The Teacher I Never Had

Yesterday, my friend Baddest Mother Ever asked the question, “Who was your favorite teacher and why?”

I started to respond, but then my mind ran around and around in circles.  Whom would I choose?  I mean, really–ONE?  I’m the girl who always made my Daddy laugh by giving him 2 or 3 cards on Father’s Day and birthdays because I could never choose just ONE.

I started thinking through them.  Those who were not in the running were painfully obvious.  Moving on…..

My favorite?  Favorites?  My very first teacher, Mrs. Partain?  The one who gave me a “B” in conduct the second six weeks because I only quit talking when she asked me to–for a few minutes anyway.  The same one who laughed when I finally told her what Daddy had been saying all year–that he wasn’t old enough to have a daughter in the first grade?  Or Mrs. Crouch? She and Mama became such good friends that Mess Cat was the flower girl in her daughter’s wedding.  What about Mrs. Turner in third grade? The one who read aloud “Charlotte’s Web” in the dark during quiet time and knew I was crying with my head folded down on my desk.  She’s also the one who let me sit next to her chair on the playground as she taught me to crochet.  What a gift that was.   There were many other good ones in elementary and junior high.  I dearly loved Mrs. Scott who had gone to school with Aunt and my Uncle.  Such a sweet spirit.  Mrs. Watson was an awesome pre-algebra teacher.  Turned out she’d been teaching us Algebra 1 all along, so ninth grade was a breeze.  And speaking of math, there was Miss Bell.

*moment of silence here please*

She was just that good.  She taught my Daddy and his siblings and my siblings and cousins after me.  I had her for three years, and I loved her.  From the beginning perhaps it was only because of that link to the past.  But she was an awesome teacher who commanded the classroom in her quiet way.  You did your homework or you wiggled through the whole class because she KNEW.  I don’t know how, but she did.  One time a classmate who hadn’t done his assignment was asked what answer he got for an algebra problem.  He tossed something out there.  Standing next to his desk, she looked down at him and raised her glasses as she did and said her signature line, “Do wha-uut?”  Before she could say her next line, “Go to the board” (oh the fear that could put into you–working the problem in front of the whole class and HER), he looked up and said,  pointing at the board in the front of the room, “Well Miss Bell if you go up to the board, I can tell you what I did to get it.”  He was buying time and she knew it.  She called his full name–“I can walk faster than you can think.”  Ha.  That was classic.  She knew how to laugh when things were funny, and she cared that you learned it.  That was it.  She wanted to impart knowledge.  I loved her dearly.

But was she my favorite?  Close.  But no.  I don’t think so.

My favorite teacher is one I never had a class with.  I never sat and called her by the name that she went by then.  I knew her many years later, when I was grown, sitting a few pews over from her in church.  I recognized her name, and she asked me if I was his daughter.  I beamed.  “Yes ma’am.  Yes I am.”

She was my Daddy’s third grade teacher.  Miss Ann.

Daddy didn’t care much for school before that.  He didn’t apply himself.  He told me this.  My Daddy used to say to us children we couldn’t complain about anything, because at least we weren’t hoeing cotton.  I think he did a lot of that.  Shoes weren’t a given year round for him.  He came from hard-working, good people.  But school?  It just wasn’t for him.

Until that year.  Miss Ann saw something in him and brought it out.  She asked him to clean the chalkboard, dust the erasers.  She encouraged him.  He learned to love learning.  He became enraptured with words and knowledge and books and writing.  He once told me she changed his life.

And bless her, she changed so many after that, simply because she took time with one little boy whom she thought could do better.

He passed on his love of reading to his little sister with a trip to the used bookstore, who later took a little girl in the third grade to her very first used book sale.  That little sister loves books to this day, as does that little girl, whose library overfloweth.  (literally) He held us all to high standards in the field of learning.  There might be things we couldn’t do, but we could apply ourselves and try our best, and that’s what he expected of all of us.  From his oldest child to his youngest grandchild.  He knew an education was something that couldn’t be taken away from us by anyone.

When my old life fell apart, he sat me down and encouraged me to get my Master’s, “so you can take care of you and that baby.”  And he was right.  He made that possible because he believed in education.  And the power it has to make lives better.  He was a lifelong learner, constantly reading books that imparted knowledge–about all kinds of things from quantum physics to theology to children’s books that he held in highest regard.

All because of Miss Ann.

We, each one of us, have the power to change lives like that.  It’s a bit scary, isn’t it?  I don’t know if Miss Ann ever realized what she did, but I know.  And the best way I can thank her is by doing what my Daddy did–pass it on–this love of learning, this encouraging someone to be their very best.  Listening, sharing, letting curiosity grow.  And being present.  It all comes back to #bethefeather, it seems, doesn’t it?  Being kind, caring about another, taking care of those around us……doing unto others, as Mama was always preaching.

Do me a favor.  Please.  If you get the chance to encourage someone tomorrow or the next day or next month, will you take a moment and do so?  You don’t have to be in charge of a classroom to do it.  In honor of a great teacher, Miss Ann, and all those teachers who step outside the box and change a child’s life and the lives of future generations all down the line, let’s make a difference by caring. And doing.

Thanks.  That is huge.  Love to all.

