In the 9th grade, I took Geometry. I loved everything about Geometry. It was so different from Algebra which was so abstract. I loved the concrete visuals, the shapes, the theorems and proofs, and the logic behind it all.
I loved that our teacher, Miss Egler, made us keep this fantastically organized Geometry Notebook. I am such a nerd I would rewrite my notes every night so that they looked perfect (rewriting notes is also a great strategy for memorizing information).
Being in the advanced track for math, there were many sophomores, juniors, and a few seniors in my class.
One day Miss Egler asked me to tutor a senior who was struggling. I worked with Wendy every day in a hallway by the cafeteria. At first she was a little resistant to (looking back with teacher eyes: more likely embarrassed about) this freshman girl helping her, but when she realized I was going to give her help and confidence, as well as respect, we became a good team and she ended up making enough progress to pass the class.
This was my first real experience as a “teacher” and I knew then that this was something I could realistically do for the rest of my life.
Lesson learned from a 9th grade teacher: Share you talents with others and see what you gain for yourself.
Mrs. Not-Gonna-Use-Her-Name was my 8th grade English teacher. She loved my writing. She enjoyed my creativity. She praised my poetry.
She was also my homeroom teacher in 7th grade. And on the first day of junior high my mom made me take my trumpet to school because band was on the schedule for Mondays.
So during the extended homeroom period on that first day, Mrs. Not-Gonna-Use-Her-Name kicked my trumpet case out of her way as she came down the aisle. Yes, she kicked it. Hard. And mumbled something about it being in her way and why would someone bring their instrument on the first day of school.
Lesson Learned from an 8th grade teacher: You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
I have been procrastinating with this series because suddenly I am at the junior high level and as I am reminded of it on a daily basis at work, who wants to remember those days? And honestly, my memories of junior high and high school are a little blurry.
I think middle school/junior high is an age where you are pretty much in a world where you are the center of the universe.
Admiral Bodee and I are noticing that more and more these days (with four kids between the ages of 9-13). Not that either of us have selfish children; they are caring, helpful, great kids. Really. But we are noticing that sometimes we’ve got all these little balls of fire radiating a lot of energy outwards and they don’t appear to be absorbing much.
But we all know that is true. Kids (and teens) are sponges and they soak up whatever is said and done to them. They may not realize it at the moment, or for years to come, but they do.
Mr. G. was my 7th grade science teacher and he was also the husband of my high school band director. After 5 years of marching band, I got to know him pretty well.
Mr. G was a great teacher. He had that natural talent for teaching that is too hard to capture in a short post. So I will just share one story.
During 7th grade, Mr. G’s son was very ill and in the hospital many times during the year. Consequently, we had a lot of substitutes and we did not get to do the much-anticipated “frog dissection.”
Well, a few years later at band camp, my best friend and I were talking to him about how we never got to dissect a frog, so he promised that he would let us come in and dissect a frog when his current class got to that unit.
It was one of those things we always joked about with him, but it never happened. And then in the winter of senior year, he said, “If you are going to dissect a frog, then this is your last chance. Come in on Saturday morning.”
That Saturday, we met him in the lab and Mr. G went through the entire process just as he would with his 7th grade class. We sliced the skin on his belly. We identified his organs. We inflated his little lungs. It was creepy and fascinating.
So many times we make promises to kids (our own children or our students). Sometimes we let kids or students down, because what they thought was a “promise” wasn’t really a promise. It was more of a bribe or a way to hush them when necessary.
I have done better at wording things with Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Ian so as not to promise specifics. Because, honestly, sometimes our best intentions don’t work out.
I also try to stick to my promises with my students. Believe me, even if they don’t listen to you too much, they never forget the day that you promised a reward.
During the first nine weeks, I promise a can of Mt. Dew to anyone who avoids detention. On the last day of the nine weeks, they hold you to it and it seems like a small price to pay. I would give them the pop in 7th period study hall and many of them would savor it, just so they could take it 8th period and show it off.
I have had reward lunches for my high school at-risk students who met certain goals. I don’t necessarily think the actual 6-inch Subway sub was the real reward for them. I think the reward was the fact that an adult made a promise, recognized their effort, and followed through.
