Random Acts of Education

Last go around I wrote about how the Gifted and Talented programs I had been involved in did absolutely nothing for me, and pretty much put me off wanting to be involved in any of them.  I do wonder if those things served more as some weird networking type tool that if I persued would give me good contacts that would allow for social and professional advancement later.  I'm also pretty sure that the programs now have a lot more to offer kids.  That said, while I think those programs did nothing for me, that's not to say that my time in school was all a waste.

I mentioned Coach Donovan in my last post.  He was the phys ed teacher when I was in the Philippines.  He always gave off the vibe that use kids were the reason his hair was turning grey.  "Kid, I swear you're going to send me back to the oil fields."  I don't know if he ever really worked in any oil fields, but him saying that and shaking his head at me as my latest stupidity utterly exasperated him gave me a chuckle.  He did delight in getting one up on us little punks too.  Like in a game of Simon Says when we were ordered to jump up, but he called everyone who came back down 'out'.  That's right, to beat the old man we had to break the laws of physics.  A few of us even managed to pull it off.  Here's the thing: Coach loved us.  This guy honestly gave a crap about each one of the little twerps that came through that school no matter how long or short a time we were there.  He'd take time to actually teach us and encourage us when he knew we needed it.  I model much of the way I teach after the way I watched him teach.

With all my many interests, some of them I did not discover without the aid of a teacher.  One of those teachers was one I couldn't stand: Ms. Warren.  Her class was miserable.  She was an English teacher who could not pronouce the letter "R".  She'd just stand there in front of us like the ultimate know-it-all, and it was insufferable.  One of the most easy-going mellow guys I knew in high school finally got up and stormed out of her class never to return.  But, one of the short stories that we studied was "The Red-Headed League".  Yes, the classic Sherlock Holmes story.  This wasn't the first Holmes story I had read for a class, but Ms. Warren did a group exercise to teach about detective work.  Each student was given a fact about a case.  We all have to work together to get the clues in order to solve the crime.  We did two of these, one was a murder, and the other was a theft.  I solved them both, easily.  This sparked my love of a good mystery and love of detective work.  I've been watching that "Whodunnit?" show on ABC this summer and absolutely salivating, collecting the clues and lining up that cases.  That's something I'd love to be in the thick of.  I'd have it won in a walk.

My big interest came from another English teacher: Mr. Babb.  This was not some advanced placement class.  This was the standard M1A1 English composition class.  Mr. Babb was a younger guy who joked around with us and his class was pretty easy going.  He gave me an assignment that probably changed my life. "Write something."  The stuff I turned in ended up being twice as long as what he asked for.  He said we were going to spend about two weeks writing a short story, going through all the steps, and learning the process.  It only had to be about four pages long.  I came back the next day with eight pages.  I became obcessed with writing that story.  I could not stop that night until it was done.  Looking back, it was crap.  That's not some weird modesty or me being self-depricating.  The story was really horrible.  But Mr. Babb liked it.  My classmates liked it.  The girl who did not like me at all, liked that story.  I've written much better ones since then, but that class and that teacher put me course to write all the stories I had in my mind. I'm still working on that.

I then got to college, and for a while was not sure why I was there.  Grades weren't good at all.  Lot of stress.  I wanted to quit, but my folks would have had my ass if I did.  Then I learned some very important stuff.

1: I'm a moron who doesn't know everything, but I can pick it up if necessary.

2: Stress will kill your ass sure as cyanide.

3: When faced with overwhelming anything, don't panic, pick the most pressing target, and just start slogging it out.  Hesitation is not an option when there's a deadline.

4: You can get through damn near anything as long as you've got your buddies with you.

I've had a lot of teachers during my time in education.  I remember many of them very fondly.  But it wasn't some special schooling or gifted program that did it.  It was teachers putting out ideas that I could latch onto.  It wasn't he tests or memorizing stuff.  Those are important, but that's not what changes a student.

Its inspiring the students.  They don't have that in study guides or teacher's edition text books.

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