my soft spot

just a mom who plays hockey and knits

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Hail, teachers!

Franklin notes that it is National Teacher Appreciation day. In honor of this fact, I will share with you my memories of teachers over the years. It is sure to be much less apt and poetic than his. Good thing you love me.

Kindergarten: My teacher went, in this year, from Miss Stern to Mrs. something-or-0ther. Threw me off completely that someone could actually CHANGE HER NAME. Just because she got married.

First Grade, and Second: My teacher, Mrs. Poling, taught both. I would not have believed that teachers ever get to leave the rut of teaching one grade over another. First is also the grade where Andrew Smart was my deskmate and, when a volunteer helper leaned over to help another student, reached out and pinched her butt. I was horrified! Yes, I was rather sheltered. (And yes, he was punished.)

Finally, my mother says that it was in First Grade that I was pulled out for testing reading level, and the class aide obliquely indicated me and said to the evaluator snottily, "This one says she reads at a third-grade level." The evaluator returned me later, saying, "This one does."

It was in first or second grade where I was sent to the speech pathologist with Jeffrey Carlson, who said his name "Jeffwy." I remember feeling completely offended. I didn't say "buttahfwy"! One visit and I never went back. They thought I didn't speak because I couldn't. Nope, I just didn't want to.

Fifth Grade: My teacher's name was Mrs. Tregilgas. She had us call her T.G. for short. I remember calling her over at the end of the day once. She leaned over very close. I thought she was asking for a kiss on the cheek! I quickly said good-bye and left. It wasn't for a few years that I figured she was putting her ear close because she thought I wanted to whisper something to her. T.G. also taught me Spanish, the first and last time I formally studied it. I'll never forget the way she pronounced amarillo and anaranjado.

I also had a pull-out math teacher named Mrs. Austin. She was very stern looking and frightened me at first. Then I realized how fun it was going to be to learn advanced math! Ah, good times.

I was chosen to be a student tutor this year, as well. Man, was that a stupid thing. All I ever did was discourage this kid from counting on his fingers. So he ended up imagining his fingers in his head. I didn't help him at all and he probably still hates math to this day.

In sixth grade, I started middle school. Took a school bus 10 miles. That was the year I started orchestra. I think I chose it because Band had no stringed instruments and I already loved the viola (don't get me wrong; I played the flute*). Mr. Calabrese was the one who encouraged my parents to buy me a good flute. God bless you, Mr. Calabrese.

*Yes, I know you did. Why is it that 95% of women have played the flute at one time? What is wrong with the viola, anyway? Or the euphonium?

Seventh grade was the first year I formally studied French, leading to a lifelong love of the language. My teacher, Ms. Reece, was this spitfire in ankle-high black patent leather boots and a red warmup suit. I guess she was too spitfirish, because she had a heart attack early on and was replaced by a substitute teacher named Mrs. Perless. I do remember Ms. Reece approaching me, clapping in slow motion. I gazed at her, confused, until a classmate told me, "She wants you to close your legs." I had sprawled in my chair with my knees apart. Since I was wearing jeans, it certainly didn't occur to me that this would appear unseemly. ???

Eighth grade introduced Algebra with ... dang, all I can remember is that her first name was Teddy. She had us all save plastic bread tags, which she mounted on wire hangers and hung throughout her room. Each hanger held 100 or 500 or 1000 tags and she was trying to teach the concept of a million, which she pronounced "miwyen." Loved her. She had us play Biz and Buzz and Biz-Buzz, where you replace numbers ending in 5 or divisible by 5 (or 7, or both) with the word. Great fun. And what would we do without Algebra? Still using it, folks.

High School. Ah, ninth grade, the first one where you have a title. Freshman. Do they still say that for females? sigh. This is where I first met my teacher who would teach me French for the next 3 years, and life lessons throughout. She may also be the reason I took Dexatrim and fainted in the hallway. We can't all be perfect. Madame Maier, who asked me to call her Pat once I became an adult, had such a profound influence on my life, and never taught me any math at all. Of course, I always say computer science is also about grammar and vocabulary and syntax anyway. Although it does lack the subjunctive.

