Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Because My Mother Taught Me To Say "Thank You"

It's May. And for as much as I groused in my last post about dreading some things in May, well, today the sun is shining, the windows are open, and the birds are serenading me. (I can pretend, people.) In short, I'm feeling pretty blessed this morning.

While I was reading through my blog feeds this morning, I came upon this. Go read it. Seriously, I'll wait.

Mmmkay. Done? Having been a special education teacher for about 10 years before I started having children and having children of my own, I understand both sides of that particular coin. And today, I want to say a few words to the teachers who meant so much and made a difference in my own life.

Mrs. Fluss (Bertauski)--You made 3rd grade so fun. I remember the pranks you pulled on other teachers and the ones they pulled on you. That left an impression. It made me think that a workplace could be enjoyable and full of camaraderie. Your unit on space ignited a love of all things space related. Seriously--when my mom and I visited the Smithsonian Air & Space museum for my 40th birthday and I got to meet real live astronauts? I got all fangirl giggly and teary-eyed. Embarrassing-- but in a good way? You set the bar high for any teacher that came after you.

Mr. Espindola--You made this hypochondriac girl want to attend school. You were young and full of ideas. It also helped that you were cute. I remember your unit on government and the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution test we had to take. It was hard. You pushed us and encouraged us and made us believe that we could do hard things. And we rose to that and did hard things. (Because of you and Schoolhouse Rock, I can still sing the preamble of the Declaration of Independence some 35 years later.) And the time for the health unit that we got to make breakfast at school? That was unheard of at the time and our class was giddy at the prospect. I looked to your example when I taught my own students to try new and unheard of ideas.

Mrs. Carlton--You made me love writing. You made me love literature. You made me believe I could write. And you did it all in a way that made me love you.

Mrs. Moseley--I can't pretend to be a good speaker. I convey my thoughts much better through the written word. But your speech class was a comfortable, safe place to learn public speaking skills. Your critiques were always honest and encouraging, making getting up to the podium a little less intimidating. So even though I still get muddled when speaking to adults, when speaking to kids, I know my audience and I can rock that mother out!

Mr. White--Algebra was scary and hard. But you wouldn't let that stop me. I was intimidated by numbers and by you, but you didn't let that get in the way of trying to help me to "get it." That time I got a B+ on a test? I know how I felt as a student. And years later, when working with students who found things scary and hard--students who were intimidated--I didn't let that get in the way of trying to help them "get it." And when they would come to show me a good grade? I know how you must have felt when I got that B+. Well done, sir.

Mrs. McVey--When we were studying poetry, I was like just about every other student in your class and I inwardly groaned my way through it. I had no idea that studying poetry would plant a seed that would grow into a love for words of all kinds. I had no idea that the words of Blake, Housman, Chaucer, Coleridge, Cummings, Eliot, Frost, and Thomas among others would someday come home to roost in my head and my heart. Thank you for encouraging me as a writer.  When you selected an essay I had written to take to a conference/contest, your actions confirmed my abilities. And now, even though there are plenty of people who write better than I, I know that my words have worth and that I will write anyway.

Dr. Caldwell--You stand out among all my college professors. Your genuine love of and compassion for special needs students was evident in the way you prepared us to become teachers ourselves. You were encouraging and funny and wanted us to give our very best all the time. I will never forget when a student in our class was absent because his wife was in premature labor and you asked us to pray for them and drop them a card. Or the time when you loaned my folks your car to help them get home and then you gave me a ride back to the house I lived in. Of course it helped that you and my folks went way back, but I'm fairly certain that you would have done this for any other student had they called you. Thank you for teaching me kindness, generosity, and compassion have a place inside and outside of the classroom.

And to many other teachers that I didn't mention, but that touched my life in countless ways, thanks to you too, for your hard work, dedication, professionalism, and joy in your work. Your work has eternal significance. Well done!

Now it's your turn: Comment and tell me who were your favorite teachers and why?

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