What does that say?
What does that say?
What does that say?
I remember coming home from school one day and telling my mom that I knew how to spell our last name! I proceeded to tell her M - U - R - P - H - Y. I was embarassed to find that my teacher hadn't taught me the correct spelling. (Can you imagine a kindergartener in this day and age not being taught how to spell her own name? It is a different time with different expectations, both at school and at home, isn't it?) My mother corrected me: M - U - R - P - H - E - Y. The name spelling would be an issue almost everywhere I went until I got married and took my husband's equally Irish but more straightforwardly spelled last name. I don't have a lot of clear memories of kindergarten, but other than that minor disappointment, I think it was pretty smooth sailing.
Somewhere along the line, things began to change.
I don't remember when it started exactly but sometime I began to realize that I wasn't well liked by my fellow students. I was awkward. I usually wore hand me down clothes that had very little in common with the current fashion trends. I became aware that how things were at home for me wasn't the same as the other kids. I was raised in a single parent household when that wasn't quite as common as it is today. We often had spare relatives living with us. I learned to brush my teeth when the school did a section on dental hygiene. (I cringe when I write that but it is the truth.)
I never had "my group" of friends. I didn't necessarily hang out alone but I didn't belong anywhere. On a good day, I hung out on the fringes of the "regular" kids. On a bad day, I stood mute in answer to the question, "Do you like wearing that dress?"
I write all this so that you can understand my perception of my self and my life in elementary school. I write all this so that you can understand the impact of the teachers in my life during fourth and fifth grade.
The best--B-E-S-T--teacher in the school was Mr. F. This designation was transmitted subconsciously through the children's hive mind. We just knew. Imagine my delight when I walked up to the school, alone (Again, how times have changed.) and saw my name on Mr. F's class list.
I can tell you that I was not disappointed.
Mr. F team taught with Mrs. V. They had a huge double classroom with a folding dividing door that was very rarely closed. I really had two teachers that year. Two wonderful teachers who were positive and who helped me get excited about learning and who were very patient and gracious to me when they had to point out or correct my deficiencies. My penmanship was atrocious and I was sent that year to the learning center. (Atrocious writing skills are apparently genetically transmitted and both my children are afflicted.)
Mr. F walked over to my desk one day. He crouched down next to me and started talking to me about my writing. While I obviously don't recall the exact words, they went something like this:
Mary, I want you to go to the learning center to work on your writing.What didn't get said but what I understood:
Everyone needs help sometimes and I think this will help you so that it is easier to read what you write.
I know this is hard for you. There is nothing wrong with you. You'reThe year came to a close and I spent the summer of 1970 doing whatever latch-key kids do: watching TV, reading, roaming the streets, walking to the liquor store to buy candy and soda.
a special girl and getting sent to the learning center doesn't mean you are bad.
The summer ended and I walked up to the school to see whose class I would be spending my time in for fifth grade. There it was. I had Mr. F again! He was teaching a fourth/fifth combo and I was one of twelve fifth graders who would be in his class. Ecstatic is probably not too strong a word for my nine year old feelings.
As fifth graders in a class and a half of fourth graders, if you included Mrs. V's class, we had the chance to lead small groups and learn more independence. For math we were shipped out to the other fifth grade teachers according to ability level. All through the year, we also had the distinction of being Mr. F's fifth graders. This honor was all the more wonderful when he told us that he had picked each of us to be in his class. Wow! To a kid who felt less than special, this had a huge impact on me. More so because I didn't have a dad in the house growing up. Positive male attention? Well, I lapped that up.**
Somewhere in that two years in Mr. F's class, I also had the joy of two student teachers--identical twins. H and R were so much fun. They were bright, enthusiastic, pretty and young. We were all in awe of them. While I can't say that I had any special connection to them as a student, just having student teachers, and such unique ones, made that time in school seem more special.
As others today join Julie in pondering school for this week's Hump Day Hmm-er, I reminisce about those two most special years of elementary school. I also think about Colin and his special year of elementary school, third grade. His teacher, Miss B., was a hybrid of Mr. Rogers and Mother Theresa and I am not exaggerating. I think about Marley and her experience so far. She has had the same two wonderful teachers since kindergarten. This year, a third has been added to share a part-time contract with one of the others. A graduate of this same multiage program, Miss J. is thrilled to be teaching in the class she grew up in. I know Marley is going to love her, too.
What an impact a teacher can make in the life of a child. For some, like me, the impact came in the positive attention and in the communicating that I was smart and likeable. For Colin, it came with a teacher who saw past his impulsive behaviour and never lost her patience with him. Never. He still looks back, at 15, and remembers that. The impact of Marley's teachers is yet to be fully known but I suspect being known and understood and challenged in a safe environment by three superb women is going to have a long-term affect on how she sees school and learning.
Education today is not all that we would want it to be. Challenges face administrators, teachers, parents and children. Everyone has an opinion and it seems like there is no consensus. But...
We should never underestimate how large the impact of a warm and loving demeanor, loving boundaries and even a consistent smile in the classroom can have our kids. I know the affect it had on me. Thanks Mr. F, Mrs. V., H & R. You made a difference.
**My experience with a male elementary school teacher was such that I a saddened by the lack of them today. They were more common in the late 60s and early 70s. I think there are more kids like me who could use that influence.