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Friday, August 5, 2016

Tales From The Classroom

("Tales from the Classroom" is a feature posted occasionally here at this blog.  All tales are true and present matters about which I have personal knowledge.  The following tale dates back to 1982, when I was teaching third grade.)

D struggled academically. She had always struggled academically and had to repeat a grade or two.

But as an adult? She works as a high-ranking administrative assistant in the U.S. State Department and has beautiful daughter (about age 6).

The graphic below is my comment page on her book report Johnny Tremaine.

D's mother saved this book report in a memory box, and D recently sent me photos of some of her work from way back when.

Click directly on the image to enlarge it:

I am typically stingy with praise.  When a struggling student succeeds, however, I lavish the student with praise.

D says, all these years later, "The book report was a turning point for me."

Yes, a teacher really does touch the future.


  1. It is amazing the little details I recall from my early teachers and what an impression they left with me. A good reminder that our children are impressionable and we can and do make a difference.

  2. I agree with Bunker. I had the privilege of being taught by many of the same 'old school' teachers who taught my parents (when I acted up, the older ones would often mistakenly call me by my dad's name. Apple, tree, and all that...)

    That is quite an honor, AOW. I know such things mean more to you than an official award. Not quite the same, but back when I was still in the military, I was always pleased and honored when someone I had trained or mentored would call me after being promoted and thank me for helping them get there and allowing me to bask with them in their success.

    1. SF,
      I have several awards -- most recently "Veterans' Best Friend 2015" because my students greet Honor Flights.

      But you're right: hearing from my students of the distant past mean more than anything

      And right now, TJP,one of my students from three decades ago, is here helping me with tasks I trimming certain bushes in our yard, spraying the vines, changing the cat litter pans, etc. We're hoping he can stay for my post-op period. Mr. AOW will need help. So will I.

      In fact, TJP was here doing some work on the ramps when he got the text message telling him that the house where he was staying had caught on fire (faulty wiring). He was out of a place to live! I invited him to spend the night, then offered the next day for him to stay.

      I was so hard on TJP, but he says those days were the best time of his life.

  3. I've a few similar experiences during my years as a teacher.

    It was most gratifying to have a few pupils I worked with forty-odd years ago bother to track me down via the internet, and tell me how much good my influence brought about in their lives.

    And I too learned most from the teachers who withheld praise and made what-seemed-like excessive demands on me. They are the teachers I remember most fondly, even though one FAILED me in sophomore year of college, when I'd clearly earned at B.

    Naturally, I complained and asked her why she had treated me so unfairly?

    Her answer: "Because you are a very talented person who has the capacity to do superior work, and I am determined not to let you get away without doing your best."

    I studied diligently all that summer with a private tutor in New York, took the course again the next year, and earned a 98.5 average in all the tests and was given an "A."

    Had that teacher not been so tough I would never have learned to be the highly competent composer of Church and Theater music I became in latter years –– a source of some of the great joy I've ever known.

    There is a big difference between humiliating pupils through persistent insults and sadistic bullying, and applying sufficient pressure to motivate students to do their best.

    It's much too bad that modern "Child Psychology" –– which became a great fad in the 1940's and 50's –– and foolish notions introduced by "Progressive Education" which accompanied the Child Psychology supplanted good common sense and solid achievement with a lot of air-headed fantasies that proving childhood in the mid-twenties and beyond in fair too many instances.

    One the idea of "The Poor Little Kid and His Oh-So-Fragile Id" took hold in Child Rearing and Public Education, we started to degenerate with frightening rapidity.

    1. FT,
      Ask any of my students. I'm a tough-love teacher. It's easier on me to be a buddy-teacher, but being a buddy is NOT what a teacher is called to do.

  4. Praise for effort works! (Praise for no effort works too, come to think about it, but not in a way anyone here would want.) Such wonderful feedback!

  5. Great Stuff AOW. These are the things you take with you into the years ahead. The rest of it not so much. at least by my count.

    1. Kid,
      I cannot imagine ever wanting to retire completely -- although this Summer from Hell had me wondering if I'd ever be well enough to go back to the classroom. The strategy which the surgeon and I decided upon today SHOULD have me back in the classroom on September 6. Fingers crossed!

