Back to school

Barbie_plaid_edited1_1       From Loretta:
      
      A year or two ago, maybe more, my junior high school science teacher died.  I am still close to my best friend from junior high school, and we grieved.  Some time later, my friend encountered a relative of the teacher, and told him how much this teacher had meant to us.  What it boils down to is, we worshipped her.
      By our fashion standards, she wasn’t that cool.  Her hair style and clothes came from an earlier era.  (She was in her 30s–practically ancient to us.)  But she was cool.  Our was a fairly tough junior high school–by no means the worst in the city, but definitely not for sissy teachers.  The students made some teachers cry.  Fights after school–girls as well as boys–were frequent.  It was a miniature version of West Side Story, a movie to which most of us would-be-hoodlums related all too well.
      But we were all little angels in Miss Butler’s class.  She’d enter the classroom and say, “Sit down and shut up” and we did.  I still don’t know how she did that.  There must have been at least 30 of us in the class but we all Obeyed.  Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer, would say she was a pack leader.  And I guess, in that school, the analogy fit perfectly.  Remember the Buffy episode “The Pack”?  http://www.buffyguide.com/episodes/pack/packsyn.shtml
      That was the student population at this junior high school–and none of us had stepped into any mystical circles, as far as I know.
      In Miss Butler’s class, we sat down, shut up, and paid attention.  We learned things, because she was a gifted teacher who made science fascinating to 7th, 8th, and 9th graders, a rare achievement.
      Then we’d leave her class and go down the hall and torture the French teacher.
      Miss Butler was one of the reasons I did not become a hoodlum.  She found a way to stimulate my intellectual competitive streak in an environment where it wasn’t at all cool for girls to be smart.  In later years, I did some backsliding (the college partying mentioned last week), but eventually I remembered her saying that one could party and get good grades; it simply meant not getting much sleep.  She’d pointed to the bags under her eyes as illustration.  So I learned to divide my time–which I guess makes her at least partly responsible for the nerd I am today.
      Empty_classroom I got to thinking about teachers following last week’s discussion about our reading habits.  In the Comments, author Candice Hern talked about the high school curriculum and wondered if there was a Department of Gloom that selected the books.  I thought about Miss Butler, who had to teach from a textbook written by someone–or more likely a committee–trying to win the prize for Most Boring Science Textbook in the Known Universe.  Yet this teacher found a way to make the subject come alive.  She drew analogies between the topic of the day and our lives.  She even found a way to make many of us realize that learning stuff was cool.
      But she was a rarity.  I had another terrific teacher in high school but the majority were not memorable.  They were average teachers, not gifted.  And in typical Bell curve fashion, there were a couple who were simply dreadful.
      My English teachers fell into the Average category.
      In English class we read those gloomy books the same way we plugged away–or didn’t–at Latin and French and physics.  Because we had to.  It would have helped to have some books we could enjoy and really understand, despite our lack of life experience.
      I wonder, Why didn’t we read The Pickwick Papers instead of A Tale of Two Cities?  David Copperfield instead of Great Expectations?
      This is not to say I think PP or DC is superior to the other books.  But I think they’re easier for a younger person to digest.  And, since they were written before Dickens’s darker period, they don’t want as much life experience to appreciate.
      I’ve got some ideas about Shakespeare, too, and Thomas Hardy, and some modern authors.  But I’ve also got my own book to finish and no time at present to change the world.
      What about you?  Did you have a teacher who changed the world for you?  If you could be the teacher, and change the world for your students, how would you do it?  Would you change the books or the way they’re taught?
     

