Near the end of the school day yesterday, Regina Chandler, 81, and a great-grandmother, clapped her hands to get the attention of 19 kindergarten students bent on talking, teasing and being five-year-olds.
Since the start of the District teacher's strike on March 6, Chandler -- who has worked as a seamstress and beautician, raised chickens and sold real estate -- has been a volunteer teacher at Shepherd Elementary School at 14th Street and Kalmia Road NW.
"I wanted to volunteer for the children, I asked to help," said Chandler. "They are the ones being hurt by this."
In the classroom, Chandler is a stickler for details and courtesy. She struggles to maintain order, but its hard to achieve. Times have changed, Chandler said, and "children just aren't raised the way they used to be."
"I pray to God every morning to give me the strength and the patience," said Chandler, a widow, whose daughter Elizabeth C. Chandler, is a vice superintendent of the D.C. public schools.
Chandler, who has never worked as a teacher, begins her day shortly before 9 a.m. reviewing lesson plans drawn up for her by school officials. The children's school day includes drawing, storytelling, word study and rest periods.
Two teen-age students and a parent assist Chandler in the kindergarten classroom, which is decorated with bright, colorful posters, cartoon characters and large letters of the alphabet.
"I feel a closeness to these children," Chandler said of her students, "but I feel sorry for them because they aren't being taught courtesy and etiquette."
Her biggest problem in the classroom is discipline, Chandler said.
"There is an inward hurt that you cannot explain because you realize that they are not going to reach the high goals you want them to, not unless there is a dramatic change in their lives," she said.