 

 

BYOD…..do what?

We are headed into unchartered waters, and I’m not gonna lie.  I’m more than a little worried.

Recently I found out about a plan that has been integrated into the local school system.  BYOD.  Bring Your Own Device.  That means iPads, smartphones, laptops, e-readers, tablets–bring them all.  They are planning to incorporate these devices into all areas of study–Math, Science, English/Language Arts, Social Studies, and PE.  By the beginning of the last nine weeks of this school year, this program will have been implemented in all of the schools in this county.

That’s right. The devices that could have been confiscated or gotten you in trouble before–you’re not only allowed but encouraged to bring them.

Good gravy.

I have two major problems with this.

First of all, how many children in this community have their own electronic devices at their disposal?  How many families can afford to go out and buy some kind of device now that this has been brought into existence?  My favorite coffeehouse, Bare Bulb Coffee, has a program called Backpack Buddies.  This program, as described on their website:

Each week, we fill more than 60 backpacks with food to help children who rely on free meals at school make it through the weekend. You can volunteer to pack backpacks, deliver food, or simply drop a donation by the shop. We’re collecting: juice boxes, cheese and crackers,easy mac, granola bars, trail mix, fruit cups, and instant oatmeal. 

This is not the only program in our county helping children have enough to eat on the weekends.   And on breaks.  In a county where some of our children do not have enough to eat in their homes, we are going to encourage bringing in electronic devices for use in the classrooms?  No these are not being distributed.  In reading about the program, I did not see anything about there being devices available for loan in the classrooms for those who do not have them.

My heart breaks.  I think our priorities are skewed.  Here, yet once again, we are dividing ourselves into the haves and the have nots.  We are creating that “other” that Hugh Hollowell warned us against in his post I shared once before:  “What Folks Who Live Outside Do Not Need.”  We have the children who have their own devices and then there are the other children.  I cannot stand the thought of it.

There is a video of a child who has difficulty in communication using a tablet to improve communications.  It’s awesome.  If we need those in the classrooms for learning tools, then we as a community need to step up and somehow make sure that those are available for the children who need it.  School-owned and school-provided learning resources.  That’s it.  As for day to day use in a classroom, it frustrates me beyond belief to think of the children turning the pages in their textbooks trying not to catch the glances of the ones clicking on words and instructions on their devices.  It plain makes me mad.  But then I’m the parent who got a stomachache around Field Day time each year, worrying if all of the children were able to send in the money for their class’ Field Day t-shirt.

Mama’s rule of interaction with others #568.  “You share with everyone or you put it away.”  Rule #1.  “Don’t leave anyone out.”

My other problem with this plan is what our children will actually be learning.  A couple of the examples involved clicking on QR codes and receiving instructions…..in science, in PE.  Okay, so now we’re cutting back on interaction with the instructors.  Wow.

People are unlearning how to communicate with each other.  I’m as guilty as anyone.  I have great friends whom, unfortunately, much of our contact and communication is through messages–on Facebook or text messages.  E-mail is even becoming a less used option.  I’ll take this form of communication over none at all, but still.  Are we forgetting how to sit still and look at someone and carry on a conversation?  This is my fear.  I also worry that we are becoming desensitized.  It is very easy to “say” anything on social media without seeing the hurt in someone’s eyes.  Things communicated electronically can often be misinterpreted and promote misunderstandings by the truckload.  It’s one more mess waiting to happen.  Why are we contributing to this by encouraging less human interaction in the schools?  Our children, all of them, need to learn courtesy and kindness and compassion.  School, among other places, is a place to interact with others and practice those skills.  But not if we fill their hands with devices, so their focus is there, and they are looking away from those around them.  It’s just too much.

And now for the elephant in the living room.  Yes, I homeschool.  My oldest attended a private kindergarten, Department of Defense Schools, and public schools in this county before she asked to be homeschooled at the beginning of eighth grade.  I realize I don’t have a dog in this hunt.  However, my heart is breaking for those families that cannot afford to put a device in their child’s backpack and send them to school with it.  Many families have more than one child.  How do they decide who gets to take the device they have if they even have one?  I may not send my children to school in this county, but I do have a voice and I am concerned for those whose voices may not be heard, so I decided to share my thoughts.  One of my friends expressed her own concern about being able to afford a device, and it made me sad and mad.  I love her fiercely and her little guy too.  He deserves the same opportunities as every other child in that classroom.  I don’t like to think about this form of segregation.  Because that is what it comes down to.

They say they are working to ready these students, all of them K-12, for college, where devices are used on a regular basis and integrated into the coursework.   My oldest is in college,  and she does use her electronic device in her studies.  We discovered that e-books are a lot less expensive and she (unlike me) has no trouble studying from that format.  She uses the calculator on her phone, and she communicates with her classmates through text messages.  The professors relay information through e-mail.  All of this is wonderful.  But I can tell the school system one thing, college requires something else.  Being able to get along with others.  Working together.  Being a part of group work and teams.  And compassion.  Understanding.  Tolerance.  Kindness.  Respect.

And I’m afraid, dear BOE Powers That Be, there’s just no app for those things.

Weigh in:  What are your thoughts on BYOD? 

For more information about the BYOD plan, click here.