Lesson Learned from a 7th grade teacher: Be careful what you promise and take care to keep those promises.
Mrs. Jones was my 6th grade Language Arts teacher. I think she probably had the greatest influence on my love for writing….especially creative writing.
She had us write in our “Creative Writing Notebooks” every day and we got to read out loud to the class on Fridays. I loved this activity. I still have my notebook. Maybe it would be neat to bring that notebook upstairs and read the kids a story every night. I bet we would get a lot of laughs.
Mrs. Jones was another teacher I ended up working with many years later. She was on the 7th grade team that my students occasionally got to work with.
As a member of the Red Team, I would sit in on student conferences as we tried to hash out behavior problems or praise students for a job well done.
There is one thing that Mrs. Jones always said in these conferences that I always liked hearing her say.
It is the thing I remember her saying all the time when I was in 6th grade.
It is what I wrote on Tweedle Dee’s bedroom mirror probably a year ago and it’s still there.
Lesson learned from a 6th grade teacher:
5th grade was big time. Not only did another elementary school send their 5th graders to us (30 new classmates!) but we got to move to the basement! The teachers were also departmentalized which meant we got to switch classes and have multiple teachers.
Mr. Dawson was my science teacher in 5th and 6th grade. He was the only male teacher at our school, besides a gym teacher, so by default, he was the coolest teacher in the building. “Mr. D” was tall and funny and an all-around great guy.
It was actually during my 6th grade science class that we watched the fateful Challenger Space Shuttle launch and explosion. As a girl who saw the world through rose-colored glasses and loved her teachers, this was a traumatic event. I remember being obsessed with the newspaper and magazine articles surrounding this teacher and crew who lost their lives and the families they left behind.
About 15 years later, I got to work with Mr. Dawson. I took four of the boys from my 6th grade MH class to his science class each day. Mr. D was the same as he had always been, although he wanted me to call him by his first name, and he had a granddaughter the same age as my daughter. He loved to tell me about this new joy in his life.
Mr. D was always so good about including my guys and making sure they got to participate. He was happy to have them and my students looked up to him (figuratively, and literally…he was still really tall!). It was the only inclusion class they got to participate in and they were proud to be part of Mr. D’s class.
Lesson learned from a 5th grade teacher: Teachers can be heroes in both big and small ways.
As I hinted to in my 1st grade post, Mrs. Russell was transferred to the 4th grade right along with the “Dukes.” Since we had missed out on her for almost half the year due to her accident, it was exciting to have her again.
She continued to challenge the “Dukes” and provided enrichment for the five of us. I remember many days of staying in at recess with her planting window gardens, learning to smock, and doing some very difficult non-fiction reading in the area of history. I think I have mentioned before I did not like history at all and this was a very frustrating time for me. However, she pushed us and I survived.
At one point in the year, we had a spelling bee and I came in 2nd place. I was bummed, no doubt to come so close and not win. She awarded me the “2nd place” ribbon which I still have (pictured below). What you cannot see is on the back she wrote “Have a Pepsi on me!” Those 5 words meant almost as much as a first place win.
Fast-forward 8 years. I have just graduated 3rd in my class. My friend, a “Duke” of course, was salutatorian. We were gunning for the 1st and 2nd ranked spots for years, but a move-in bumped us to 2nd and 3rd.
A few days after graduation, I hear a knock on my front porch door. There is Mrs. Russell with a gift. A giant red Webster’s New World Dictionary. The inscription read:
Congratulations upon your graduation.
May your life open up like a beautiful flower…
radiating happiness and joy, peace and love.
Lesson learned from a 4th grade teacher: There is no shame in 2nd place, or even 3rd, as long as you gave it your all.
In third grade, I had the beautiful and lovely Mrs. W. (She is still teaching today so I choose not to use her full name.)
was is a kind and caring woman. I learned this more and more as I grew up.
While Mrs. W was on maternity leave, my best friend, Jess, and I walked to her house to tell her we missed her. She was sweet to us and let us meet her baby girl. We could not wait for her to come back to school.
Mrs. W read us the first book that made me cry: Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. She even had the boys sobbing. I remember her getting out extra tissue boxes at the end when (spoiler alert!!) Old Dan and Little Ann died.
