Monday, January 23, 2012

Good teachers

I'm sorry I didn't get a post ready for Friday.  I was trying to decide what direction to go.  There were a lot of other things that happened from 7th grade through my sophomore year of high school, things I haven't described.  The summer between my sophomore and junior years, is really the pivotal moment.  That is when my world was shattered.

And I don't know how to write it.  I decided to finish the last two years of high school in this Giving Arts a Chance series, and then I can go on to other topics.  I have written the posts, and they will be posted.  But the order the facts are presented in, makes a huge difference in what the posts mean.

I've been blessed with many good teachers.  Our second grade teacher had a mantra posted on the bulletin board all year: "I can.  I want to.  I will."  She also called Scotty out when he insulted a classmates clown drawing.  I didn't know what he said at the time, but I do now.  He tried to backtrack, saying he meant it looked happy, but none of us bought that story.

This article has been going around Facebook lately:

One teacher’s approach to preventing gender bullying in a classroom

And I think it has a LOT of good tips.  I remember being teased for liking "boy things:" science fiction, Transformers, X-men, Star Wars.  I wonder whether my classmates' teachers had conversations like that before I transferred.  I remember once, the class took a trip to watch an excerpt from The Nutcracker at the local public school.  A few of the kids in my class were part of the performance, including one boy.  I thought it strange at first, but it quickly became just something that he did.  One boy played piano, another played hockey, several wanted to become sports stars, and one boy did ballet.  So what?

Our third grade teacher gave us a lot of motivational posters to color and keep.  This one, hung on the foot of my bed for years:

Fourth grade was also the year of elementary school that we studied Nebraska history.  I hated living in Nebraska, being so far from my family.  I knew the Louisiana Purchase was important, but I simply could not care about anything else.  I wanted to learn Indiana's history.  But over time, especially as I made friends in Omaha, I warmed up to the place.  I'm Indiana born, and Indiana's home - but it ain't mine.  Omaha (and, as an adult, Houston) became mine, but it wasn't home.

Twice, I had assignments to write my life story.  Once in 7th grade, and once as a Freshman.  I found the Freshman essay recently.  I remember in the 7th grade essay, I finished by writing about how much I wanted a pet.  Mom & Dad wouldn't let me have one.  We had tried having a dog, for a few months, soon after we moved to Nebraska.  It was a puppy in the middle of winter, they had trouble training it, and he was sent to the Humane Society.

I got a guinea pig and my sister got a parakeet to replace the dog.  Around Easter time, somebody gave the guinea pig part of their chocolate bunny.  Chocolate is poisonous to most animals, and he died.  That was the last pet I had, until my 7th grade teacher stepped in and convinced them.

My sister and I both got pets.  I got a hamster, she got a rabbit.  But the hamster kept escaping, so I had to get something different too.  I got a rabbit.  I'll write about rabbits elsewhere.

Seventh & eighth grade religion classes were very different.  Frequently, we would circle the desks to talk to each other about our lives.  About cliques, bullies, social justice, abortion, the death penalty, designer babies,  gender issues, gender roles, and many other things.  I had one big word I used a lot: Psychosomatic.  The connection between mind and body made a LOT of sense to me.

Some of my classmates used another big word: Nonconformist.  What does it mean to stand out?  What does it mean to be different from what society expects?  We talked, a LOT, about how important it is to question, and even challenge, the norms of society.

The teacher also brought in the school nurse to talk with us, periodically.  She brought a lot of books about alcoholism and dysfunctional families.  She suggested that we might write skits or something, to help other kids know what is normal and what is not.  I read most of the books she provided, and I thought, a lot, about what makes relationships healthy.