School Days, School Days….

One of my favorite computer lab projects at the end of the school year is having my students write a thank you note to their favorite teacher. I am checking to make sure their formatting and spell checking skills are up to par. They are putting their hearts into what they are saying to someone who has put nine months of skill, knowledge and soul into their lives every single day. I happen to work among the most dedicated and hard working Teachers in the world. If I didn’t already know that from what I see happening in our schools, my thoughts would be validated by what these students write to their Teachers every year. And I am tough. They have to add ‘because’ to their thoughts. I am privy to their thoughts because I am grading them so I have to read them. And it just makes my heart roll over and stand tall for my friends.

Every time.

I started thinking about some of MY Teachers….and what I might say to them….and what they taught me. So forgive me a bit as we take a walk down MY memory lane.

“Dear Miss Challis,

Thank you for teaching me my letters and their sounds because I was able to learn to read. Thank you for the cookies and the naps on plastic mats and for showing us the movie, ‘The Red Balloon.’ Thank you for frowning when I painted my hand while waiting in line to wash my paintbrush…..and for taking me to the coat closet for that stern talk about tattling when S was stuffing doll clothes into her pockets to take home….and for making me do the chalk in buttermilk project when I really wanted to finger paint….because I was able to learn right from wrong and that life isn’t always fair – in Kindergarten.

Dear Mrs. Kidd,

I remember having to watch for my name when you were holding up name cards on the very first day….and the little boy who raised his hand at every name you held up….and how much he cried when we realized that he wasn’t supposed to be in our class. I think I fell in love with you when you squeezed him so tight in a hug and sent him off with his new teacher. Thank you for being so so tough on us to learn those all important reading skills. I will never forget the warm feel of your round wooden table when we would read in 1st grade round robin groups. (Laminate and plastic have NOTHING on worn wood.) And for making sure we could print in the very best form possible. Did you know that when I substituted for you years and years later, I made sure to erase all of my handwriting from the chalkboard?? I wondered if that made you smile.

Dear Mrs. Poffenberger,

You made second and third grade so very special. I still have the scrapbook we made in class when we studied the circus. And I still remember ‘performing’ for other classes in our ‘one ring classroom.’ And I remember learning about cowboys and ironing crayon shapes on bandanas and having you pick ME to show off a project to another classroom. On Cherry Street was probably my favorite reading book ever! You also introduced me to the “Little House” books and set fire to my love of literature and love of history. I am not sure my parents have ever forgiven you for that.

Hey, Mr. Dieck!

Remember me? I got my first pair of hearing aids in between two years under your tutelage. Every fourth and fifth grade girl should have a Teacher to have a crush on and I am glad that you were mine. You made your very first class feel very special. You introduced us to the world of current events and debate and writing. I remember us asking you why YOU hadn’t been drafted to go to Viet Nam and being stunned when you told us that war could go on until WE would be old enough for the draft. Did you know that the draft was stopped when we were 17?? I never forgot that. I have also never forgotten square dances, crab walk races in the old Music room, Chicken Fat, softball games, Encyclopedia Brown, book auctions and SMSG. Did you know that we called it ‘Some Mess Some Garbage?’ Yeah…we were pretty sensitive to the academic ‘progress’ that was Math….not!

Dear Mrs. Schultz,

Oh boy did you ever drag us back to the ‘basics.’ Multiplication Tables. Page after page of lines and loops and scrolls and scrawls to perfect our penmanship. Spelling lists that encompassed the 300 Most Misspelled Words…and your disgust when we spelled ‘grils’ instead of ‘girls.’ And yet I still remember every single book you read aloud to us that year….all of them Newberry winners…except for Boy of the Pyramids, which was the only book you could find in the library at that time that was remotely about Africa. I remember doing a report and presentation about the country of Chad when we did the all school Africa theme. I didn’t want that country but you convinced me it would be interesting….and it was. I remember how in awe we were while you told us with pride how you battled for the ‘right’ to purchase the class set of Greek mythology books so we could use it for our basal reader. We were your very last class and you were determined to do it ‘your’ way….and go out with a bang.

Dear Miss Voelker, Miss Burns, Mr. Davis, Mrs. Cuppy and Mrs. Fisher,

You are the five Teachers I remember most from my junior high years. Seventh grade was not a fun time for me. In ninth grade I hit my stride socially….sort of. I have a tremendous amount of admiration for anyone that teaches in that hormonal swirl that is junior high. I am sorry for being such an obnoxious nerd. Really sorry. Thank you for your efforts to make it easier.

Dear Ms. Shipley,

You told me once that you had told people that you’ve taught at least one student who would be making money as a writer some day. I think I disappointed you. I saw it in your eyes when I ran into you once at the grocery store with my husband and baby boy. You asked what I was doing and I told you I was a Teacher…..not a writer. But you gave me something that no one else had. You validated my love of writing and prodded me to do it more. You were my ‘literary cheerleader’ and while I may not be earning the bucks, writing has been one thing that has given me joy and contentment. Thank you for pushing the novel and the creative writing contests. Thank you for supporting the newspaper columns. It was a high point of high school.

Dear Mr. Robinson,

We had nothing in common because I was not into basketball and you seemed to live and breathe it. But I was in awe of your knowledge of English history when you guest lectured in my 10th grade English class. Then later, I was a student in your year long Government/Econ class. I seem to remember meeting in the Music room?? It was an election year and that young upstart of a first time candidate, Brooks Patterson, came to school to speak to us. I think he was just a tad miffed to find out that we were not old enough to actually VOTE for him. And I will never forget your rage when another candidate’s reps came and went on and on about emotional issues of abortion (?) rather than the party’s platform. I think you scared all of us into being a little more in tune to the issues that day. Or at least you woke us up by slamming your hands on the table and….debating…with them? And I always think of you when that old black and white movie, ‘Seven Days in May’, comes on at 3 a.m. I HAVE to watch it….and still be fascinated by the political process it showcases….because we watched it in class. You know, every government related class that I ever took in college was a cinch because of your teaching that year. I have never forgotten. Thank you. Oh….and PS….my daughter plays basketball so I am finally learning the game. Sort of.”

There are more Teachers in my life. So. Many. More. And students as well. I have been teaching in the classroom in one way or another myself for the past thirty four years. It really doesn’t matter where I grew up or where I have taught. Just look around YOUR schools. Like I said, some of the hardest working, most dedicated, skilled and talented people you will ever have in your life work there.

Thank them sometime. Tell them what you learned. I am sure they will appreciate the memories.

I know I do.

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One Comment on “School Days, School Days….”

  1. Randy Sue Says:

    Oh Lynda – You have done it again my friend! What an awesome piece! What a wonderful recollection you have of your school years! It sounds like you had some amazing teachers! I know that you had excellent role models for teachers for sure! Thank you for sharing! ((Hugs))
    Randy Sue


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