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Happy Teacher Appreciation Week

I think we all have certain teachers who were special to us and we remember fondly throughout the rest of our lives. I wrote about one of these teachers of mine, Mr. Tefft, in a post you can find here. My 11th grade English teacher is another who, as long as my memory stays sharp, will always be with me. For one thing, the dude’s actual first name is Brainerd. I’m pretty sure there’s a rule in the universe that says any time you have someone whose name is some combination of the words “brain” and “nerd” they must grow up to be in academia. True to his name, Mr. P. LOVED books. Thinking back, it seems like every day he was talking about some new-to-him first edition he found by accident at an obscure used bookstore. Moreso than his name or his book collection, I remember the passion with which Mr. P. taught. In high school I was much more of a math and science guy, and English and Spanish were my worst classes.  But with Mr. P., English became my favorite class that year.  He wouldn’t have it any other way. I fed off his passion to really try to see what was so great about the books we read, and to try to understand them on a level that I could write something about them that Mr. P. would find compelling. Mr. P. was a tough grader too, and I was always walking the line between a “B” and a “C” in his class. When my final grade came out to be a “B-,” I felt proud of that, and stayed more proud of it than I was of the “A” I pulled off in English the next year, with a teacher who went through the motions and wasn’t nearly as tough or engaged.

Although he’s not even four yet, RJ has already had a variety of teachers. I’m not sure if this is typical of Montessori or just something his school is working through, but there seems to be a high turnover rate. His favorite teacher last year left the school abruptly after a dispute with the owner, a month before RJ was scheduled to move on to the next level of classroom. When he did move, the particular classroom he went into was having such a hard time finding a consistent lead teacher that the director is currently teaching the class herself. There is a new teacher hired to step in and take the lead role, although secretly I wish the director could just stay there. She’s to preschool Montessori what Mr. P. was to 11th grade English. I often can’t help but to think beyond the preschool years to wonder what RJ’s schooling will be like once he moves into the public school system. We plan on having him in public schools for elementary through high school. I see what both kids and teachers have to deal with in the “Stakes is high” ((c) De La Soul) environment of public education, with standardized testing results serving as a measure of performance for both students and teachers.  I see the emphasis that schools are putting on the testing at the expense of other things.  As I write this, I’m wondering how Mr. P., and some of my other favorite teachers would have done things in this current era of standardized testing.  I wonder if the backdrop of standardized testing would have stifled any of the creativity with which he taught, in favor of making sure we knew word definitions and analogies.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week to all teachers out there.  You clearly have your work cut out for you and you have my respect and admiration for rising to the challenge.

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