27 thoughts on “Back to school”

  1. I have had more than my share of wonderful teachers from elementary through grad school, but outside my family, no one has influenced me as profoundly as did my sixth grade teacher. She was the first person other than family to praise my writing; she introduced me to music unknown to my parents, whose musical tastes were decidedly low brow. At a time when I was consumed with self-consciousness because I towered over most of my classmates and suddenly had these protuberances that attracted far more attention than I was comfortable with, she helped me to like myself again. She also taught me almost all the grammar I ever needed to know.
    As for curriculum mandated texts, I will never understand why Hamlet is such a frequent choice for high school students. The last time I taught Hamlet to a class of high school seniors,a group termed basic learners in the incomprehensible ways of educationese, we were all so happy to see Hamlet finally die that we had an end-of-Hamlet party.:)

    Reply
  2. I have had more than my share of wonderful teachers from elementary through grad school, but outside my family, no one has influenced me as profoundly as did my sixth grade teacher. She was the first person other than family to praise my writing; she introduced me to music unknown to my parents, whose musical tastes were decidedly low brow. At a time when I was consumed with self-consciousness because I towered over most of my classmates and suddenly had these protuberances that attracted far more attention than I was comfortable with, she helped me to like myself again. She also taught me almost all the grammar I ever needed to know.
    As for curriculum mandated texts, I will never understand why Hamlet is such a frequent choice for high school students. The last time I taught Hamlet to a class of high school seniors,a group termed basic learners in the incomprehensible ways of educationese, we were all so happy to see Hamlet finally die that we had an end-of-Hamlet party.:)

    Reply
  3. I have had more than my share of wonderful teachers from elementary through grad school, but outside my family, no one has influenced me as profoundly as did my sixth grade teacher. She was the first person other than family to praise my writing; she introduced me to music unknown to my parents, whose musical tastes were decidedly low brow. At a time when I was consumed with self-consciousness because I towered over most of my classmates and suddenly had these protuberances that attracted far more attention than I was comfortable with, she helped me to like myself again. She also taught me almost all the grammar I ever needed to know.
    As for curriculum mandated texts, I will never understand why Hamlet is such a frequent choice for high school students. The last time I taught Hamlet to a class of high school seniors,a group termed basic learners in the incomprehensible ways of educationese, we were all so happy to see Hamlet finally die that we had an end-of-Hamlet party.:)

    Reply
  4. Oh, that would be Mr. M. That’s how I thought of him. LOL He was my history/social studies teacher for three out of the four years and he also was the number two guy — assistant principle. Therefore most people hated him. IN the end, he was one of those people who was totally fair, loved sharing what he knew, but you had to be serious and goof off. If you didn’t care, then you hated him. I saw him as a father figure since I didn’t have one.
    As for those English books, half of them most of us didn’t even read, yet somehow still passed the tests. The problem is first of all, there is just so much time in high school. You have 7 other classes and if it’s a difficult book, you just don’t have the motivation to do it. The summer ones were fine — I mean, it’s the summer, you can do the reading. LOL But I think being forced to do it just doesn’t always make it fun. But I’ll tell you, looking at one of the banned book lists, most of the books we did in my catholic high school were on that list, so maybe in the end, I should be greatful after all! 🙂
    Lois

    Reply
  5. Oh, that would be Mr. M. That’s how I thought of him. LOL He was my history/social studies teacher for three out of the four years and he also was the number two guy — assistant principle. Therefore most people hated him. IN the end, he was one of those people who was totally fair, loved sharing what he knew, but you had to be serious and goof off. If you didn’t care, then you hated him. I saw him as a father figure since I didn’t have one.
    As for those English books, half of them most of us didn’t even read, yet somehow still passed the tests. The problem is first of all, there is just so much time in high school. You have 7 other classes and if it’s a difficult book, you just don’t have the motivation to do it. The summer ones were fine — I mean, it’s the summer, you can do the reading. LOL But I think being forced to do it just doesn’t always make it fun. But I’ll tell you, looking at one of the banned book lists, most of the books we did in my catholic high school were on that list, so maybe in the end, I should be greatful after all! 🙂
    Lois

    Reply
  6. Oh, that would be Mr. M. That’s how I thought of him. LOL He was my history/social studies teacher for three out of the four years and he also was the number two guy — assistant principle. Therefore most people hated him. IN the end, he was one of those people who was totally fair, loved sharing what he knew, but you had to be serious and goof off. If you didn’t care, then you hated him. I saw him as a father figure since I didn’t have one.
    As for those English books, half of them most of us didn’t even read, yet somehow still passed the tests. The problem is first of all, there is just so much time in high school. You have 7 other classes and if it’s a difficult book, you just don’t have the motivation to do it. The summer ones were fine — I mean, it’s the summer, you can do the reading. LOL But I think being forced to do it just doesn’t always make it fun. But I’ll tell you, looking at one of the banned book lists, most of the books we did in my catholic high school were on that list, so maybe in the end, I should be greatful after all! 🙂
    Lois

