Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Apples for Everybody!

In honor of National Teacher Day, I salute those who stand up in classrooms every week in a valiant attempt to stem the rising tide of mediocrity that threatens to overwhelm the nation.

By way of tribute, a sampler of unforgettable things my teachers said to me, and what I learned from them (whether they intended it or not).


TeacherWhat S/he SaidWhyLesson Learned
Mr.Wortman
(kindergarten)
"Fine, fine, I concede."My indignant rationale for including a black-and-white photo in a collage of Things That Are Yellow. "It's a banana. Bananas are yellow. This banana is printed in black in white, but it's still yellow."If you can defend your work cogently, oftentimes people will shut up and get out of your way.
Mrs. Herayda
(first grade)
"What a nice bunny! I think you may have a quite a talent for drawing."My arithmetic paper was covered with doodles in the margins.When unsure of your subtraction skills, create a diversion.
Mrs. Brown
(third grade)
"Charlotte had to die at the end because otherwise the story would not have had truth."I was deeply, deeply pissed off at E.B. White.Beauty is truth; and truth, beauty.
Mrs. Hess
(fourth grade)
"I don't believe you. This is not real food. I expect you to take my assignments seriously. No credit, and no recess for you today."We were told to draw last night's dinner at home. We'd had Lebanese food. She had never heard of tabouleh or pita bread.The person with the biggest desk is not necessarily the person with the biggest brain.
Mrs. Bain
(fourth grade, art)
"You're taking the easy way out. Stop drawing the same bunny over and over and show me what you can do."I had worked my hitherto no-fail bunnies into four consecutive assignments.No risk, no growth.
Sr. Mary Regina
(fifth grade)
"God made you the way you are for a reason. It means you're special. Your life may be hard, but that's not your fault. Be who you want. Don't ever give that up."We were discussing my tendency to be more...artistic...than the other boys.You can't judge a nun by her habit.
Mrs. Baldessano
(gym, sixth grade)
"I don't care if you're a goddamn pacifist. Kick the ball!"I wasn't in the mood for soccer, thank you very much.Not all angry dykes are interested in politics.
Ms. Scharf
(twelfth grade English)
"When people in a town like this don't understand you, take that as a compliment."A female classmate called me a "freak" after I admitted to a fondness for Sophocles.Better to be a noted weirdo than a noted mediocrity.

62 comments:

Jeremy said...

Franklin? Honey? I love you, and your blog is one of the funniest things on the net. However, it seems that the Mad Maths Skillz you mentioned in second grade are still haunting you; there's only 8 things in your list of 10 things. Unless of course you're being ironical. In which case, it's a good thing that I'm pretty, because the smart isn't working today. :)

Ghislaine said...

Shout a big "Hallelujah" for Sister Mary Regina!

marie in florida said...

wonderful; simply wonderful

knottykitty said...

Brilliant! I love the one about Mrs. Hess and the desk size vs. brain size conclusion! :) How true.

SJ said...

Oh boy, as a former teacher, I hope none of my former students were taking extensive notes. Who knows what I might have said that might one day be analyze online?

And can I get an "Amen!" for Sister Mary Regina?!

Joe said...

I would have loved to have watch you grow up. Mostly to see the reactions of folks around you.

The smart creative ones would be able to appreciate you, the not-so-smart, not-so-creative would need to somehow dismiss you.

Glad you turned out how you did.

Debbie said...

These are fantastic! I've got to say say, I have a soft spot for nuns. You go, Sister MJ!

I used your first grade math trick well into high school. I think my algebra teachers finally started to feel bad for me after a few years, because I eventually made it into geometry. Thankfully, the final for the geometrically-challenged seniors in class consisted of a single multiple choice question. We had to identify which of the four shapes was a square. I totally nailed it!!

anneonymousone said...

I made the mistake of explaining(to a class of ninth graders) the origin of using the word "jerk" to refer to someone who is being stupid. Dear God, I hope they remember something else about me...

Thanks for the kind and realistic ode to teachers, Franklin. If one of my students turns out to be half as intelligent, principled, or fun as you are, or even one-third the writer that you are, I will know that I have done a good job.

Purl in the Rough said...

De-lurking to say thank you, Franklin, for today's laugh. You are brilliant. Wouldn't it be great if both Mrs. Hess and Sr. Mary Regina somehow stumbled upon your blog and saw how they (in completely different ways) managed to leave a lasting impression.

anneonymousone said...

I want to assure you that I used _only_ appropriate language in the explanation, y'all.

Knit Mongrel said...

