Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Why Teaching Matters: Part Five (Sing Sing, STAR Awards, Singing and Swimming)

Lunch with Mr. Tucker, right.
I'm happy to say:  in black and white,
my wrinkles are much harder to see.

I was happy to have lunch recently with former-star-student Joel Tucker and his wife--and always consider it an honor when old students are willing to spend time with a teacher they had back in seventh or eighth grade. 

I'm not going to lie, I think I did a pretty good job in the classroom, myself, and think good teachers make a huge difference in young people's lives.  Unfortunately, these days, we don't hear enough about good teachers. 

Joel filled me in on what he was up to and told me about what other Loveland grads were doing--mostly good, of course--but did mention one fellow who was serving life in prison for a double murder. So, you never know, if you're a teacher, how life will turn out for the boys and girls who sit before you and all you can do is do your best to help them turn out right.

Joel was always a pleasure to have in class back in the day; and he still has the STAR Awards I gave him (those were like "certificates of appreciation" I used to give everyone, an idea I took from Paula Dupuy, a fantastic young counselor, who worked for Loveland City Schools in those days). And the fact those awards meant something to Joel, when he was young, and the fact he still has them today, plays into a series of posts I've been doing.

I don't think we can ever really "measure" most of what teachers do and I'm no fan of standardized testing for that reason, among others.

The first of five STAR's Joel earned (September 5, 1984) read: 

"I was impressed the FIRST day of school because Joel said 'thank you' four times--and I'm hoping my 5-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son will turn out as well-mannered as Mr. T. has." 

The last (March 30, 1985), explained why I always liked having him in class:  "Mr. Tucker sometimes doesn't realize how many good qualities he has.  But I DO!  I'll take hard workers like Joel in class any day!"

In any case, I've been asking former students to comment on teachers who shaped their lives in positive ways and the response has been excellent.  (Again, I doubt, in ten or twenty years anyone is going to be looking back and saying, "I remember Mr. Slapshot, because he helped me pass the standardized test."  There's way more to what teachers do.)

Sarah Hager, who teaches now herself, responded with this:
I wanted to share this story, but also respect the person's privacy--so you get a message! In first grade I had Marirose Stiver for a teacher. There was a boy in our class (NAME WITHHELD, although Sarah still remembers) that must have been going through some tough things at home--his behavior was volatile. One day he was disciplined for going down the slide and getting muddy, after being instructed not to, of course. He completely flipped out, started screaming and kicking, threw his desk and chair across the room and totally lost control.

Mrs. Stiver walked over to him, took his hand, smiled so sweetly at him, and walked him out of the room and up the hallway to the principal's office without saying a word. She came back to class, told all of the wide-eyed students that "K----- was having a rough day" and that "sometimes we all feel better when we let our feelings out". She handled the situation with class, dignity, and respect for K----- as well as for our feelings. I will never forget it.

I truly believe she set the example for me to successfully work in special education. I think of her (and that incident) every time one of my students acts out. We NEVER know what baggage our students carry when they walk through our door, but we always give them love, support, safety, respect, and empathy. Mrs. Stiver was (and is) an amazing teacher, and I'm sure she holds a special place in the hearts of many Loveland students.

Jerry Dotson, who still sings with a local band, remembers a teacher who "stalked" him all the way through his days in the Loveland City Schools:
First grade at Branch Hill I go to music class and meet Mrs. Henderson and for the next 5 years she`s my music teacher. Then I move to Loveland and attend Loveland Elementary and lo and behold. Mrs Henderson is there. Then its on to Middle School and who`s the choir director you guessed it. Well in the eighth grade I got one of the leads in the spring musical and had ALOT of solo`s. And who met me three days a week at 6:00 a.m. for a month and a half to help just me with my solo`s. Now being a kid I never gave it a second thought as to why she was always my Music teacher, but now realize she taught music for the the entire school system. And for her to do all that plus take that extra time for just me. I am forever grateful and to this day believe she`s why I love to sing.

Jerry and I (and a number of other former students) used to play pickup basketball Sunday nights, in the Loveland Middle School gym, and I remember him for both his deadly long-range shot and sense of humor; and still remember Vicki Leroy Busby as a star student, too.  She was able to recall a whole list of teachers who made a difference. Apparently, she was a little obstreperous at times, although I never witnessed that side of her personality:

Second grade--Mrs. Davidson swatted the kids who deserved it. I loved when she had our whole class over to her house to make Christmas cookies.
Third grade--Mrs. Lewis gave us these awesome little sugar coated ball candies when we were good. We LOVED those!
Fifth grade--Mrs. Glasgow showed how proud she was of me, a scrawny little girl beating every boy--except for maybe Gary Sands--in arm wrestling. Small but mighty I say!
Fourth grade--Mrs. Ross showed me that math could be fun when it was taught in a non-intimidating way and games like Around the World were incorporated. The same goes for Mrs. Christianson, my 9th grade algebra teacher (except we didn't play Around the World in there). 
Sixth grade--Mrs. Reid--one of the sweetest human beings on the face of the earth

8th grade--Mrs. Puls for turning the other way when I had a 7th grade boy raised against his locker demanding he buy me another frisbee since he threw my favorite one into the Ohio River during a field trip. I was SO peeved.

High school--Mrs. Lemon taught me to appreciate the beauty and geology of our national parks when we had to pick one and do a project on it.
--Mrs. Foster told me that I wouldn't need a microphone to be heard on the radio and I got the last word in on that when I came back to visit her class on college break and told her that indeed I used a microphone to be heard all over Indianapolis on its NPR station. Touche. 
How could I forget Mr. Wagner?! He was hands-down the best chemistry and physics teacher and an all-around great person. He challenged his students and encouraged their involvement in extracurricular activities at school. He was the sponsor of many of the clubs at school and volunteered many hours of his time to these clubs. I know one person who became a forensic chemist because of Mr. Wagner's advanced chemistry class.

This comment, added by Dwane Shelly after an earlier post, is going to be hard to top, when it comes to a teacher making a difference in a rather unsual way:
Totally forgot Mrs. LEMMON. Actually she saved my life. Some twenty years ago my fiance and myself....er now my wife....went to Edisto Beach, SC. In my mad rush to "swim out" into the ocean....forgot about the rip currents there. Beach empty...wife assleep on beach...long story short I got pulled so far out I could no longer see shoreline. After panicking and wondering if Jaws was going to dine on my toes....I closed my eyes and lo and behold....I remembered a slide she had shown in her class Oceans of Air and Water. ......it was a slide describing ocean currents and rip currents. I laid on my back...pointed my head at an angle...and barely dipped my hands in the water to maintain the top layer of current.....came in about a mile downshore.....wife didn't even know there was a problem. I'd say that was a piece of education that truly saved my life.

Vicki agreed with Dwane--then added, "I thought of Mrs. Lemon when I was at Crater Lake because I remembered the slides she showed from there. I still smile when I think of the phrase she taught us all: 'Oh, piffle!'"

For now, I'll let Ms. Vicki have the last word today:  "Reading all of these comments makes me appreciate my Loveland education more than ever before. We truly were fortunate to have had some great teachers teaching us. It's the lessons we learned in the classroom that we remember most, not the standardized tests we took."

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