by Helen DePrima
bless teachers! I could never be a teacher – I don’t play well with others. I’m
sure I would be constantly kicking over the traces about rules that govern the
system. I surely do admire the dedicated souls who continue to fight the good
fight for the minds of their students, like the Florida teacher who lost her
job because she refused to give credit for assignments not turned in.
was blessed to attend school in simpler times, when the three R’s still
dominated the curriculum and grades were awarded for accomplishment rather than
to satisfy social pressure. Discipline wasn’t a dirty word, either, although I
never saw any examples of physical punishment. My first-grade teacher maintained
order by sentencing miscreants to stand for ten minutes with their noses in a
circle drawn on the blackboard, a mild version of the pillory. Once was enough
boy, were teachers tough, and with admirable results; 85% of my high school graduating
class went on to college. I still have a few papers graded by Mrs. Kirwan, who
taught English and journalism. She used her red pencil with great glee,
pouncing on the least error in spelling, punctuation, or grammar – remember
grammar? For extra credit, we were assigned to diagram the Gettysburg Address.
To this day, I diagram a sentence if I question its structure – nothing more
laughable than a misplaced modifier.
summer between my junior and senior years in high school, I had to opportunity
to take a freshman history course at the University of Louisville. The
professor was Lawrence Lee Howe; he had been a classmate of my aunt’s when she matriculated
at age 14, her high school’s youngest valedictorian. Professor Howe offered some
colorful and irreverent interpretations of events, igniting my lifelong love of
history tempered with a healthy seasoning of skepticism. “Always lift the
corner of the carpet,” he counselled, to see what the historians have swept
while I’m on the subject, thanks to the many wonderful, caring teachers who
shepherded my kids through school, and shame on the few who simply wasted their
time. As I told my daughter who’s sixth grade teacher said she shouldn’t
“bother her pretty little head” over trying to write a book report on Gone
With The Wind, you can learn some great life lessons from poor teachers.
by Liz FlahertyHer name was Margaret. In my freshman year, she had someone else grade short stories we wrote, just to give us another outlook. I got great feedback--I held onto that a long time.
His name was Gordon. He encouraged.
Her name was Clauda. She taught both English and Latin, and I learned more about words and their origins than I ever would have thought existed.
Her name was Jane. She didn't think I'd EVER learn to type, but I did. Finally. Not well, but well enough that being a writer was much easier than it might have been.
His name was Joe. He taught Algebra and about life, and when I sold my first book, he brought me a dozen roses.
Her name was Mrs. Sullivan. She was my first grade teacher and she didn't like me, but she let me read with the second graders because I was bored.
I graduated from high school 51 years ago. The list above is a microcosm of the ones who taught me in those 12 years on the way to graduation. I still remember their names, what they looked like, and things they said to me.
I am so grateful.
|Kari & Jim Wilson|
I will get off my soapbox now. I realize it's probably not the right place for it. And yet it is. Because of those people up there, I'm a writer. I know about commas and plot and quotation marks. I know that in that 12 years with them, none of them ever told me I couldn't do anything. None of them ever said I wasn't good enough. None of them ever cared where I lived or that I didn't dress as well as other girls. They gave me everything I needed in adulthood's toolbox.
And I'm still so grateful.
What wonderful tributes to teachers, Helen and Liz! As a former teacher (high school,and then elementary)for more than 20 years I saw much re-modeling of past teaching practices and curricula. Fortunately, the kids themselves ....the best part of teaching...more or less stayed the same. Thank you!ReplyDelete
And thank you. We say a lot, and mean it--Thank you for your service. It needs to be said to teachers, too.Delete
Living for nearly 50 years, I've had the opportunity to get in the faces of many presidential candidates. I always ask the same question: what would you do to rescue and revitalize our failing public schools? The best answers came from Ross Perot and Lamar Alexander: keep students in smaller local schools, and let the teachers teach without absurd directives from on high. The value of these ideas seem to be borne out by the increasing popularity of charter schools and the huge jump in the number of home-schooled students.Delete
You’re so right Helen. Sadly, many underestimate the public school system, too.Delete
Thanks for this post. A few weeks ago, I got a text from my son telling me the teachers were on strike--granted their situation in terms of salary wasn't dire as IN and WV and OK...and other systems, but the need for support staff is critical in this huge Chicago system. He teaches 7th and 8th grade math, and wow, some of the math he teaches wasn't even offered in high school when I was in school. His students deal with all kinds of troublesome issues, but many are doing very well--he always give me great hope for the future. Teaching is really a calling, isn't it? And sometimes, teachers have to take to the streets to shed light on what they're up against!ReplyDelete
I can't imagine the pressures teachers face above and beyond the stress of teaching itself. Like first responders, they deserve all the help and credit they can get, by whatever means.Delete
It is a calling for sure. My son-in-law teaches math, too, and I don't know how they do it!Delete
I'm grateful for many outstanding teachers as well. And especially for the Mrs. Carnes, who wasn't my teacher but coached me for the UIL essay contest in junior high. That win was my first and only writing award.ReplyDelete
You must have been thrilled to win that honor so early in your writing career.Delete
What a cool thing to remember, and something that undoubtedly pushed you in the direction you chose.Delete
This is great post. I taught for one year, and I'm with Helen, not only did I not play well with others, they REALLY didn't want to play with me. I protested every abuse and idiocy in the system. I saw too many kids not "winning" the education they deserved. And THAT was 50 years ago. My granddaughter was homeschooled all her life by her math teacher mother. And she is graduating from Texas A&M this coming May. I honor every teacher who has the courage and wit to continue in their profession. God bless them all. In addition, I was blessed with fantastic high school teachers who taught me a love of literature, writing and the mysteries of linguistics. Thank you to them all--living and dead.ReplyDelete
I remember when our school had to let the gifted and talented program go to the wayside because of funding back in the late 80s. It still frustrates me!Delete
How sad that you didn't get proper support in your fight for quality education. Speaking of "winning" -- the honor rolls published for our local high schools would be funny if they weren't so sad. Every student gets mentioned for something; those who deserved recognition for excellence get lost in the fine print.Delete
Lovely post, Liz and Helen. I've had the good fortune over the years of having so many good teachers who encouraged my writing. My fifth grade teacher called me up to her desk one day and asked if I would dedicate my first book to her. I quietly said I had to dedicate it to my mother. She laughed and agreed that that was exactly what I should do. And I did:-)ReplyDelete
Oh, I love that story!Delete
It takes a special person to be a teacher--a calling. I worked in the schools as an abstinence educator for many years--in for three days and then out. But by the end of the three days, I saw what teachers went through. Most don't have administration behind them and kids nowadays are rarely disciplined. When I was in school, what the teacher was in control. If I got in trouble at school, I knew I'd be in trouble at home. Not so any longer. Sadly. Teachers are the most underpaid segment of out society. And they are teaching our kids.ReplyDelete
That's what's weird. We trust them with what we love and value most, and yet we offer them abysmal pay and little respect.Delete
Teachers are responsible for our country's greatest resource - the next generation. I had a mixture of good and bad as I was growing up. My greatest teacher, however, I had in graduate school. Most teachers/professors would make comments on a page, like "this sentence is unclear" or "you could have structured your argument better." Really? I hadn't make the sentence unclear or structured my argument less than effectively on purpose. But I finally had a professor who made comments that actually made sense and told me how to do it better the next time. I'll always be grateful.ReplyDelete
I think there's always a mixture of good and bad. Wanting to know stuff, though, makes us ready to receive even from those who aren't so good at delivering. :-) It's funny, and lucky, how sometimes someone gets it just right.Delete
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