We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Thursday, April 14. 2011
Among others, outside of our families, who have left lasting positive impressions on us, some teachers and coaches stand out in all of our minds.
(I combine teachers with coaches because they serve the same relationship functions - guidance, pushing, criticizing, inspiring, and cheerleading of efforts that, in the end, only the person can do themselves within their own minds and bodies. For better or worse, we are not empty vessels into which things can be poured.)
For all of everybody's frustration with the government school monopoly, unions, the insane notion of universal higher education, and obsolete and stultifying educational methods which work best only for the most submissive, obedient, or motivated students, every reader of Maggie's has memories of teachers or coaches who made a big difference in their life.
I was fortunate to have had many of them. Interestingly, where I spent my most formative years, each teacher had to be a sports coach too. They were "Sir" in class, but you were allowed to call them "Coach" on the field, in the pool, or on the rinks.
Let's hear about them, in the comments. (I will put some of mine in there, too.)
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I'll start with Prof. M. Nothing I ever did was good enough for him. Harsh. Made me realize that I was doggin' it even when I thought I was doing a fine job. Forced me to discover that I could do more than I had thought I could. Worked, for me.
Mr Bond, 1977, pointed out the window while addressing my class struggling with algebra and said "That thermometer reads zero degrees....does that mean that there aren't any degrees out there?"
By the end of that year I had scored 570 on my math SAT. Rocket engineer level? No, but after struggling my entire life with math, that was evidence of a collosal advance.
Thank you Mr. Bond~
The greatest joy of my job is when young folks stop by to tell me about the difference I made in their lives. Summers off are terrific but what's really great is that when it's over, i don't have to go back to work; I get to~
I taught for two years, and found out that teaching is not as easy as it may seem. It is difficult work, made more difficult by the current working conditions. It is no accident that 1) nearly half of beginning teachers leave the profession within five years of entering it; 2) very few teachers these days stay in the classroom until they are 60. Current demands on teachers create burnout.
Knowledge of the subject is necessary but not sufficient to be a good teacher. While I had 800 on the Math GRE, that didn't make me a successful math teacher. A good teacher needs to be a persuader, and persuading doesn't come easily to me.
I do not like powerful teachers' unions. Example of that mentality: Rita Wilson of Rutherford NJ schools in the video with Gov. Christie.
I had long conversations in the past two years with old classmates. With one high school classmate, I found out that the dislike I had for one of our history teachers [who taught 40 years] was nearly universal. The classmate said at a recent class reunion, only one had a good word for him. But most of our high school teachers we thought were pretty good. Some were exceptionally good.
I had a long conversation with a Gr 1-12 + college classmate. The only reason she hasn't known me all her life is that I am 5 months younger. We talked a lot about our elementary and junior high teachers. Good memories. One teacher whom I disliked in junior high, I now realize had her good points. There is a reason why junior high students get the battle ax treatment from some teachers. Had I been a battle ax I might still be teaching. Fear is not necessary to be a good teacher, but it is better to have students fear and behave and learn than to not fear, not behave, and not learn. My battle ax junior high teacher did so in a VERY quiet manner. She could intimidate without yelling.
While we were having this conversation in a restaurant, a fellow patron who was a teacher came up to us and told us she appreciated listening to our teacher memories.
Florence Rosberg was my 10th grade English teacher in western New York. She took us to Shakespeare festivals in Stratford, Ontario. She imparted a love for learning even as we were slipping into serious dope and other knuckleheadism. After the fog cleared what she taught remained.
Oh boy--how I have grown to love them over the years, this group of five men and two women.
My earliest memory is of a young man and an old woman, both fourth grade teachers in the early fifties. I was a transplant from eastern states to sunny CA. Mom was divorced and owned her own little beauty shop. She paid the bills and never smoked, drank, or swore. She was successful because she set up shop down near the airplane plant and stayed open long enough for the gals to get their hair done after work.
My earliest memory of female bullying and ridicule is from that year. We had two teachers in 4th grade I had Mrs. B. the old, arrogant native, who had a particular dislike of all newcomers.
One weekend Mom drove us down to a "foreign country". She was so excited to see Mexico, even though it was only a day in Tiajuana! She bought me one of those bright colored skirts with the white blouse that has lace around the neck. Typical for the folk dancers. Mom always kept my hair in short curls. At school, once a month we had a "young lady's class" taught by Mrs. B. The other teacher, a young war vet, took all the boys from both classes out onto the field and they played sports. We girls had to stay indoors to have lessons about our bodies, manners, and of course one day it was about proper clothing. I had on my new Mexican skirt/blouse. I was asked to come to the front of the class and Mrs. B pointed out the problem with my hair (curls to tight), my skirt (to flared), my blouse (scoop neck). When I asked her to stop and started crying she sent me out to the field to be with the "boys".
