Sunday, September 12, 2010

Thanks to some of my teachers

I always think about my own teachers when the school year begins. I had some amazing men and women to whom I owe a huge debt and I still remember their names (I have forgotten the names of others from whom I no doubt learned stuff but what I learned doesn’t still resonate with a particular teacher). When I look back at what they gave me, they are the kinds of skills and knowledge we now call the hallmarks of good 21st century education.
1st grade: Mrs Concedine taught me to read and write and enjoy the reading part. I don’t hold my hand writing against her.
2nd grade: Mrs. Bird taught me that not all teachers pay attention. I had other kids doing my work. My mother caught this one and pulled me from public school.
3rd grade: Miss Hunt revealed dinosaurs and the joys of spending time in the library
5th grade: Mrs. Spencer proved that many teachers do pay attention. She knew exactly why I was failing math. I was reading for fun during math (I told her it was too hard). She also demonstrated how teachers and parents could be allies by enlisting my father in her campaign to improve my math--no reading at home until my math grade improved two letter grades. Yes it had gotten that bad.
There was an art teacher in there who suggested I wasn’t creative-his name I have blocked.
But we had this amazing shop teacher, Fred Lorenz, who taught us that our hands were capable of amazing work. I don’t think he and the art teacher shared notes.
In 8th and 9th grades Jane Kelso rekindled my love of math in Algebra I and Geometry (my children find this hard to believe)
8th grade: Miss Thompson did not teach me to love US History, but she did teach me that history was more than memorizing dates, a lesson I have hung onto all my life.
9th grade: Missy Cummins taught us everything (French, English, etymology, Western Civilization). We read Dickens, Plato, The Outermost House, we learned to appreciate Greek architecture and see it all around us in the public buildings in Indianapolis (and we learned what polis meant). I don’t think any of us ever had recess as we were forever being called up to her desk to discuss yet another problem in the latest rewrite in our attempt to write in the style of the Outermost House. To her I owe my sense of myself as a student, as a learner, as a human.

In high school I had many more teachers, a few were standouts.
10th grade: Mrs Kulp took away my confidence in asking questions and my sense of self as a capable math student. As teachers we have incredible power for good and for bad.
10 grade: Fortunately Mr. Doney so loved teaching Asian History that his sheer joy and energy sustained me (with help from Mr. Carey) through an otherwise challenging and uninspiring year.
10th grade-12th grade Mr. Carey was my choir director. He loved music and he loved taking our different voices and creating something greater than we were capable of individually. This is my only distinct memory of collaborative work in three years of high school.
11th-12th grades I had Mr. Doney again and Mr. Moore who helped me see my future in history.
10th-12th Mr. Goucher was only my French teacher in 11th grade but he was a presence in my life, sent me on two exchanges, and helped continue my appreciation of the beauty of this language I managed to mangle every time I opened my mouth.
12th grade Miss Benbow was shorter than me and stern to the point of frightening. She took my sloppy, loose and scattered writing and showed me how to edit and improve and write as process not as a single effort. I knew she saw more in me than I had shown her. She never knew Missy Cummins but they were sisters in spirit.

Who are your teachers?

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