I wonder if it was in ninth grade that I took biology from the guy who wore shorts and sandals to class every single day of the year. Can't remember his name, but he was the one who pronounced "nuclear" like our unesteemed POTUS and made "larynx" and "pharynx" rhyme with "six." At least we didn't have to dissect cow's eyes or pig fetuses (no budget).

This was also the year, I believe, that Prop 13 (for which my Dad voted) came to pass, and closed our libraries and slashed our schools' budgets. Thanks, Pop.

Ninth grade gave me my first taste of geometry. Mr. Schorr, who spit a little when he talked, and periodically labeled all of us "spineless," nevertheless opened my mind to this wonderful world of angles and lines and planes and proofs. I was enamored. I swear I still am.

Sophomore year brought the combined history/english class called Flex. Or Flex something. It was pretty cool to learn about things in such a thorough way. I'll never forget it, but damned if I didn't forget the teachers' names.

High school gave me my first taste of gym teachers who totally look and act like dykes and yet seem to be happily married. And also taught me that "in the tules" means far, far away. Rock on, Mrs. B.

High school was when I started playing in the band, as well. Mr. Kohler was a scream. Passionate about music but playful as a little kid. I was so proud to be the first second flute. (take your time; it'll come.) I do not forgive him for the endless washing of my damned Shako, though. Geez, I wonder if I could still play our fight song.

Mr. Kohler was the huge UCLA fan who accepted an invitation for us to play at USC Band Day. I'm sure it killed him, but Art Bartner was, at the time, the band director there, and his kids went to my school. His son (Mike?) was actually a very good trumpet player as well as basketball star, and his daughter, Lisa, also played basketball quite well (I remember she was tall and had good hair). Kaptain K also took us to tons of Band competitions, including the Camarillo Christmas Parade, where we dressed as Christmas trees one year, wearing huge green cones of fabric that rested on our Shakos. One Jewish guy decorated his tree with bagels, and ate them along the route.

What I missed by changing high schools in my senior year was learning Civics (or maybe it was called Government) from Ms. Strauss. (As in Levi Strauss. Yes, that one.) I remember my sister sweating her way through that class, and then my friend Noni. It sounded SO HARD. But I know I really missed out on an incredible amount of knowledge about the world. Maybe if I'd had her class, I would know who the Secretary of State is today. (And care.)

What I gained by changing high schools was an incredible Calculus teacher, who taught us the Cal Engineering Yell, which started out, "E to the X! Dy, dx!" God, she was funny. And got me a 5 in the Calculus AB exam for AP credit.

Ah, and M. Johnson, who I thought was an American with a shitty French accent, and turned out to be native to the South of France (rather a different accent from Mme. Maier, who was raised near Paris). He did try to boot me at the beginning of the year, not believing that a student he hadn't taught could possibly belong in his French 5 class. Well, Monsieur, I'd just returned from 10 weeks en France and could talk the ears off of anyone in the classroom. (He let me stay.)

Man, what was the name of my senior-year English teacher? I wonder if she worried about my mental health after I wrote a whole paper on Jack the Ripper, after reading several books on him. (Obsession, thy name is High School.)

Hail, teachers; you may not have taught me your subject matter, but you definitely formed me!


At 12:15 AM, May 09, 2007, Blogger heather said...

you and your subjunctives. should you find yourself bored, i suggest writing an algorithm governing proper use of the subjunctive. educational? sure. entertaining? very likely.

that math cheer is awesome.

At 11:59 PM, May 09, 2007, Blogger Dharma said...

I can barely remember my teachers' names from all those years. Interesting what we each remember.

At 12:44 AM, May 10, 2007, Blogger andrea said...

ooh, excellent recap, i shall do the same. i may have to pull out the old yearbook for some help on the names though!

At 3:53 PM, May 10, 2007, Blogger Dharma said...

No fair you have yearbooks!


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