I walked across the big empty stretch of field to where the boys were playing baseball. Through my tears I could see the "man teacher" stand up and come toward me. He knew immediately something was terribly wrong. Why was this lone little girl coming all that way out across the field toward him and why was she crying? When I got closer to him I saw him look up at the building--to the second floor windows where my classroom was. I saw the hate and anger. He put his arm around me and asked if I would keep score for him and the teams. He sat me next to him and made me feel important. He taught me a run and a steal, etc. Every once in awhile he would look up at that building, and I could see his quiet rage. I was too young to ask for names in those days--but, I remember that teacher's kindness.
Brought tears to my eyes, apple pie. I trust you've come through it OK, and may God bless you.
My third grade teacher. Man, was she cute. I would have done anything to try to please her. I remember memorizing vocab lists, just for her.
My wrestling Coach, Mr. B, from whom I learned enduring toughness and teamwork. Never give in, never surrender! My college Calculus Professor, who taught me one year before his passing (RIP, Professor E), the beauty of Mathematics, despite my struggles with it. My Engineering professors who leavened my enthusiasm and idealism, with hard-headed practicality. And the visiting Professor who gave a talk one day, and taught us that the most valuable skill a person can have is to be able to communicate well with others. And it's the most difficult skill to learn, requires a lifetime of practice.
Avery Brundage, 8th Grade, an imposing man who fit his name with height to spare and chewed his glasses while listening to you... "You know what I see when I stand up here and look out over the class? Cabbage heads... rows and rows of cabbage heads!"
One day I let on that I was a fan of Bob & Ray on the radio. He drove me home that day, we sat in the driveway and listened to Mary Backstayge and Wally Ballou. I took some heat from the "cool" kids in class for cozying up to Ol' Man Brundage, but my grades shot up commensurate with my learning.
Miss. Nancy Fox - high school Drama coach and English teacher.
There are not enough words for me to express my appreciation for her kind and thoughtful manner in dealing with a young man who, by all accounts at that time, would never grow up.
She was kind and caring. Being who I am (or was - I'm much less prone to pranks or practical jokes) she was usually the one teacher who would stand up for me when something went awry. She became a kind of surrogate sister, mentor and true friend. She would tell me what I did right and what I did wrong - sometimes she would laugh at a prank and sometimes she'd be absolutely furious and let me know about it. She always had time to tutor after school - I wasn't the best English student and she worked hard to keep me reading and writing. She was the main reason I became heavily interested in science fiction - there were stories that sparked my imagination, kept me interested and eventually led to a successful engineering career.
When I joined the Corps before I graduated, she came into school one day with a photo album - in it were pictures of her as a Lady Leatherneck - she was one of the ATC tower operators at Cherry Point, NC during WWII and again during Korea. She joined the Marines because her two brothers were Marines and her father had been a former Marine.
Miss. Fox kept up with me my entire tour, it was always a treat to get a letter from Ms. Fox which arrived like clock work once every two weeks. I made a point of visiting her every time I got leave home. After my second tour, she finally got married to a widower (actually a long time live in "companion") - she always said she didn't have time to teach teen age kids and have a husband too. :>) She was finally and totally happy.
She passed away quickly after a short battle with a very aggressive form of cancer. Her husband told me at her funeral that she loved all her students, but I was her favorite out of 3,000 some odd if only because there was always a surprise coming and it kept her on her toes.
Semper Fi Nancy.
In the late 50's I had the same lady teacher for both the 6th and 7th grade in a small northeast Kansas town. During those years she somehow made math and grammar fun. I remember having contests at the blackboards doing long division and diagramming sentences. Most of the class actually looked forward to this. We moved to another town before I started 8th grade and I was amazed at my new classmates as they all groaned out loud when the subject of diagramming sentences came up. It turned out I was ahead of all of them in most subjects. During our high school years some of them passed me up academically (they were willing to work harder than I was). However, after those two years, I never had to study grammar again all the way through junor college level English. Math came easy to me as well, at least until I hit calculus. I give most of the credit to Mrs. Harrison.
Not to worry Big Al--I am fine. You see unlike most women today, I grew up knowing that there were far more good men out there than there are bad ones!
I figured you were fine, based upon your obvious sensibility. Good for you.
Wow, that's really messed up apple pie......makes me angry to hear it.
So a couple of years ago I was out of work and this newer sub was assigned to cover my class. He's a trade worker dude....nothing wrong with that except he's very rough around the edges. So upon my return the next day, one of my classes was really pissed off. Seems Mr Sub pointed at my obese student in the hallway and called him a fat-ass really loudly. That very day, he was back subbing for someone else when he blew off one of my students he was supposed to meet. One more incident and I demanded a meeting with the Principal. Apparently, nothing could be done about this no matter how vehemently I brought my case against this loser.