"It is better not to speak and be thought a fool, then to open your mouth and remove all doubt." -- Mark Twain

Keats was wrong, by the way. Truth is not beauty. Just ask Old Yeller.

Mz Kwooz said...

In reading about you and teachers, I am simultaneously moved, frightened, and relieved that my students may be listening to what I say (and don't say). I think I'm lucky that I teach vocal music--the music helps all stories aslong to their truth.

Sneaksleep said...

Awesome! I wish my memory were as clear (and witty) as yours. I had some great teachers along the way, but I can't seem to remember such exact quotes.

SallyT said...

Teachers, Teachers, teachers. I'm so pissed off at my son's teachers right now there is no way I can praise teachers. I don't remember any "pithy sayings" from my teachers but one referred to me as a "teacher's delight"

Judy G. said...

We've had two boys go through high school and I can count the good teachers they've had on one hand. Things like "Your son will never be more than average" (in grade three, yet. Talk about an early condemnation.) to the ever-popular and sadly ubiquitous "I think you son is hyperactive." (kindergarten- yep, let's drug 'em up early). My younger son has made it all the way to his last semester of grade twelve before getting a truly great teacher who wants to challenge the kids in any way possible, but at this stage it's almost too late. Thank heaven for spots of sunshine like your blog. You rock.

Mel said...

How appropriate that I've just planted two apple trees in my front yard. However, I think that Mrs. Hess deserved a bitch slap more than an apple, life lesson notwithstanding.

Sarah said...

I love this list! It sounds like you got a fairly good mix -- a kindergarten teacher willing to concede the point on the black-and-white picture of a banana is definitely a jewel.

Lacey said...

That is the greatest thing I've read today! Thanks for sharing and I love the lessons learned from each one. :D

Kristen said...

Well, I'm glad to hear you had at least a couple of insightful teachers... Sorry about the other ones. (Where the heck did you grow up? I grew up in a small town and we ate pita all the time! Your teacher must have lived in a cave.)

Emily said...

YEAH. Great list, Franklin. I had no idea there was a teacher day-- thanks for getting me nostalgic about the good and the bad in my past too. I had at least two Ms. Hesses. Luckily at least one Ms Scharf, too...

MonicaPDX said...

Yep, let's hear it for the Sr. MR's and Mrs. Scharf's of the classrooms - three cheers! And while I sympathize for having had the ones like Mrs. Hess, your conclusions are hilarious!

Anonymous said...

As a math teacher, thanks for the warm fuzzies!

Ella said...

I think Sr Mary Regina and Ms Sharf had the right idea, I also like the fact that Mr Wortman conceded to a kid (who was obviously right) It has been my experience that they would just send you to the office if you had a logical argument.
The worst teacher my son ever had was a close to 300lb woman who taught phys ed. She would sit in the middle of the gym and shout directions. If someone did something wrong the punishment was to sit next to her, for the rest of the class. Most kids tried to avoid that experience!

Carol said...

Wow. I never thought I'd profess such devotion to a nun, but Sr. M.R. is a wise lady.

And YOU are a darling.

Lee Ann said...

The bunny-artist-in-the-math-margins in my family salutes you, and says if Franklin hypnotizes one little sheep with a spindle, and that one little sheep falls asleep, that's not subtraction, that's just hypnosis.

Should I tell her now where a philosophy degree gets you? I think not...

twig said...

You owe me $30 for a new keyboard. I just spit tea all over it. I've never liked soccer. Wish I had come up with being a pacifist to get out of it.

Felicia said...

I laughed so hard, I cried and about peed my pants! You are such a gem!

Tai said...

The only things I knit are my brows, but I'm enjoying your blog anyway. You just have to feel sorry for someone who has never heard of pita bread. We should throw a pita pity party for mean old Mrs. Hess.

Anonymous said...

Franklin, thank you. Thank you. I thank God for you. Your writing is such a gift to all of us.

miss ewe said...

Sometimes the intended lesson is not the lesson learned. Yeah, I grew up with that too. Thanks for the giggles!

MollyBeees said...

I LOVE this, Franklin. Thanks for posting it!

Dodi Raz said...

Brilliant tribute!

Tan said...

I love your teacher quotes. My favorites are:

(with an Argentine accent): You think you need to eat. You think you need to sleep. This is not important. You must work harder--Julio, my daughter's design professor in architecture school

Also from Julio (flipping student's design face down on the desk): It looks better this way.

(Romanian accent): This is boring--Igor, my 2nd semester music composition instructor

Another Igor: I do not understand these students who write nothing all semester. I say, if you write two notes and you do not like them, write two more notes.

