Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Once More, With Feeling

by Nancy

Feelings. Emotion. The heart of romance in real life and on the page, right? But they also carry over into so many other endeavors. Acting. Cooking. Music. Mr. Phillips, my high school band director, used to tell us to put some feeling into the music. At 17, not particularly familiar with classical pieces, I found that difficult at first. Then, as we played pieces like "The Marriage of Figaro" again and again, with fewer wrong notes, I did begin to feel it, to have a sense of melody rising and falling, of counter-melody moving through it. So did everyone else, and we got better. Sounded better. And I developed a love of classical music I didn't have before.

Some of my best high school experiences came from band-related activities--concerts, parades, and trips. Our band was big, so we needed 3 Greyhound-sized buses to go anywhere. One year, on our way back to the school from the big Thanksgiving parade, someone said, "Let's play our way down the street," so we hauled out our instruments (except the bass drum and tuba, stored under the bus), stuck 'em out the windows, and started to play. Nutty? Sure. Melodic? Probably depended on where you were standing. Fun. Abso-dadgum-lutely!

I look back on those years now and marvel at Mr. Phillips' dedication. On a high school teacher's salary, he taught a disparate group of kids to play complicated musical compositions. He marched beside us in parades, climbed the bleachers with a bullhorn during practice to check halftime show formations, and stood out in the heat with us until we got them right. Mediocre wasn't good enough, not when we could do better. That's a life lesson, too.

He arranged opportunities to travel, even if it was only across the state. The University of North Carolina used to host something called Band Day, inviting high school bands from the Carolinas to Chapel Hill for a football game. They sent everyone the same musical pieces to prepare ahead of time and, on game day, roped off the letters "UNC" in the field's center. Then they filled the entire rest of the field with high school band members, erected stands for the conductors so every musician could see one, and made us the halftime show. Band Day was the first time I heard the phrase at which graduates of other schools scoff, "If God is not a Tar Heel, why is the sky Carolina blue?"

Clearly, Mr. Phillips had a passion for his subject and for his students that showed in everything he did. So did my Latin teacher, Mrs. Brown. Bringing ancient Rome alive takes some doing, but she accomplished that. So much so that when the dh and I first traveled in England, I was desperate to see Hadrian's Wall, the barrier Emperor Hadrian built across the North to keep out the warring Picts. A fanciful version of the wall (and of the Picts or "Woad") appears in the recent King Arthur film. Rosemary Sutcliff wrote a wonderful YA historical novel, Eagle of the Ninth, about the massacre of Rome's Ninth Legion by the Picts north of the wall.

The dh and I had one afternoon to see this marvel of Roman construction, which apparently contributed much of the cut stone for buildings in nearby Hexham. We had to park some distance away, cross a pasture and then climb a hill to get to it. The day was overcast, wind blowing so hard birds couldn't fly and whipping our jackets around us and our hair into our faces. Rain sprinkled on us.

As we trudged across the pasture, heads down to fight the wind, he said, "Are you sure you want to do this?"

I nodded. "This is the closest I've ever been to something the Romans built. You can wait in the car if you want, but I'm going up there."

"Okay, then. If you're going, I'm going, too," he said, in true romance hero fashion.

As we struggled up the hill in the wind, discussing the unpleasantness of being stationed there in the winter, a thunderous, ground-shaking sonic boom roared out of the clouds like the voice of Mars, the Roman god of war. It was way freakin' cool, a real goose bumps moment, and worth being a little damp. (We later learned there was an RAF base nearby, so we figured a low-flying fighter had added to the ambiance.). If not for Mrs. Brown, I never would've bothered to seek out the wall. The dh and I would've missed that priceless moment.

Now I'm a teacher, too. The fall semester is starting, and the spring semester evaluations just came back. As usual, most students didn't have much to say, a few seriously disliked something about my approach, and a few were even enthusiastic. Of course, they occasionally write strange things. For example: (Question) "What is your opinion of the course materials?" (Answer) "Boring, but others might like them." (My reaction) "So other people might like being bored?" Or: (Question) "What does that instructor do that contributes to or hinders the success of the class for you?" (Answer, not indicating whether this helped or hindered) "She had already read all the books we covered." (My reaction) "I should hope so!"

