happy at school so I understand your high school experience. You obviously made the right career choice and excelled at it. Your advice to that lone teenager is spot on ☺️💜

    Liked by 4 people

  3. A huge congratulations to Pete for completing the first draft of his middle grade book! I enjoyed reading his reflection, which resonated with me. I would have done over my senior year in high school if it were possible.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Congratulations on finishing that first draft, Pete! That’s a great accomplishment.

    I can relate to your high school experience, and I didn’t even have to move to California to live it. I bet there are a lot of writers who will tell you they share that experience, too. As a group, we tend to be a bit more on the introverted side, and high school was not designed for introverts (or the faint of heart). But you moved past the awkward stage, as one does, and it sounds to me like you’ve lived a blessed life. Good luck on all your future goals!

    Liked by 4 people

  5. High school is so tough for so many kids! I’m glad Pete made the decision to go for it and put himself out there, back in his youth and again in his retirement. He’s a natural storyteller, and I look forward to his book. A wonderful message. Thanks Pete, and thanks for sharing, Sally.

    Liked by 3 people

    • If I could go back and do it over, I know I’d make changes. Since we can’t go back, we can either stay the same or change what we don’t like about ourselves. In my case, I didn’t want to keep living my life in fear. It doesn’t mean I accomplish everything I set out to, but it isn’t going to be because I can’t summon up the courage to try.

      Many others are far brighter than me, but I’m smart enough to take my cues from those who have gone through the same challenges. I’m trying to learn from brilliant writers like you, Diana.

      Liked by 2 people

      • What a sweet thing to say, Pete. None of us do everything perfectly and so there’s no need to put that pressure on ourselves. Can you imagine? So we have to find a way to enjoy the effort no matter the outcome. You shine, my friend.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. I also moved during my freshman year of high school and admit it was a challenge. I remember wanting to join a club but was denied because no one knew me. So I turned around and started a service club with two others who were unknown and, by my senior year, was one of the most popular. The trials of fitting in were very difficult to overcome.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I appreciate the reblog, Judith. Like you, I’ve enjoyed reading about the lessons others have learned along the way.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Good luck with your new book and in finding a literary agent – it’s taken me 10 years so far and I still haven’t found one! You’re right in that we have to embrace new challenges to grow in confidence.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Teen years are the ones I wouldn’t want to go through again, though looking back they weren’t bad at all and I had a safe home and some good friends. Turned out it didn’t matter not being like the ‘cool ones’ at school as life did not always turn out well for them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think you hit on one of those keys that some did not possess—a stable home. Having seen the chaos that some of my students lived through, Janet, it’s a wonder that some made it to the other side in one piece. It’s funny how our goals and aspirations change as we mature. Being cool is no longer important to me in the way we looked at it in high school. What I see as cool now is not being afraid of new experiences and challenges.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. I’m sure your pupils held you in great esteem, Pete. It’s not every teacher who can read to his pupils and get good results as you did. Bravo! Wishing you much success with your new book. All the best.
    Reblogged on Improvisation – “The Art of Living”

    Liked by 3 people

  10. How i read Pete’s story i am sure his later work as a teacher was really predifined for him. He found his determination, and now with his work as a writer of books for children, he puts the icing on this. Thanks for sharing, Pete and Sally! hugsx Michael

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I can relate to your teen years, Pete! I’m an introvert and waiting for people to invite me in. During those years, I always wondered why they were giggling and what they were talking about. One thing that changed my life was my singing. By overcoming the stage fright, I gained confidence. Like you, years of teaching and reading to the students was the best way to gain confidence because students look up to their teachers.
    Congratulations on your new MG chapter book. Best wishes on finding a publisher. It takes time but it’s worth the effort.
    Thank you, Sally, for featuring Pete. Thank you for this great series.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Wishing you all the luck in the world finding a publisher I have a feeling you will be lucky, Pete 🙂 Like you my high school years were not the best but college was far better…Like all the others its lovely to get to know you better this really is a great series 🙂 x

    Liked by 3 people

    • Moving into a new high school and not knowing a single person was one of the most frightening experiences of my life. If I’m at a social gathering and I see someone who looks uncomfortable or lonely, I will now look out for those people and engage them in conversation. It’s human nature to feel uncomfortable when you don’t know anyone, so it seems like it’s the human thing to do.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. What a wonderful post today. Teenage years are hard in the best of circumstances, so I can’t imagine moving to a new school at that time. So glad you found yourself and got past your fears, Pete. And you went on to have a blessed life, touching many other lives. Congratulations on finishing the first draft of the book. I wish you tons of success. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here today, and thank you, Sally, for hosting!

    Liked by 3 people

  14. I love how you went past your i securities of high school and opened up yourself to the world of possibilities in college. I had that same experience of not fitting in then, although it took me a few years to find myself and place in this world. Congrats on writing that middle grade book! I hope you find that publisher and have a lot of success!

