Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Happy Teaching Memory

I was asked by TJ Shay from TJ On a Journey: It has been one year since your retirement... Looking back, is there one happy teaching memory that rises to the top of the list? (also crossposted on my Life of Loonyhiker blog)

I had a boy come to my ninth grade learning disabilities self contained classroom who didn’t even know the alphabet. He looked disgusted with school the first time I saw him and refused to do any reading or writing work. Of course I didn’t know how little he could do because the achievement test he took the previous year was a multiple choice test and he had a lot of lucky guesses, which elevated his scores. I suspected that the scores weren’t accurate and called home to brag about how I enjoyed having this boy in my class because he contributed so much to class discussions. This mother was so relieved that he wasn’t in trouble and shared with me that the student didn’t even know the alphabet. She went so far as to say the previous teacher had told her not to help her son because as a parent, she had no educational background and was confusing him. I was horrified and came up with a plan of action so we both could help him in school and at home. In fact, I had lessons for him to work on in the summers too. I didn’t see this as doing anything extraordinary because I felt this is why I became a teacher. By the time he graduated, he could read on a second grade level and fill out job applications. At graduation, he came up to me with a dozen long stem red roses and with tears in his eyes, thanked me for teaching him to read. His mother said that this was all his own idea and he bought them with his own money. I was floored by this because I never expected it. Since I had this boy for four years, I developed a strong bond with the whole family over time and we are still friends 25 years later. After graduation he enrolled in the literacy program in our county to continue working on his reading. He found a good job and even brought his first pickup truck to my house to show us. I was so proud of him. I have been thrilled to see his son go through school and graduate. My student told me that because I didn’t let him give up in school, he was able to encourage his son when times got tough. I will never forget the lesson that this family taught me: that I can make a difference by teaching and it doesn’t have to be anything spectacular or extraordinary and it is so important to work together to achieve success. (When I write this, I realize how much I miss the classroom and now live vicariously through other teacher’s lives by reading their blogs!)

Photo credit: Original image: 'Roses 20' by: Karl Eschenbach


Laurie said...

Thanks for sharing this inspirational story, Pat! This is really what teaching and being a teacher is all about.

loonyhiker said...

Laurie: I'm glad you enjoyed it. When times get rough, I remember this story and my heart feels warm again. :)