August 17th, 2007

firstgrade

From thefridayfive - School

Ooh, I like this one! I'm going to assume it's talking about school pre-college, so that's what I'll be looking at: ElHi stuff.

1. Who was your favorite teacher?
2. Why was that teacher so special?


I'm combining these...

Interestingly, my favorites normally tended to be men, so I guess it's not suprising that my overall favorite teacher is Mr. Stephen Crowley. He was my teacher for I believe just about all subjects in sixth grade -- "language arts," math, science, etc., and he was so cool, so progressive and radical -- and a great teacher -- that it was almost unreal he was a teacher. He was in his 40s, an ex-hippie with a bald head and John Lennon glasses, with a background that included things like being a traveling telephone booth repairman and, I'm sure, doing a bunch of pot.

Anyway, he did his best to make everything we did super engaging and interesting, to invest confidence in our abilities (e.g. did not talk down to us), and he didn't "clamp down" on us the way the others teachers did, but allowed that yes, we all had brains and wills of our own, he didn't need to control us all. As an example of this, when I decided to read Shogun, clearly an adult novel with a ton of sex and juicy bits it, he was totally cool with that -- none of this "You shouldn't be reading that" or priggishness. I mean, come on, 12-year-old wants to read a 1200-page book, let her, right?

Mr. Crowley also liked to tell stories about his childhood and past, and he told the stories in a way that kind of let you know he was on your level, he wasn't "above" you. I definitely remember him telling us about the time he had rheumatic fever as a kid and was put in solitary confinement in his bedroom for weeks.

My buddy Dee and I were such fans of Mr. C. that once we'd moved on to middle school, we would actually get a ride from Dee's mom and visit him after school. We did this a whole bunch of times and at the end of that year, we presented him with an actual scrapbook we made full of pictures, poetry, bizarre funny stuff we enjoyed and knew he would like. Then the next year, when the sixth grades moved up to the middle school, and we were in the same school, we'd go visit him even more. I remember Mr. Crowley as the person I went gushing to when I had discovered The Vampire Lestat. He actually did a reading from one of my favorite passages (Lestat rescued by Marius in Egypt) and what I still remember is him reading it and then going, "Wow, this is really homoerotic!" LOL. I also brought in my Beatles music books... and he took out his guitar (yes, he kept a guitar at his desk) and started playing stuff like "Blackbird" and "Revolution."

That dude was SO cool. And as a bonus, the only elementary school teacher I can remember who didn't seem to consider me a "problem." I mean, I got in trouble still, but he could deal with it!

3. Do you think teachers get paid enough?

It really depends on the school system. For example, in my hometown teachers are paid more than what I make now, quite a good amount. However, it has to be noted that most teachers can't find or afford housing in that town, and even neighborhoring towns are expensive, so I'd imagine a lot of their money gose toward housing and/or commuting. So I think it really depends on the circumstances.

4. Do you have a favorite year of school?

My senior year of high school was stressful but it was the year I finally came together mentally and socially. I had just been in Germany for two months and it completely changed my outlike on life. For the first time, I started to strike up friendships more easily and be more aware of myself in a lot of respects. In addition, I had some awesome classes that year, including my favorite high school class, Odyssey, which was a progressive, non-traditional, collaborative, interdisciplinary arts-history-English course run in double periods. That class was better, honestly, than many of my college courses. I also doubled up on English courses that year and while I really, REALLY hated my teacher I must've read like 50 books. I had to read like 30 p. each night for each class so I was doing at least 60 p. every night. Which I loved!

5. If you could travel back in time and tell yourself something now that would have helped you get through school, what would you say?

Oh, dear, does it have to be just one? I would have to do a whole speech. But overall I'd just be encouraging and say that eventually the assholes will get theirs and the supposed losers will wind up being a lot happier ;)