    Liked by 3 people

  15. ah reading to children. Choosing to be a lawyer rather limited my opportunities, Pete. While I had any number of childish clients they were never open to chapter reading if they were paying. However i loved reading to my own two and went on reading to them until they were into their teens. I even managed all of the Harry Potter books eventually. So I envy you some! And admire it too. To capture a mind like that has to be one of life’s great joys. I much enjoyed this.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. I loved this Pete. You said it, having the confidence is key, and whether we come from happy families or dysfunction, some of us just don’t have confidence. I know you found it in spades and you became a great teacher who no doubt passed on your great experience. And kudos on the new book. I wish you lots of luck and success going trad! ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Being a teenager is tough for so many. But you managed through it and came out better in the end. It often takes people a lot longer to realize that life is for living and not being afraid all the time. I have to say, you really haven’t changed much from that first picture!

    Liked by 2 people

  18. I’m with Darlene regarding that first picture – undeniably you! ‘Don’t let fear hold you back’ is a wonderfully uplifting comment as was this response to Sally’s brilliant prompt. I know from reading your first book what an inspirational teacher you were and I wish you every success in finding a publisher for what I’m sure will touch the intended readers’ hearts. ♥♥

    Liked by 3 people

  19. This has been a brilliant series, Sally. I perk up each time I see a new author sharing their wisdom. Thanks for all you do for your fellow writers/bloggers creating a safe haven. Your blog is like that house in the neighborhood everyone feels happy and safe visiting.

    Liked by 4 people

  20. Oh yes, I so related to what you say here about our high school angst, Pete. But I guess that’s what makes our early teens/high school years so challenging. We haven’t figured out who we are yet, and what we want to be (I mean in BEING, in our personality, not in career). I foundered in my freshman and sophomore years. No confidence. Shy. Introverted. Definitely not in cliques, but I didn’t like cliques anyway. I was amazed and flummoxed how I grew into myself once I left for college. It was wonderful, finding that freedom to be who I wanted to be, not who I was “supposed” to be in high school. Thanks for explaining how it was for you so well, here, and for sharing the GREAT photos.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ll bet you get a lot of the same reactions that I do when you tell people you used to be introverted because I never would have guessed that about you, Pam. I used to tell my students about being shy and afraid to get out of my comfort zone, and they’d look at me in disbelief because all they were used to seeing was someone who got in front of the school assembly and did something silly.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Absolutely Pete. And I still call myself a functioning introvert even though my friends tell me I’m crazy. However, they don’t see me when I hide back home with relief for the quiet and peace. 🤓 I think like you, when I’m teaching another part of myself comes out and I find it easy to talk and teach and even act crazy.

        Liked by 1 person

  21. This was a great pleasure to read, Sally! Pete is the ‘real deal’, I can attest to that. He is giving, funny, caring, and hardworking. His advice to shoot for the stars, get out of your comfort zone and ‘go for it’ is just perfect. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Congratulations on your new book, Pete! My favorite photo is you showing off Ryan to your students. And, my favorite part of your teaching is reading aloud to your students, being in character, and making books come alive for them. Thank you for making a difference.

    Liked by 2 people

    • My visit to your classroom was one of the highlights of my year, Jennie. You understand everything that children need and your lessons not only teach and inspire them, but they reach all ages (including retired teachers). Including Gloria, art, music, science, history, literature, and patriotism with your natural enthusiasm and love for children are brilliant. The kids adore you because they see a nurturing and caring teacher. I know I’ve used this description before, but you are a teacher for teachers. God bless!

      Liked by 2 people

  22. Hi Pete, you were lucky compared to many, and I must say that I was also lucky. We had great families and a good start. High school is a difficult time to move, I know as I also moved during that period of my life. Your decision made at 18 years old was pretty impressive. You were a most sensible young man. Congratulations on finishing your book and good luck with the next phase.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. It seems you came around to listening to that advice already, Pete. Congratulations on your book and good luck! Thanks for the great advice! And thanks, Sally!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Weekly Round Up – June 20th -26th 2022 – Garden, Roberta Flack, St. Barts, Culinary A-Z, Stories, Book Reviews, Bloggers, Health and Humour | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  25. I love the positivity with which you face life, Pete. I try, though sometimes it’s not easy. Congrats on accomplishing your second novel! Wishing you much success, I’m sure there will be bidding wars for it! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Wonderful share, Pete. I would have loved to have you as a teacher. Thank you for giving so much of yourself to your students and us. Another great post, Sally, thank you! 💗

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I wasn’t a fan of the high school years, either, Pete. I,too, had just moved to place where people weren’t very welcoming to the new kid in town. I also love reading to my middle school students, which is why I chose to write stories for young adults. It was great getting to know more about you. Thanks for sharing, Sally! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now! – Guest Round Up – Part One – Claire Fullerton, Noelle Granger, Pete Johnson, Sharon Marchisello, Jane Risdon, Balroop Singh, Pete Springer, Carol Taylor D.Wallace Pea

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