Publisher’s Note: In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, I happened to run across a nice article regarding the importance of our teachers and the positive difference teachers make in our lives and community.
The scripture teaches,`Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. ‘ (Prov. 22:6.)
Teachers have the ability to change and impact lives. I recall Mrs. Paula Barnes at Thurman Francis Junior High School always speaking positive words to our class and myself.
Ms. Bo Washington at the Smyrna Primary School, although she wasn’t my teacher—everyone loved her.
Mr. Knotts, my 8th grade science teacher always challenging everyone to do better. I vividly recall his kind demeanor.
Even the teachers and principals who paddled me (for those of you who don’t know what paddling is or ‘was’ a paddle was a piece of wood that was made into a flat board much like a baseball bat but flat and wider and that was how punishment was rendered it to the buttocks of the unruly student—like myself).
Mrs. Henderson my 7th grade teacher once paddled me for yawning. Mr. Raikes, our Smyrna High School Principal who paddled me for fighting and another time an other student cheating off my test. Mr. Don Odom, my principal at David Youree Elementary School who paddled me for skipping school. All those teachers and principals cared deeply for their students. The discipline helped to make the classroom a better learning environment and the student better prepared for the future.
Ironically, the teachers who displayed me the most ended up being my favorite educators. Many thanks to all our teachers who impact the next generation.
by David Stone
Whether you choose a thank-you card, a blog post or write a part of your personal memoir, this week is the perfect time to write about how your teachers have impacted you.
Teacher Appreciation Week runs annually the first week of May from Monday through Friday. Some of the most cherished gifts I have received as a teacher have been letters or cards that my students have written, sharing their memories of our time together.
Now 35 years out from high school myself, almost all of my grade school teachers and many of my high school teachers have passed. Writing about them allows me the opportunity to honor them and to reconsider what I learned from each of them.
Mrs. Male taught me science in the eighth grade. She reminded me of Bea Arthur, who played Maude and later Dorothy on the “Golden Girls.” Tall and broad-shouldered, Mrs. Male stood with a commanding presence and spoke with a sharp sense of wit. A commanding presence was a blessing when you were a middle school teacher in the 1970s with the last name of the opposite gender. She actually was married to an Episcopalian priest, Father Male. Her students affectionately referred to her as Mother Male.
Mother Male created her own chapbook of aphorisms and adages, terms she wisely defined for us. I wish I had a copy of her book today. I couldn’t repeat any of her adages now, but I have maintained a deep appreciation for well-crafted sentences ever since.
Mother Male did teach me scientific classification in a manner I have never forgotten. She led us around her classroom in a mambo line. Kicking our feet and flailing our arms, we sang with emphatic rhythm and motion, “Each kingdom is divided into phylum, class, order — family, genus, species. Yes! Phylum, class, order — family, genus, species. Yo!”
Mother Male also sent me to the only detention I ever served in middle school. Frustrated with our chattering mouths, when we were supposed to be silently working, she threatened that the next student who spoke would get detention.
Moments later I asked my classmate Stephen for a sheet of notebook paper and received the single detention sentence necessary to make the rest of the class comply for the rest of the period.
In detention, I was assigned to write an essay describing the incident that had put me there and what I had learned. A budding poet, I included rhyming lines titled “The Words of the Witch.” I wrote, “Just one peep / and the Devil will reap, / keeping your soul / as the toll. / You may scream ’til you hit a beam, / but you will still steam / until you’re a thick cream. / Then your head be spread / on a thick piece of bread / and you will be crunchingly munched / for brunch.”
My cheeky poem didn’t get me in more trouble, but rather brought me affirmation from Mother Male and my English teacher, who fought for retesting for me, a dyslexic student who had such a diagnosis in kindergarten, to be considered for gifted status. I never got the change in status from the school district, but Mother Male and my English teacher helped change my perspective of myself. I began to think of myself as a writer.
Like most other writing, writing an educational remembrance begins with the collection of details. You might start with making a list of each of your grade school teachers year by year, or making a superlative list of your middle and high school teachers: Who was your funniest teacher? Who was your most caring teacher? Which teacher inspired you the most? Good description begins with specific names. Forgive yourself if you can’t remember any immediately. If you have access, check your yearbooks or your photo albums to assist you. What a great excuse to connect with a sibling or a classmate to share information about a teacher who taught you both.
“Details create the big picture,” says the financier Sanford Weill. Recounting concrete, specific details makes our memories come alive. Think about the sights, sounds, textures, tastes and smells you associate with your teacher. Mrs. Male wore a white lab coat with a No. 9 on the pocket on one side and her nickname embroidered in black on the other. She presented herself as a scientist. Making a comparison through a simile or metaphor can say so much in so few words. Mrs. Male delivered her humor like Maude.
The best way to share our memories of our teachers is through stories. What they did often outlasts what they said. Their significance shines through the stories we share. Write about the obstacles they helped you overcome, the care and inspiration they provided through their demeanor, and the insights and meaning they helped you discover.
David Stone will share free verse poems on nature, memory, and time. As a member of the Inlandia Institute, David contributes columns for the Southern California News Group and acts as assistant poetry editor for the online journal Inlandia: A Literary Journey.