  6. Replies
    1. FJ,
      Where I worked for 18 years (1978-1996, when the school closed because the director-owners retired, we did not hand out A's like candy. Tuition did not buy grades! I don't know that private schools are that hard-*ss now.

    2. Academia la Castellana in Caracas, Venezuala (1966-70) was my exposure to hard grading. I had always maintained straight A's up to that point in my life.

    3. ...and I'm forever grateful for them teaching me (through hard grading practices) how to THINK again.

    4. FJ,
      Thinking is hard work -- and often requires time.

      Many of my students have left-sided headaches after an hour of Grammar class. I'm always telling my students after they give the answer: "Justify your answer." ;^)

  7. My favorite teacher at the Academy was Dr. Jacques Szaluta or "Doc Jacques", as we called him. There was no "rote knowledge" in his classroom. To answer a question as to "why" Hitler invaded Poland" with "for liebsensraum" would have been FATAL to your grade, as the "correct" answer was usually something like, "because he hated his mother!" ;)

  8. I was a different kind of teacher. I spent 16 years in various leadership positions with the Boy Scouts. I was always the one teaching (and preaching) about the MEANING of the motto, slogan, and promise. Teaching what IS Patriotism? Americanism? Civic duty?

    The PRIDE I would feel whenever I'd pass a former Scout/student and be greeted by someone who I knew I knew but didn't always recognize. Three young men in particular really made my day!

    The first was a young fellow named Kevin that got picked on one day and was all set to quit. We sat on the curb at the ball park we where at and somehow I persuaded him to stick around. He ended up being an EAGLE SCOUT! I met him one day about 10 years later. He was in the U.S. Air Force!! He was assigned to AIR FORCE ONE!!!!!

    Next was Dave. In 1998 I was working on a natural gas pipeline job. As it turned out, so was Dave. This job covered 72 miles of "right of way" so people often times had no idea who was on that job (there were close to 1000) or where they might be. One day I heard that a fellow had collapsed in a boggy area and almost died (drowned). He would have except that Dave, my student, single-handedly saved his life because he kept a cool head and used all of his skills learned in Boy Scouts! He was in his early 20's and most of the rest of the crew were much older and supposedly wiser--nope.

    Last but not least was Craig. Craig ended up in the U.S. Army as a medic. He lost track of how many lives he saved in his three tours in Iraq, but from stories I've heard from guys who served with him, many soldiers owe him their lives.

    So, am I a proud teacher?---you damned right!

  9. http://adriennescatholiccorner.blogspot.com/2016/08/hillary-clinton-freezes-in-fear-over.html#comment-2825791348

    AOW: this is TOTALLY off topic, admittedly, but you've talked about this situation for a while and I'm curious about your thoughts....Sorry to 'butt in' here..

    By the way, you know I have always said "Every American kid needs AOW to teach them" I WISH! And that IS ON TOPIC :) xxx

    1. Z,
      I managed a few blog rounds today and saw Adrienne's blog post.

      When I first saw the prism on Hillary's eyeglasses -- during the Benghazi Hearings, no less -- I KNEW WITHOUT A DOUBT -- that she had suffered some kind one TBI. Mr. AOW had to wear prisms like that because his stroke damaged at least one nerve controlling equal tracking of the eyes.

      I can't prove it, of course, but I suspect that Hillary's outburst during those hearings was directly related to steroids prescribed for brain swelling. Again, I know something about steroids prescribed for brain swelling: Mr AOW had to take large doses of steroids after his brain surgery in 1993.

      Could Hilary be having seizures as outlined in Adrienne's blog post. YES!

      And what IS that lesion on Hillary's tongue? I had noticed the lesions long before Adrienne's blog post. Herpes? Tertiary syphilis? Something else? I haven't researched tongue lesions.

      I know that I wanted to mention something else about what is in Adrienne's blog post. Alas! I've forgotten! Writhing in pain here as I count down the minutes until the next dose of pain medications.

    2. Z,
      Oops! I was referring to one earlier blog post at Adrienne's site. I hadn't seen this one until you linked to it.

      Seems very possible, don't you think?


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