    Reply
  7. I had a Miss Butler, and a VERY dicey school so I do relate. I also had some teachers so horrible they’d make your hair curl into corkscrews. Actually, tough cookie that I am, I almost got teary when someone recently sent me a photo of myself with my version of Miss Butler. Made me play Lulu’s To Sir with Love, it did – and I’m the wrong generation entriely for that.
    I’d change the way they’re taught, certainly. and I’d change the books a bit too – it doesn’t all have to be Dark and Dreary and Important. And read out loud in the droning tones of the terminally bored child.
    Oh, and I’d ban Dickens. Ab-so-lutely.

    Reply
  8. I had a Miss Butler, and a VERY dicey school so I do relate. I also had some teachers so horrible they’d make your hair curl into corkscrews. Actually, tough cookie that I am, I almost got teary when someone recently sent me a photo of myself with my version of Miss Butler. Made me play Lulu’s To Sir with Love, it did – and I’m the wrong generation entriely for that.
    I’d change the way they’re taught, certainly. and I’d change the books a bit too – it doesn’t all have to be Dark and Dreary and Important. And read out loud in the droning tones of the terminally bored child.
    Oh, and I’d ban Dickens. Ab-so-lutely.

    Reply
  9. I had a Miss Butler, and a VERY dicey school so I do relate. I also had some teachers so horrible they’d make your hair curl into corkscrews. Actually, tough cookie that I am, I almost got teary when someone recently sent me a photo of myself with my version of Miss Butler. Made me play Lulu’s To Sir with Love, it did – and I’m the wrong generation entriely for that.
    I’d change the way they’re taught, certainly. and I’d change the books a bit too – it doesn’t all have to be Dark and Dreary and Important. And read out loud in the droning tones of the terminally bored child.
    Oh, and I’d ban Dickens. Ab-so-lutely.

    Reply
  10. It was my sixth grade teacher who turned me around, too. I’d had a truly abysmal fifth grade teacher who couldn’t speak proper English and had us putting together scrapbooks all year. I was new to the school and had only one friend, another newcomer. My sixth grade teacher not only stimulated my mind and made me feel as if I were part of the class, she encouraged my writing and reading. She gave me the confidence to keep writing through every rejection. We really need to give Oscars to schoolteachers.

    Reply
  11. It was my sixth grade teacher who turned me around, too. I’d had a truly abysmal fifth grade teacher who couldn’t speak proper English and had us putting together scrapbooks all year. I was new to the school and had only one friend, another newcomer. My sixth grade teacher not only stimulated my mind and made me feel as if I were part of the class, she encouraged my writing and reading. She gave me the confidence to keep writing through every rejection. We really need to give Oscars to schoolteachers.

    Reply
  12. It was my sixth grade teacher who turned me around, too. I’d had a truly abysmal fifth grade teacher who couldn’t speak proper English and had us putting together scrapbooks all year. I was new to the school and had only one friend, another newcomer. My sixth grade teacher not only stimulated my mind and made me feel as if I were part of the class, she encouraged my writing and reading. She gave me the confidence to keep writing through every rejection. We really need to give Oscars to schoolteachers.

    Reply
  13. I agree with Ms. Rice; we need to give Oscars to school teachers. I did have some memorable teachers; one in elementary school, one in middle school, and two were in high school. I’d learned to read before I hit first grade and for some strange reason, the teachers didn’t like that. My 3rd gr. teacher was amazing, though, and let me fly with it. An art teacher I had throughout middle school believed I was a talented artist (I wasn’t) – he was flamboyantly gay and we all adored him! In high school, my English and Journalism teachers were absolutely the best. I loved them and they pushed us to really read and they taught us to write. To many in my class, our English teacher was dry and boring, but I loved when she would explain Tennyson or Poe’s poetry and interpret what was actually going on in those dreadful Thomas Hardy books .. since we hadn’t a clue! Yes, I’d teach from different texts, but whatever texts I taught from, I would hope I could teach the way your Miss Butler did, Ms. Chase!

