Friday, January 30, 2004

Teachers Peace, all. It's the week for it. Especially for Catholics. I wonder about my daughter (first grade) looking back on her teachers at this stage in her life: which will she love and appreciate the most? I spent my first five school years at PS #39. I loved each one of my teachers. I went into each new year with dread, but somehow up through grade 4, each new teacher rested comfortably in my mental hall of fame with the others. Then I went to the parish grade school for three years. I remember getting buried in homework from the outset. I didn't have the same affection for this stage of teachers, but I remember them with fondness. Which for a pre-pubescent, must be saying something. By the time I hit high school, I was pretty sour on most of my teachers. The horror stories were not too horrid, at least for me. But I viewed many of my high school instructors as incompetents or hypocrites, as I saw favorites favored, and unfairness faring well. I had Mr Smith for physical science in the ninth grade. He marked me off on a lab report for having a nearly identical sheet as my neighbor. What if the other guy copied me? Nope. I handed mine in last (I tried to check my work and routinely delayed until the last possible minute in case I forgot something.) When I got him for chemistry two years later, I found I really enjoyed him and came to appreciate his skill as a teacher and his love for science. I nearly forgot the unfairness of freshman year. Loved my Latin teacher. She was cool. Had us do silly plays to remember things like prepositions with the ablative (which I still remember). My history teachers rated A, A, and F. Religion was a near waste of time, and I won't embarass my church or state by mentioning details of how bad. The one good religion teacher was undercut by the administration when he took his subject seriously. Looooooooooooved Physics. Really. The one teacher I wished I had been more appreciative of later was Sister Mary Ignatius, who taught Advanced Placement English senior year. To give you an example of how clueless I was drifting through this class, I had entered an essay contest through her, and nearly forgot about it until I received an invitation to the award dinner. She pulled me aside after class the day of and told me to be confident and not to speak too long. I had no idea what she was talking about and promptly forgot useful her advice. Forgot, that is, until they called my name and I realized that not only had I won, but that they wanted me to make a small speech. Huh? Me? The best thing about Sister's class was the reading list. It was considerable. I probably read more for that class than I did for every other high school class put together. I remember most clearly the seventeen plays we had to read for our unit on dramatic literature. It has since been my goal to see all of these in live production, and I think the only two I've yet to encounter are Man and Superman and Hamlet. By the time I made it to high school, I was truly too much of an idiot to appreciate most of my teachers, let alone tell them to their faces. I certainly did not have any qualms about expressing sullenness at those who failed my grade. Don't neglect an expression of appreciation for your teachers, my friends. And if they're mostly dead or gone, you can keep your own children's teachers in mind when doling out needful gratitude.

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