My little girl admiration of my perfect teacher grew into a respect and friendship I did not expect.
I had the pleasure of working with her for 3 years about 10 years ago. She still taught 3rd grade and I was the intervention teacher. Even though she told me to, I was never able to call her by her first name.
While she was, by no fault of her own, “old school”, she was willing to try things I suggested and she was accepting of all students. Her softness had changed somewhat, as she longed for the old days when she could “just teach” and not be held to such high standards. (I do not mean this in any disrespectful way – just that times have changed so much for teachers who began their careers in the 70s and 80s.)
I ate lunch with her every day. We talked about problems. When I was pregnant, I shared the exciting “It’s a boy!” news with her first. She sent me a very heartfelt card when I was on bedrest and she, too, was on a leave of absence. I remember her words, “We are both at home taking care of our babies.”
I still live in the same town as Mrs. W and I see her out and about, usually at one of our favorite restaurants. I still can’t call her by her first name.
Lesson learned from a 3rd grade teacher: Teachers are real people too.
Second grade: Miss Frutschy. She was strict and she was old school. And just plain old. My mom had her in 2nd grade.
But, she loved books and she had a bathtub in her classroom! Yep, a big claw-foot porcelain tub full of pillows! During free time, you could lay in that tub and read books!
She also spanked kids with books. (Old school indeed.) Seems kind of ironic she used books as a punishment, huh? For the record, I was never spanked with a book.
She introduced me to my favorite childhood author, Beverly Cleary. She read Henry and Ribsy and many other Beverly Cleary books to us that year.
We have probably half a dozen Beverly Cleary books at our house. I’ve read them all to Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Ian.
I think it was last summer we rented Ramona and Beezus with Selena Gomez. I loved seeing a favorite childhood book come to life. And I shamelessly cried when Picky Picky died.
On my big girl bookshelf today: My Own Two Feet – A Memoir by Beverly Cleary.
Lesson learned from a 2nd grade teacher: A love of reading is a life-long hobby.
First grade. This was the year when we stayed all day and learned to read! I loved first grade! I loved my teacher! Mrs. Russell was the greatest teacher ever.
I was in the 2nd highest reading group, but for only a few days. And then I was moved up (I’m not bragging here, it’s an important part of the story.) Our reading group got to choose our name. What other name would be cooler in 1980 except “The Dukes of Hazzard”!?!? There were five of us in this reading group and we were reunited with Mrs. Russell in 4th grade (see the 4th grade post in a few days). Today I am still friends with three of the other Dukes.
Unfortunately, in the first few weeks of school, Mrs. Russell was injured in an accident that put her out of work for many months. But we got a new teacher, Mrs. Gilmore, and all was lovely in my first grade world!
The most special memory of first grade was at Christmas time. Mrs. Gilmore was still subbing and we were making magnets out of ceramic tiles and decals. I was the only kid in the whole first grade whose parents were divorced. While everyone was allowed to make two magnets – one for mom and one for dad – I was very upset about not having a gift for my new stepdad. Mrs. Gilmore let me stay in at recess to make one for him.
Her understanding and compassion has always stuck with me. It is important to consider the family dynamics of students in your classroom.
Lesson Learned from a 1st grade teacher: What happens at home, comes to school. Everyday. Be aware and be sensitive.
Oh, to be a kindergarten teacher!! One of my first jobs was in a primary resource room which included K-3rd grade so I have a little experience with that age group. One year, and a move home, ended that stint.
Mrs. Mathias was my kindergarten teacher and while I don’t remember much about her, she must have made some sort of impression because she started my love for school.
I remember how she had everything labeled and we had centers. I remember fat pencils and crayons. I remember building very high towers with blocks and I remember she had a fireplace in her room. We never lit it obviously, but how cool is that to have a fireplace in your classroom?!? (And no, I did not go to school in a one room school-house, if that thought crossed your mind.)
My most distinct memory of kindergarten, however, was when I lost my first tooth. We were singing “Hickory Dickory Dock”. On the word “dock”, out popped my tooth. And believe it or not, I still have the certificate she presented to me for reaching this milestone.
Lesson learned from my kindergarten teacher: It’s ok to cry on the last day of school. My teacher did.