Those Who Can’t Do… Are Taught How By Great Teachers

I am currently in a Crisis of Faith regarding writing, so naturally I decided to write a blog post to subject you all to more of my writing and therefore reinforce this crisis.

However, I’m going to avoid the “writing” topic, for the most part, except for when I don’t and for the glaring point that this IS writing. Stop nitpicking, will you please?

Matt Damon’s been tossed around my Facebook and Twitter feed in the past couple of days due to his talking up teachers. After talking about how amazing he was to take a break from his amazing schedule and fly overnight and then take another plane to wherever the Save Our Schools rally was – I think D.C. – (and since I don’t know much about the rally itself, that tells you a great deal right there about what the media has deemed important), he then gave a so-so speech and then gave a better interview with some sort of journalist later.

Without going into an impassioned rant about public education (which, I assure you does NOT mean anti-private education), tenure, standardized testing, or whatever other political issue that strikes your fancy or pushes your buttons surrounding education these days, I’ve opted to focus on a statement that Damon made during the so-so speech (and by the way, I’m really not upset with Damon because he is a success story for public education and is a stand-up guy from what I know; it is more about the media losing touch with the cause he was to be supporting and his speech is vague, at best, regarding what particular issue he was addressing… which is no help to Washington with how they are to change policy).

Damon said this: “As I get older, I appreciate more and more the teachers that I had growing up. And I’m not alone. There are millions of people just like me.”

This is the statement that resonated with me. I took a course last summer – a lame, DIY-type course that is really only useful if you are a motivated person who understands that you will only get out what you put in and since it is designed for teachers, and given the topic of this post, I will pretend that all teachers who take this lame (and by lame I mean completely amazing and enlightening) read-a-book-answer-some-essay-questions continuing education course get A LOT out of it. It was a reading course and since I AM one of those teachers I will tell you that one of the things I remember from it was the idea that we should write letters to our teachers – thanking them (or not), or sharing with them their impact on our lives.

And so, coupled with Damon’s comments, which hit the mark dead on – because even if teachers make a difference at the moment, frequently we don’t realize how much difference they make in other ways until much later on — I want to share my appreciation.

Here are some highlights of how my teachers have impacted my life:

Miss Springer, my kindergarten teacher, was as kind and gentle as they come. Perfect for that wonderful transition to school. One of my primary memories is standing at her desk in tears because I could not understand zeroes in addition/subtraction. Honestly, I don’t remember how she dealt with me (although, I imagine is was nicely, otherwise I probably WOULD remember), but what I take away from that now is that she had the foresight to challenge some of us rather than simply saying, “you can count to 100, all done”.

Ms. Vollmer, my third grade teacher was not overall a favorite of mine, except: she was a wonderful storyteller. Some of my very favorite books became my favorites thanks to her read-alouds: Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back (Shel Silverstein), Fantastic Mr. Fox (Roald Dahl), and A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle) are just a few.

Mr. Anderson, my fourth grade teacher, was my first crush. Aside from the fact that he had a motorcycle and gave all of us a ride on it (and it wasn’t even the 1970’s anymore, how in the WORLD did he get away with that??), my experience as a teacher and a mother appreciate that even though it might not have been called “differentiation of instruction” back then (I’d have to look it up – 1982 – maybe one of y’all could do that for me instead, I’m just a lazy, overpaid teacher…) it was exactly what he did. Again, I was challenged and motivated to learn.

Mr. Lauder, my eighth grade English teacher, had one of the largest impacts on my life. If I were to credit anyone with giving me inspiration to be a teacher myself, it would be him. (Yes, that’s right, I was INSPIRED to be a teacher, I did not settle. Because I can “DO”.)

Mr. Graff, my ninth grade English, Newspaper, Research Project, Judo teacher, impacted me in several ways, as well. As a teacher, the biggest one is that you can teach more than one subject well. He was a leader in this respect and even though I would not credit him with inspiring me to become licensed in more than one content area or even to have taken on the many different kinds of teaching positions I have had, I find that I can really relate to him and the choices he made in his career. Diversity is a wonderful thing.

Mr. Borgerding, my high school Creative Writing teacher, is the one that I give the most credit to for really sending me in the right direction with writing. I wrote before I had him, but I started best learning the craft of writing as a result of my classes with him. He was a fascinating man, too.

And that is just a few.

Who is a teacher that has impacted your life in some way? What might you say to him/her right now? Even if you do not leave a comment, I challenge you to keep this in the back of your head and consider a letter… I will start to post mine to help motivate you!

I really don’t know what Sam Cooke was doing during school, perhaps he had the random “10%” of teachers who shouldn’t be in the profession (yes, you must view the Matt Damon interview to understand that number), but I hope he wrote a letter to the teacher that at least helped him remember that 1+1=2. And love.

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2 Responses to Those Who Can’t Do… Are Taught How By Great Teachers

  1. Laffers18 says:

    Love this post J!

    Teachers….possibly the most underrated group of people in the world. (Well….teachers, nurses and police 🙂 )

    Looking back I think there’s two teachers that have impacted me in some way.

    Miss Woollard- I had her in both year 4 and year 6. It’s hard to pin point exactly what it is that made her so great. I think it was just how she allowed you to…be. Some teachers like to keep you in a box. Not necessarily on purpose, but they stifle you whereas Miss W allowed us to express ourselves. She had the right balance between teacher and friend and she made me WANT to go to school. And that in itself was some feat 😉

    Mrs Hodges – Ahhhh I loved Mrs H. She was my Drama teacher in Year 11 and 12 (15-17), and she was the most supportive teacher I’ve ever had. She was there for you as a teacher (and friend), but she also pushed us in class. Made us think outside the box and those are the kind of teachers I personally rate. They don’t treat every student the same, they celebrate the individual personalities. She was brilliant. And thanks to the power of facebook we are still in contact 4 years later. Good times!


  2. Ms. Gipson! AP US History. She changed the way I looked at the entire world. She changed the way I worked. Without a doubt, she was the best teacher I’ve ever had, and a huge piece of who I am is due to her.

    Lovely post, Janet.


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