Back in December we lost one of my teachers. She was young, only in her fifties I would guess, though I don’t actually know. She was my eighth grade Algebra teacher and the mother of one of my classmates.
We really did call her Mrs. P-D because her hyphenated name was kinda long to say all the time. She was a good teacher but not my favorite. In fact, I thought sometimes she was unnecessarily harsh but I owe a lot to her. I’m an accountant and we don’t use Trig or Geometry or Calculus. We use Algebra. And that’s what I learned from Mrs. P-D. It was hard at first. I struggled for a while but Mrs. P-D was patient with all of us. She knew it was difficult for most of us to grasp the new concept of math we were learning. She used to say, “It’s not hard, it’s just different.” And she would go over a problem three times if somebody still needed clarification.
What I remember most about her class though, is it was the last period of the day and some days she would let us turn on music for the last few minutes while we packed up and waited for the bell to ring. Sometimes we’d turn on “My Girl” and dance the shag. Sometimes we’d turn on the live Barry Manilow album and laugh at the medley of advertising jingles. Like with Coach R’s classes (and all the best ones), it was the things that happened outside the curriculum that mattered most.
She leaves behind a husband and children and a lot of students whose lives she touched. She may not have been my favorite teacher, but she was a good teacher and I imagine a good administrator though that was after my time. There aren’t enough of those. Cherish the ones who made an impression on you. She wasn’t perfect but she cared for her students and worked very hard to make sure we all got a good foundation to carry us through high school, both in Algebra and in life. God bless you, Mrs. P-D. Rest in peace.
I just made a mind-blowing connection. Writing blog posts is so much like writing reflections in my high school psychology class. Okay, it’s not that mind-blowing but I did just realize it. I’m pretty sure Coach R wasn’t trying to teach us about blogging because, let’s face it, Coach was already in his sixties and this was 2005. I was hardly even aware of blogging myself at the time. We wrote these “reflections” to share with the class. It was supposed to just be your observations or things you’re thinking about, which is what most blogging is when you get down to it. At least that’s what my blog is.
Coach R is one of my all-time favorite teachers. I took AP American History, AP European History, and Psychology with him. He was a round, not-too-tall guy with silver hair and a matching mustache. I usually despise the “lone stache,” but Coach pulled it off. He loved teaching so much he came out of retirement to take a position at my high school. He wasn’t your normal history teacher. He did the lectures and the tests and tried to prepare us for the AP exams, but he did a lot more than that. I learned more about history listening to Coach’s stories about growing up on a Southern mill hill in the 50’s and 60’s than a lecture about the Roman Empire. He told us about being a kid and getting electricity for the first time in his grandmother’s mill house. He talked about the bawdy women who did snuff and spit it all over the floor of the mill. He reminisced about hanging soda cans in a mesh bag out the window of his dorm room in the winter because they didn’t have mini-fridges. He told us where he was when he heard the news of Martin Luther King’s assassination.
Coach was a banjo player in a local bluegrass band and the last full class before exams in December and May, he would bring his instruments and spend the time playing us songs and teaching us about the instruments. How many kids learn about the cultural history of the dulcimer in their AP History classes?
I had many great teachers and learned some awesome life lessons from them. I learned that the real lessons are the ones you find outside the curriculum. I learned not to take myself too seriously from Mr. C, my drama teacher. I learned to share my creativity from Mr. H, my Computer Tech teacher. I learned how to manage stress from Ms. K, my AP English teacher. I learned there are compassionate people in the world from the other Coach R, my Physics teacher.
And, even though he could only type with his index fingers, I learned blogging from Coach R. That man who loved teaching but loved learning, observing, and reflecting even more. And taught some of us to love it too.