Emelia said...

As a student art teacher I thoroughly enjoyed your post today. In fact, I will be posting it on my one of my Education class's online message boards (I hope that is allright, I will attribute it properly of course).

Samira said...

I'm a middle school teacher precisely because of both kinds of teachers you describe. What a great tribute. I guarantee that those of your former teachers whom you describe with admiration and affection would be deeply touched. Words like that from a former student are the greatest reward any teacher can hope for.

Regarding that draw-your-dinner assignment (huh?!): You were just WAY too far ahead of the curve for the likes of Mrs. Hess. I grew up in 1960s-70s rural Appalachia eating Lebanese staples: olives and tabooleh and hummus and kibbeh and mujaddarah and Arabic bread and shish kabobs and yogurt on EVERYTHING back when my dad had to make it from scratch because he never knew when he'd find it in the local grocery stores. Now all that stuff is known as health food and hummus is a popular pot-luck party staple.

Jenn said...

I have worked in the second and third grade for the past four years, and I never tire of hearing statements such as you mentioned in your post...the creativity of children boggles the mind...as does your blog :) It is fantastic!!! PS - Very few kids leave our third grade not knowing how to knit...Knitting "Luncheons" are the highlight of school for me (and the children).

RogueTess said...

As a high school English teacher (who admits to a bias in favor of my drama kids), I hope a few students remember me as fondly as you have yours. You ARE a gem -- I'm a lurker who loves your writing (and knitting).

Paper said...

WOW. You were a very very attentive student. Wish I'd been more in tune with the real lessons to be learned and less in tune with Getting an A Whatever the Cost.vu

Cherice said...

Sister Eva was the Sister Mary Regina in my life. Actually my Catholic school had several gems that I remember fondly and who made learning fun. There were only a few sour grapes in my schooling. My children have been pretty lucky too (and I don't say that because a couple of my closest friends have also taught my children).

Jena the yarn harpy said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for acknowledging and celebrating National Teachers Day.
Not a single one of my students (I teach middle school chorus, so I have literally hundreds of students) even acknowledged the day. (Well, other than carrying into school the various casseroles, quiches and salads that their mothers made for the PTA-hosted appreciation luncheon.)

By pure chance, today was the biggest test of my teacherhood I've ever experienced. I have one more scar on my heart for my students after today. (http://jmpaolilli.livejournal.com)

Barbara-Kay said...

My DH and you obviously went to different schools together - at least he recognized many of those teachers. Different is different, and that's all a lot of people see. (DH was a geek before it was cool to be smarter than a rock.)

Mary Lynn said...

My hubby teaches first grade. In one of those fun things, if you ask his "kids," they will tell you that he is the meanest teacher in the whole school. And, they all love him. Because it is a Catholic elementary school in an urban area, he has parents who will send their incoming first graders to the school specifically so that they have him as a teacher.

He is one of those teachers that the kids will all remember for the "other" things. He teaches them to read by making stories real. He allows them to draw pics on the backs of all their tests . . . once they are done and have looked them over. He encourages creativity (yes, flowers can be stripped with yellow polka-dots).

Like most schools, if the kids in the upper grades are misbehaving they are sent to the first grade (that logic has always escaped me), but the upper grade teachers have told Dave that the interesting thing that happens is that they ask not to be sent to the first grade classroom because he doesn't chastise them. He TALKS to them and if they have to go back, they just know that Mr. J. will be "so disappointed."

He is great. He loves his job and gets a kick out of it when the kids "get it" whether the "it" is reading, math or keeping their butt in their seats when they are supposed to. As one Mom said that he doesn't only teach them the ABCs, he teaches them respect for themselves and others. Someday, he will be on someone

KellyD said...

I liked Sr Mary Regina best of all your teachers.

Barb B. said...

This post brought back some great memories (somehow the bitter ones just didn't matter) Mrs. C...we groaned and said "that's not fair" at the extra homework. She whirled around and said in shock "Who lied to you and said life would be fair?"
Francine, who said about my essay "this is the best one turned in. But I know its shit, and so do you. Don't do it again".
And Mrs White, the one my son had in grade 3...he bought her flowers with his own money and attached a note that said "thank you for punishing my bad behaviour, and not calling me a bad boy". His words. She laminated it and stuck on her mirror where she could see it every morning.

Sandra said...

