Monday, October 24, 2011

Thank a Teacher.

If you have had an e-mail address for more than a minute, you have most likely received the e-mail that starts out saying....If you can read this - Thank a Teacher. It goes on to list many other things we can do because of a teacher. Here are my thoughts on this.

Some things at my home were pretty scary. I found school to be a sanctuary for the most part except for 1st grade. My kindergarten teacher's face still remains in my mind as the sweetest, nicest lady ever even though I cannot recall her name. I attended Kindergarten at a public school but was sent to a Catholic school for first grade. I lasted there for a mere two weeks  because I found the nun/teacher to be abusive and mean and I felt I had enough of that already going on in my life. So much so that I came home after the first two weeks and announced to my father that he could beat me until I died, but I was not going back to that school another day. And I didn't....and, I am still here to talk about it. I actually went on to have a rather stern and unkind 1st grade teacher at the public school. The good news is that from then on out I had mostly great teachers. A few were just good teachers, and a handful were outstanding.
What makes a teacher "outstanding" is probably different for each and everyoneof us. For me I think it has to do with inspiring me, relating to me, and whether or not I feel the teacher actually cared about me. Maybe they recognized the hungry need I had for all of the above.
The first teacher I remember thinking was outstanding was my science teacher from the 7th grade. I was attending Lathrop Junior High in Santa Ana, CA. The teacher's name was Jack Grissom ( I think I have it spelled correctly). I don't know if Jack was an actual first name or if it was like a JFK thing. He was strict, funny, fair, and he sparked a desire in me to learn. I wanted to get good grades just to please him. I think he did that for everyone in the class because I recall even the worst students all got good grades....just for him.
We moved again that summer from Santa Ana to Hawthorne. I mention moving again because we did that a lot. I lived in at least 11 different cities and approximately 7 states by this time. No..my dad was not in the military.
 I went to Hawthorne Intermediate School during the 8th grade. My main teacher everyday there was Mr. Dana. I had another teacher for English. I cannot recall her name either although I remember her face and the way she did her hair. She told me once I should get into writing. Every time someone compliments me on something I wrote, I think of her. But back to Mr. Dana. I feel as though I have managed my life mostly because of what I learned from him. He taught us all the practical things one needs to know to get by in the real world. If you want to do something that requires more knowledge in a particular area, then you need that extra in your education, but for your daily life you need to know how to create a budget, and back then, fill out your tax return, and know how to balance a bank statement. I still do these things all the time with the skills I received in his classroom. It is paying homage to his teaching every year when I do my taxes myself. Mr. Dana was interested in having us be well-rounded individuals who could manage our lives ourselves. Invaluable. He would tease my friend Tricia and I and called us the Mad Market Hoppers. Most everyday after school, Tricia and I would go over the a market that was just a block away to moon over the 2 "older" boys we thought were out of this world. He related to us and cared for us.
Also at this same school was a wonderful music teacher, Mr. Mock. I did not go on to be a musician nor do I sing well enough to pursue that as an occupation ( I sing well enough to amuse myself). Yet, this teacher still had the ability to make me feel special and therefor always on my mind as  an outstanding teacher. I came across a music folder from his class the other day. That is how important he was in my life. I still carry the sheet music in that folder in my important paper file.
In the 9th grade, I went to Leuzinger High School. My house was right across the street from the school, but my home was in Hawthorne and the school was in Lawndale. My 2 outstanding teachers there were Mr. Fleenor and Mr. Strayhan. Mr. Fleenor was my English teacher. He was so exacting sometimes, but still had a great sense of humor and made us like Shakespeare even if we didn't want to. He made me laugh most every day. I don't think it was his intention, it just happened. Mr. Strayhan taught Spanish. I cannot speak Spanish to this day. I recall a few words here and there, but I can pronounce them with perfection....I know how to roll my rrrrrrrrrrrr's just like he taught us. He gave me some responsibility in his classroom, made me feel special, and would allow me to chat with him for a few minutes most everyday after class.
I've had other good teachers in my life including Ms. Dearing at Riverside City College, and the Mueller's at Mueller College of Holistic Studies, yet it is the teachers who capture our hearts when we are young that I believe stay with us for the rest of lives always being that voice in the back of our minds making us do it the way they taught us.
Many times I have thought about telling these teachers how special they are to me and that same amount of times I have not completed the tasks or forgotten it until the next time it pops into my head. What brought this up for me recently was a discussion on Facebook by some Leuzinger Alumni. Someone stated that Mr. Dana was alive and well. Someone had told me YEARS ago that he had died. I decided to not let another opportunity slip through my fingers until time ran out. I found Mr. Dana and Mr. Mock via the Internet. I have not been able to find Mr. Grissom. I believe (and once again I could be wrong) that Mr. Fleenor and Mr Strayhan are gone, but if you know differently, let me know. I would love to be able to tell them thank you also.
That I can do anything in life including work on the computer I am typing this on is owed to a teacher. In reality, most everyone we interact with is a teacher of some sort. It seems to be those "official" teachers that have captured a special spot in our hearts that keeps the fire burning to learn and do well for them.
For the teachers I have mentioned here, I must say "Thank You". The grace of God and maybe a teacher brought you to a place where you decided to teach. You then touched a place in my heart where you will forever remain a special person.
I wish procrastination was not part of my middle name so I could have found and told those other teachers how special they are to me. So I am suggesting that if you have yet to share similar thoughts, you should get to it since one never knows what tomorrow will bring.

I must also say thanks to every library I have ever visited. No particular person to thank or teacher, but I have learned a lot by reading books and been allowed the freedom to imagine whatever I wanted. Dreamt of the possibilities of me.

No matter what halls I walk down or roads I travel, the person I am, the person I have been, or the person I will be tomorrow has been influenced by a teacher. Teacher... Be one. Get one. Thank one!