    Reply
  14. I agree with Ms. Rice; we need to give Oscars to school teachers. I did have some memorable teachers; one in elementary school, one in middle school, and two were in high school. I’d learned to read before I hit first grade and for some strange reason, the teachers didn’t like that. My 3rd gr. teacher was amazing, though, and let me fly with it. An art teacher I had throughout middle school believed I was a talented artist (I wasn’t) – he was flamboyantly gay and we all adored him! In high school, my English and Journalism teachers were absolutely the best. I loved them and they pushed us to really read and they taught us to write. To many in my class, our English teacher was dry and boring, but I loved when she would explain Tennyson or Poe’s poetry and interpret what was actually going on in those dreadful Thomas Hardy books .. since we hadn’t a clue! Yes, I’d teach from different texts, but whatever texts I taught from, I would hope I could teach the way your Miss Butler did, Ms. Chase!

    Reply
  15. I agree with Ms. Rice; we need to give Oscars to school teachers. I did have some memorable teachers; one in elementary school, one in middle school, and two were in high school. I’d learned to read before I hit first grade and for some strange reason, the teachers didn’t like that. My 3rd gr. teacher was amazing, though, and let me fly with it. An art teacher I had throughout middle school believed I was a talented artist (I wasn’t) – he was flamboyantly gay and we all adored him! In high school, my English and Journalism teachers were absolutely the best. I loved them and they pushed us to really read and they taught us to write. To many in my class, our English teacher was dry and boring, but I loved when she would explain Tennyson or Poe’s poetry and interpret what was actually going on in those dreadful Thomas Hardy books .. since we hadn’t a clue! Yes, I’d teach from different texts, but whatever texts I taught from, I would hope I could teach the way your Miss Butler did, Ms. Chase!

    Reply
  16. Actually, Loretta, the Department of Gloom remark was mine- but I’m flattered to sound like Candice Hern- Anyway, I am a teacher myself (art, K-8) and once in a while a student comes back to visit and remarks that they still remember something I taught, and I am thrilled. I can imagined if I thought I had a really inspiring effect on someone I would be over the moon. But so far as I know, I have never made that big a difference. Still, I keep at it because you never know when you will have that impact- if it’ s only one child that finds what they need to grow, then it is worth it. I hope my kids just get out of my class knowing that Rembrandt is not a toothpaste, and Michaelangelo is not a Ninja Turtle. And that the best questions never have just one right answer. Artgirl

    Reply
  17. Actually, Loretta, the Department of Gloom remark was mine- but I’m flattered to sound like Candice Hern- Anyway, I am a teacher myself (art, K-8) and once in a while a student comes back to visit and remarks that they still remember something I taught, and I am thrilled. I can imagined if I thought I had a really inspiring effect on someone I would be over the moon. But so far as I know, I have never made that big a difference. Still, I keep at it because you never know when you will have that impact- if it’ s only one child that finds what they need to grow, then it is worth it. I hope my kids just get out of my class knowing that Rembrandt is not a toothpaste, and Michaelangelo is not a Ninja Turtle. And that the best questions never have just one right answer. Artgirl

    Reply
  18. Actually, Loretta, the Department of Gloom remark was mine- but I’m flattered to sound like Candice Hern- Anyway, I am a teacher myself (art, K-8) and once in a while a student comes back to visit and remarks that they still remember something I taught, and I am thrilled. I can imagined if I thought I had a really inspiring effect on someone I would be over the moon. But so far as I know, I have never made that big a difference. Still, I keep at it because you never know when you will have that impact- if it’ s only one child that finds what they need to grow, then it is worth it. I hope my kids just get out of my class knowing that Rembrandt is not a toothpaste, and Michaelangelo is not a Ninja Turtle. And that the best questions never have just one right answer. Artgirl

    Reply
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