Well at least I could put him on my no-call list and he will never sub for me again. I do see the asshole in the halls some days and it's funny that he refuses to look at me or speak to me. I'm quite proud to be his biggest enemy and if I was the boss, I'd walk him to his fuckin' car.
Great stories in here so thanks Bird Dog. I've had so many awesome teachers in my life including both of my late parents who were teachers for 30+ years each.
Of course that meant that I had been "branded" and for the next couple of years I was pretty much "odd girl out". However, in 6th grade I had another wonderful WW11 Vet. His name was Mr. Sparks. "Sparky" we all called him because of his reddish brown hair. He was another one that tried to help erase the damage done by Mrs. B. I remember him best because he had this magical ability to "appear out of nowhere"; kinda like the Fish and Game officer!
To the Brothers and Priests of a Catholic teaching order in a certain southern California prep school, circa late 1970s:
I hated every minute of my four years with you: the (mostly) unforgiving discipline, relentless work, the accurately thrown chalk missiles, the board of education wielded by that Mean excuse me Dean of Students (did you ever find the tiny "abandon all hope .. " sign stuck to your office door?).
On the other hand, you weren't there to be liked and I can't fault the education that made university and some law school classes seem easy. And you did install some lifetime work habits and ways of reasoning and critical thinking.
Thanks to them and to the English prof who swore by The Elements of Style, the bar review coach who taught me the structure of a legal argument and my first boss who invested the time in blue penciling my work until it looked professional.
sigmundcarlandalfred recently excerpted from an article in The American Prospect : The Test Generation. If you want to read more, go to the links.
On exam day in Sabina Trombetta's Colorado Springs first-grade art class, the 6-year-olds were shown a slide of Picasso's "Weeping Woman," a 1937 cubist portrait of the artist's lover, Dora Maar, with tears streaming down her face. It is painted in vibrant -- almost neon -- greens, bluish purples, and yellows. Explaining the painting, Picasso once said, "Women are suffering machines."
The test asked the first-graders to look at "Weeping Woman" and "write three colors Picasso used to show feeling or emotion." (Acceptable answers: blue, green, purple, and yellow.) Another question asked, "In each box below, draw three different shapes that Picasso used to show feeling or emotion." (Acceptable drawings: triangles, ovals, and rectangles.) A separate section of the exam asked students to write a full paragraph about a Matisse painting.
Trombetta, 38, a 10-year teaching veteran and winner of distinguished teaching awards from both her school district, Harrison District 2, and Pikes Peak County, would have rather been handing out glue sticks and finger paints. The kids would have preferred that, too. But the test wasn't really about them. It was about their teacher.
Trombetta and her students, 87 percent of whom come from poor families, are part of one of the most aggressive education-reform experiments in the country: a soon-to-be state-mandated attempt to evaluate all teachers -- even those in art, music, and physical education -- according to how much they "grow" student achievement. In order to assess Trombetta, the district will require her Chamberlin Elementary School first-graders to sit for seven pencil-and-paper tests in art this school year. To prepare them for those exams, Trombetta lectures her students on art elements such as color, line, and shape -- bullet points on Colorado's new fine-art curriculum standards.
All of this left Trombetta pretty frustrated, and on a November afternoon, she really wanted to talk. As she ate lunch (a frozen TV dinner) in her cheery, deserted classroom plastered with bright posters, she recounted the events of the past week. She liked the idea of exposing her young students, many of whom had never visited a museum, to great works of art. But, Trombetta complained, preparing the children for the exam meant teaching them reductive half-truths about art -- that dark colors signify sadness and bright colors happiness, for example. "To bombard these kids with words and concepts instead of the experience of art? I really struggle with that," she said. "It's kind of hard when they come to me and say, 'What are we going to make today?' and I have to say, 'Well, we're going to write about art.'"
For all the bad stuff that teachers’ unions have done, many neglect to point out the crap that state and federal legislators dump on teachers. This nonsense about having first graders become pseudo art critics on Picasso is the result of testmania that the Colorado leg dumped on teachers.
A lot of people have the fantasy that if teachers' unions were defanged, all would be good in primary and secondary education. There still exist many problems, testmania being one of them.
There is a point to testing. A high school graduate who believes he should be admitted to a four year of institution of higher learning should be competent in 8th grade math. I use that example because I knew a student who was in that situation. He finally passed the TAAS, showing he was "proficient" in 8th grade math, and was therefore admitted to a college. Did he get his degree? I doubt it.
But when you have the nonsense of turning first graders into pseudo art critics, the testing mania has gone too far.