The evaluations that mean the most to me, though, are ones that say, "Ms. Northcott has a passion for the subject that gets the class interested" or "She is enthusiastic about teaching this topic." Along with being told I made a student think of something in a new way, I consider that the highest praise I can receive. The luxury of teaching part-time, the compensation for the pittance I earn, is that I get to teach classes I really care about. I'm glad that comes through to the students and that they respond to it. Looking back, I realize I also responded to my teachers' enthusiasm, even though I didn't realize it at the time.

What about you? What teachers do you remember having a passion for their subjects? What subjects or activities are you passionate about?


flchen1 said...

Go teachers!

flchen1 said...

What a lovely post, Nancy! I do remember teachers who were passionate about their topics, and who generously shared some of their passions with us! I recall a poetry teacher who intimidated us a bit because of how much she clearly knew and loved her subject, but it was hard to be in her class and be unmoved! I think that most of my best teachers clearly loved their subjects and that passion made us take interest, too, even when my own interests might lie elsewhere. (I had some wonderful geography, physics, and chemistry teachers who made those topics more interesting, even though I struggled to master the material...) So a huge thanks to you, and to all those passionate teachers out there who are lovingly sharing the wide world out there with new students all the time!

As for my passions, books (of course ;)), family, ballet, and food...

Tawny said...

Oooh, I remember one of my middle school teachers, Mr. Greenburg, who taught Social Studies. He was so enthusiastic and fun. He was also an artist, so the lessons were always intriguing and multi-layered.

It takes a real gift to not only teach the subject, but to evoke interest and an answering passion in students- I admire teachers like you so much.

As for my passions... Ahem... *g* Writing, romance, spirituality, my family and anything Johnny Depp. I do feel quite, quite passionate about Johnny Depp.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Fedora, go you! One chook for the day!

Nancy, what an absolutely lovely post. And I'm so glad you persevered and saw Hadrian's Wall. I've driven past bits of it but the one day I had a chance to see it properly, you know, walk a bit of it, touch it, I had a killer flu and stayed home to watch Born Free instead. Seriously, in case you think I'm being wimpy, this flu took me six weeks to get over. I've never been so sick - it really was a KILLER flu!

Love the post about teachers. I've actually got a blog up my sleeve about my grade six and seven teacher who I think helped turned me into a writer. So I'll say to be continued...

Barbara Monajem said...

Argh. My post just got beamed up to Elsewhere. I'll try again.

I went to Hadrian's Wall long ago... My grandfather painted a picture from one of the photos my dad took. It's a bleak scene, more than half of it grey sky. The grass is yellow and brown, and there are patches of snow. I hope to go back there someday (and to re-read The Eagle of the Ninth -- I love Rosemary Sutcliff's books!).

For a year and a half in high school, I had the world's best chemistry teacher. I LOVED chem class. Then we moved, and the new teacher was the kind only the science geeks understand. Pfft. I completely lost interest in chem. Still, to this day, I love and REMEMBER basic chemistry, all because of a fabulous teacher.

Deb Marlowe said...

Your students are lucky to have you, Nancy!

I credit the beginning of my love affair with history to one special teacher. He clearly loved his subject and he enjoyed his job. He was intimidating and tough, but I learned a lot!

Caren Crane said...

Fedora, have fun with the GR!

Nancy, you make a great point about teachers with passion making a difference in how a student learns about a subject. I liked, but did not love, physics and thermodynamics, but had a couple of great educators.

I was lucky enough to have one (of many) great physics professor in college. He thought physics was the most natural thing in the world (it is) and it should, therefore, be easy to understand. Somehow, listening to him, it was.

The professor I had for thermodynamics was the Chair of the Mechanical engineering program. Now, I was NOT an ME student, but it was a required course for EE so I took it. I loved that class! He made it both fun and interesting and I learned more in there than in several semesters of electromagnetic theory, let me tell you. The love for the subject came through and spoke to even jaded, uninterested students.

I'm sure you are a terrific and passionate teacher. Too bad *I* can't take your class! *g*

Caren Crane said...

Oh, forgot the "what I'm passionate about" part. I am inappropriately passionate about language and its usage. This is bound to get me fired one day, because I can't seem to refrain from making comments about the egregious use of language on our internal website at work. They used "curriculums"!! Not once, but it several places. On purpose!!

I understand that some things are "in use" but that does NOT make them correct. My three years of Latin make me rather rabid about words like "indexes" and "curriculums". The manager of our Learning and Development group said they chose "curriculums" rather than "curricula" on purpose, considering the target audience. In other words, they think we employees are too dumb to figure out what "curricula" are. It was all I could do not to quit on the spot. Ack!

Helen said...