Being a left handed kid in a Montreal Catholic school in the early sixties, I had my left hand tied behind my back and was forced to write with my right. My Dad was transferred to Ontario soon after, and I never set foot in another Catholic school. (Nor do I practice Catholicism). I am happily left handed today. I salute Sister Mary Regina for being the kind of nun that may have given me a chance.
Amen!

Jen W said...

Sister Mary Regina has a special place in Heaven, I'm sure. That was wonderful to read, thank you.

jessie said...

Brilliant.

Kara said...

Awww, you had some great teachers! I just consistently got in trouble at school for reading too much. That's Kentucky for you!

MichelleinCO said...

Thanks for saying good things about a nun! They get such a bad rap, and I'm sick of it. I had some great ones, and some not so great, but they were all good people who worked for almost nothing. On the whole, no worse than lay teachers. I wish our society could still respect the choice to be a sister/brother. We have lost something there.

David said...

My mother would have ripped Mrs. Hess a new asshole. I hope yours did.

PICAdrienne said...

I like the nun and the 12th grade English teacher. Art teacher is ok too. As for the brain-desk analogy, close minded teachers are out there and often teach that particular lesson. I was in 2nd grde when I learned that one. Interestingly, it was regarding a food, as well. (I knew the veggie existed, we used to grow it and I had seen the seed packet!)

Lisa said...

Franklin:

The wife has been a middle school teacher for 25 years, and I am have finally gotten over the amazement that her former students elicit when they see her in public places. First they apologize for being bad and then they thank her for all that she has done for them.

Thank you for recognizing all of those (some not so favorable) that touched your life also. I for one could never be a teacher (lack of patience), so I admire those that have a passion for it al the more.

Thank you for sharing your past with us, and as a Catholic Scholl Survivor, Amen to all the nuns!

Seanna Lea said...

My memory of my teachers is fuzzy, but I cannot remember having one who was bad or didn't have something to teach even if it was that teachers need summer jobs too.

(Though in retrospect, I remember my Mrs. Prentiss who taught typing: a, a, a, space...)

Dale-Harriet in WI said...

Franklin, I love you too. And I remembered my teachers too - My typing teacher said: "I'm glad to see you girls here; you'll be guaranteed of having a saleable skill in case you're not lucky enough to marry." And another teacher (name forgotten but he's rotting in hell now anyway) said "It is severely illegal to plagiarize and someone of your age couldn't have written this piece" and he tore it up and threw it away. (He got one of my newspaperman-father's famous Three Page Letters but refused to apologize.) Like I said, in hell...

Janet said...

Wonderful post Franklin. Now I'll search my memory bank to see if I can find any matches.

Courtney the Knitting Goddess said...

Mmm, Lebanese food is yummy! Reminds me of when my 5th grade teacher told me that there was no such thing as a tree rose (and my family raises roses). Thanks for all your wonderful and entertaining posts, Franklin. I enjoy reading about your and Dolores' adventures.

The best thing I ever learned about Keats was when my Romanticism professor said, "Don't try too hard to make Keats make sense. It'll make you crazy."

Necia said...

Hurrah for Sr. Mary Regina. Nuns are not all bad, at that. What a terrific list. You have a great memory, obviously. OH-- wanted to tell you that you inspired me to make a ruana, from Folk Shawls, in earth tones, and it's almost finished. It's an odd-ball project, and deliberately random in the stripes, but I think I'm going to love it when it's done. Thanks to you, and to Dolores. She has the goods on EVERYONE! (she never lived in Florida, did she?)

Sarahfish said...

Ever wonder what Mrs. Hess is up to now? I'm rather fond of Ms. Scharf. I always liked it when a teacher would level with us. i had two teachers who stand out in my mind as particularly awful. Mrs. Thomas in 3rd grade, who thought my inability to do speed math was a failing in my character, and refused to honour my mother's instruction to allow me to sit out of the Mad Minute Math Race, and my 11th grade physics teacher who would lock me out of the class room when I had to arrive late from National Team practices. I would have to get the Vice Principal to let me in, with her arguing all the while. She failed me by 1%. Other than that though, I had some great teachers!

Anonymous said...

As a high school science teacher, this made me laugh :-) I keep hoping that the thing that sticks in my kids' memories isn't the explanation of what farts are made of.

It sounds like you had many good teachers to be thankful for.

Hilari said...

Maybe that pacifist comment woulda worked on my gym teacher - all I could come up with was bubonic plague and no one believed me.....

Knitting Painter Woman said...

This should be required reading by every education student everywhere. Oh, and your memory is spectacular. (And I'm with you on the Elmer's, popsicles and crafting stuff.)

site said...

For my part everyone ought to glance at it.