Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Tale of Two Terrific Teachers

Long, long ago, but not all that far away, Ms. J. was my second-grade teacher. She had an awe-inspiring cloud of an afro--typical of the '70's--that I absolutely adored (envied, really), and a clear commitment to teaching the over-sized class in her care.

Curricula were changing: it was the era of "new math," and well before the masses were hooked on them, phonics were then in their fledging stages. As a precocious reader by that point, the teaching of phonics insulted me...as did my late in childhood discovery of Sesame Street."C is for Cookie?" Well of course it is! (Now, my vast appreciation for the Children's Television Workshop makes me fully tail-between-my-legs ashamed of my elementary school arrogance.)

Just because I found the syllabically-centered course of phonics study demeaning didn't deter Ms. J. from her predetermined learning plan. Since I knew how to read, and phonics to my interpretation were simply a fool's tool for those who didn't, I tuned out Ms. J.'s extensive explanation of how to accomplish the test she distributed. Imagine my surprise and horror when my paper was returned with as many red "x's" as the sheet could contain. As I struggled to hold back the tears, a terse Ms. J. simply said, "A smart girl listens to directions and follows them." Ouch. Nothing quite like the sting of the truth.

Present day, Mrs. W. is Sarah's teacher. A precocious reader with lovely penmanship (when she tries), she (and her brother) find many of their in-class and homework assignments "boring" and "stupid." On more than one occasion I've been regaled with, "M--o-o-o-o-m, we'll probably still be learning about colors in college." Wherein I've tried to use the opportunity to remind them their school work isn't always about learning the material, but about doing their best without being asked, about taking their time, about focusing and not complaining, about acknowledging that all have a right to learn, and some take a bit longer than others. Deaf ears, often...but message repeated ad nauseum.

Flash forward to Tuesday afternoon: After play practice, we planned to take Sarah, Darren and a friend to Friendly's --the Le Cirque of the seven-year-old set--for dinner. When I declared she'd need to do her homework first, she declared, "I did it already at school and turned it in." Off to Friendly's we went.

Flash forward to Wednesday morning: Mrs. W. meets us at the classroom door, Sarah's homework in hand. "Sarah, you need to do this over. Not only did you not finish it, it is clearly not your best." Ouch. Nothing quite like the sting of the truth. Accepted with embarrassment from Mrs. W.'s hand, the half-hearted homework went to her face...no doubt an effort to mask the precipitous tears.

This Thursday, I'm thankful for the teachers---those who take the time and effort daily to dispense lessons that last a lifetime....and I'm not talking about phonics.

For more glimpses of gratitude, go on over and visit Nicole at What a Trip! for Thanksgiving Thursday!

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11 comments:

Sharlene said...

There are no ifs, ands, or butts about it: Teachers Rock!

noble pig said...

She's lucky to have her. So many teachers don't even look at their homework for that age.

Jenny said...

It used to hurt my feelings too when a teacher would point out that something wasn't my best work. LOL--it lasted through college, especially with my favorite professors. I guess it's a good sign of a kid who takes her work seriously? I wonder what Suzi will do, especially since I'm hoping to homeschool and I will be the one delivering the bad news.

Missy said...

I am thankful for teachers too! Great post! I have very fond memories of a few of those wonderful teachers that taught me so much but in a fun & caring way!

Shannon said...

Awesome post! Hopefully I remember this when my kiddos get older.

Nicole O'Dell said...

I feel similarly about teachers and nurses...they have the power to make soooooo much difference. The good ones are worth so much more than we could EVER even try to do to repay them.

Great post!

Happy Thanksgiving Thursday!

Barbara Manatee said...

While I know your post wasn't about me, the teacher, I want to say Thank You for recognizing teachers for lessons like you mentioned - Sadly, many parents would snap back at the teacher for ridiculing their child instead of thanking them for the lesson instilled.

Sarah and Darren have another wonderful teacher in their midst...they mom!

Terra said...

I love teachers that care, pay attention and act. We have not had many of those.

Christy said...

Oh how we need more teachers like that! Good for her... and you are right... those moments last a lifetime!

cat said...

Oh yes, yeah for teachers. I remember some of mine with great fondness (others not so), but in general great.

Lisa said...

Yay for teachers!! I come from a family of them...and Cheryl, I can totally relate - I detested phonics, too. :)