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Weirding people out since 2006.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

On Teachers: Part Two

Since my junior high was in the same school I had gone to since 4th grade, I continued with accelerated math in both 7th and 8th grade. The teacher of this course (if he could truly be called that since it was primarily focused on indepent study), Mr. Robinson was truly brilliant in both educational techniques and in math itself. He's the one who brought arithmetic out of the realm of abstract numbers and into practical application. He did this by getting to know me well enough that he knew where my interests lay and used this to help me understand certain concepts that may have otherwise made me go "huh?" Not only that, he made these abstract numbers stick in a way that no one else has been able to.

Of course English teachers will always have a special place in my heart, but Mrs. Sanders was much more than that as she taught me not only English but about the Renaissance, music appreciation and so much more. But, where she went really above and beyond was the day I re-started my period.

As luck would have it, I was wearing white that day (ain't that always the way?) and I did NOT want to move. Not when the bell was called. I'd probably still be sitting there if it wasn't for Mrs. Sanders. It's not what she said, it was what she did that made all the difference in the world. In fact, she didn't say anything, only handed me her sweater and a nurse's pass. She then went towards her desk as if nothing had happened and I was able to get out of there without saying a word. No big now, but at 13? Yeah, it was huge.

Then there was history class. What the heck did I care about things that happened so long ago? How did this information effect me. Well, Mr. Troll (who, ironically, did look like a troll-- short with angry looking eyebrows and a mouth, through no fault of its own, appeared to be in a perpetual frown) had a weird sense of humor. The type of humor that my grandmother taught me, subtle and if you weren't paying attention it would slip right past you.

The first class, for example, had Mr. Troll "quoting" things from history. Stuff each of us should have known by heart. Every once in a while he'd mess up the quote deliberately by saying something like "In 14 hundred and 92, Columbus walked the ocean blue." When I first heard them, I wasn't sure what he was doing, but it did get my attention. So I listened for more, and sure enough they came, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your pie." By the time he said the fifth one (which I can't remember precisely), I stopped trying to hide my laughter and he marched over to my desk as if I was in trouble. Lawdy, I thought I was doomed for the principal's office for the semester if this was the case.

Instead, this is what occurred: "Can you tell the class what you find so funny?"

"Columbus didn't walk the "ocean blue", he sailed it." Mr. Troll looked pleased, so I continued and I named off all of the "mis-quotes" that I could recall.

"Precisely." said Mr. Troll and continued with how important it was to pay attention to the details of the past so we could learn from it and move forward.

He continued to use this subtle brand of humor, not only in his lectures, but in the tests as well. The past became a valid thing worth learning about because it was no longer dry and dusty, but alive and for the first time, real.

When Mr. Bickerton took over the yearbook in my eighth grade year, just about every girl applied for it, including me. When I found out that I was not only on the staff, but in a plum position as well, I was stunned. Especially since one of the qualifications was a B+ grade average or better, and I was skating by with a C (I really hated doing homework, therefore I avoided all but the "big" assignments).

In truth, I applied for yearbook on a lark. A joke of an alternate elective. Mr. Bickerton and I had not had any classes together before this, so I had naturally assumed he didn't notice me. And yet, here I was on the yearbook staff. Yeah, I ticked off a lot of girls who had the grades and a bigger desire to be on staff, but I felt I had a right to gloat about it anyway.

And apparently, with good reason. Because, despite what I had thought, Mr. Bickerton had noticed me, and not just in my eighth grade year, but as I discovered later, he and Mr. Rhine were best friends which means he was well aware of my potential even if I wasn't.

And that plum position? Co-Editor. This meant that my primary job was to make sure all of the yearbook flowed together as a whole, to assure that the theme of the book looked as if it was created by one person. In other words, I became boss of the kids who had spent so much time teasing me from the time I was in fourth grade.

I'm not the type of person to shove this in someone's face, but it sure wasn't above my nature either to go home and laugh about the irony of the whole thing either.

Mr. Bickerton helped me find that important balance between creative ideals and realistic expectations. He taught me how to lead those who had formerly not even liked me and ultimately, how to be a better person because of it.

At the end of the year, I asked Mr. Bickerton why he chose me for this position even though I didn't meet the qualifications he had listed. He just said, "You had, and still do have, qualities that can't be listed on a piece of paper. Qualities that I wanted as part of the yearbook staff." then, with a smile he said, "Yearbook didn't have any homework attached to it. So I knew you'd do fine."

High school was a time best forgotten out of the history of my life. However, there are two teachers in those years that stand above and beyond not just teachers, but above and beyond most people I've met in my life before or since. I'll talk about them and a few other favorite teachers in my next entry.

1 comment:

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