Monday, November 23, 2009

fair, with men in overalls

Dear Mr. S.,

I have wanted to get in touch with you for many years. Before Google, I asked about you a bit and found no leads. On and off  I'd look for your name, but it was too common to identify you. I'd heard that you'd gone to law school, but that never turned up any searches either. So, now I have to thank Facebook for helping me locate you. (I'm glad it's done some good!) I'm also pleased to have found Jenny B., who saw my query about you on the Elementary School page and contacted me.

I can hardly expect you to recall the faces or names of all the students you taught, but I'll go for it anyway and see if I can prompt your memory.  I tend to think that I was a nondescript kid who wanted the focus diverted away from me most of the time. I wanted special attention but would not have asked for it. My guess, in hindsight, is that you made us all feel as if we were getting special attention.

I had very few teachers who had interest in challenging me. I was happy performing with the majority and was a pretty lazy student. Your 6th grade class was the exception. I believe there were a handful of us who completed several math books that year in order to add stars to a chart.  And to make you proud. You have remained in my memory as one of the only teachers who ever pushed me out of that complacency. I hope you have pride in those teaching years.

I'll never forget your explanation of "fair", (as in "Life is not fair.") "Fair is where men in overalls throw cowchips for distance." That must have been you. My kids look at me like I'm crazy when I say it, as I remember us looking at you. You can be happy to know that it stuck, eventually.  I get it now.

I became a teacher of special needs preschoolers after college and grad school, and realized that you had been part of my motivation to teach. Challenging the bright ones is fun, and I enjoy working with all kids, but the brains of those who aren't learning are the ones who intrigue me the most.  I like figuring out why they aren't learning and putting the material in a new format which they can finally use. Right now (for the past eight years) I've been home with my two boys.  What comes next is still undecided, but I do hope to teach in some format again.

I have bumped into a parent of a former student a few times since I taught her daughter, my first year teaching.  I have not had an opportunity to have any contact with any former students.  But it makes me wonder what I'd like to hear.  I hope that, whether they remember me or not, (I never taught anyone older than six), they were given a good foundation for future years of school.  I hope that their parents were left prepared for the hurdles of bureaucracy they were aimed to meet.  I hope that I made a difference.

I can say, without a doubt, that you made a difference in my life.

With much appreciation,

I'm including a recent family photo as well as a link to the blog I write.   I have shared this letter on my blog, without names.  I strongly considered including the 6th grade class photo, but you were spared because my scanner isn't working!

1 comment:

  1. You are fortunate in being able to say "thank you" to a teacher. The teacher who was most influential in my school years died long ago, and I never was able to thank him. He was very 'Progressive' for the 1940's, but inspired almost all of his students to learn. So I'll say, " Thank you, Mr. Neiderhauser, for a great step in my education." I hope he can read this somewhere in the Great Beyond!