Congrats Fedora have fun with him

Wonderful post Nancy I always enjoyed school I had so much fun when at school. I was in year 10 (school certificate year here in Australia) I had a fantastic English teacher Mrs Smith and even though I had always been a big reader she encouraged me even more and just made me love english.

My eldest daughter Rebecca is a high school teacher who teaches English and History and I know her students love her and she so enjoys her job she has just gone back after having 8 months off on maternity leave and is only working 3 days a week but she really enjoys being back although she does miss Jake but he is really happy here with Poppy and Aunty Kirsty while Nanny has to go to work.

I think that if you have a teacher that loves their work and really enjoys it you can encourage the students I know you won't get to all of them but the magority you will with patience and understanding.

Have Fun

Christine Wells said...

Nancy, wonderful post! Yes, I'm peeping out of the deadline cave to say a long overdue hello!

I have absolutely no doubt you are a fantastic teacher and I can't tell you how much difference enthusiastic teachers made to me at school and uni. I've since realized (thanks to Jeanne's great workspace workshop) that I'm an auditory learner, so it makes sense that great teachers always helped me learn better. We had a wonderful ancient history teacher in high school who used to flick her hands and tell us to put our books away and she'd sit on the desk and tell us about battles and power struggles as if she was telling a story. I think unapologetic enthusiasm for a subject will always infect a willing student, and some unwilling ones, too! Great to hear some of yours appreciate you as you deserve, Nancy.

Congrats on the rooster, Fedora!

Maria said...

I distinctly remember my first grade teacher. Mrs. Loeb. She taught with such enthusiasm it was infectious. I definitely developed my love of reading from her.

Nancy said...

Fedora, congrats on taking home the rooster!

Glad you liked the post. Your poetry teacher sounds wonderful. I have to confess that I don't know how to analyze poetry, how to dig into and see what the author did and why.

You're into ballet? Watching, doing, or both?

Nancy said...

Tawny, thanks. I wish I could really ignite more students' interest. I'm not one of those teachers they all adore, but I do take satisfaction from the ones who engage with the subject enough to dig deeper.

Did Mr. Greenburg work art into Social Studies? I confess to working science fiction and fantasy into the 1920s at every opportunity.

So how's Johnny doing these days? *g*

Nancy said...

Thanks, Anna. I'll look forward to that post about those teachers.

I sympathize with the flu. If I'd had the flu that day, I'd have been huddled under covers at the B&B, where they probably would've been eager to get rid of us. (I had a stomach bug once in London, but we won't dwell on that. I'll just say I stayed very close to the bathroom all day.) Once I was there, though, and could actually see the wall, nothing short of lightning strikes would've gotten me to turn around.

Nancy said...

Hi, Barbara--Sometimes Blogger does strange things.

That picture sounds wonderful, very evocative.

The boy loved his first high school science class, biology. That teacher engaged him so much that he went above and beyond on every class project, just threw himself into it. Then he had a chemistry teacher he didn't relate to, and we watched his enthusiasm plummet. It was sad to see.

I loved chemistry lab, but I had trouble with all the math involved in chemistry. I have to admit I never took physics because I envisioned even more math. In college, I took an astronomy class that was fabulous (with a professor who clearly loved his subject), but the math was not good for my GPA. History and I were a much better fit.

Speaking of Sutcliff, have you read her Arthurian, Sword at Sunset?

Nancy said...

Hi, Deb--thank you.

I learned a lot from demanding teachers, too. I think there's a balance to be struck. A demanding teacher also has to be accessible, but the more I had to dig as a student to succeed, the more I absorbed.

Nancy said...

Caren, thanks. See, physics is not "natural" to me. It may govern forces of nature, but it puts my brain on "tilt." I have a cousin who works for NASA and can explain things without a lot of technical terminology, but I have to remind I need it that way. "Explain it in history major terms" is my phrase, and he always laughs and lops out the techno-jargon.

I associate thermodynamics with Star Trek. Which is to say, I expect the field to be incomprehensible for my brain. Your teachers sound wonderful, and I would love to comprehend things things the way you do.

TerriOsburn said...

Lovely blog, Nancy! I just watched a show last night that talked about Hadrian's Wall. I have this great PBS channel called World and they have a show where they go in search of the origins and truths behind myths and legends. Last night was King Arthur and it led to that wall. I love that sort of thing.

I too did the band thing. My first year we had Mr. C who had been there for years. That was the most fun time, but unfortunately Mr. C left after that year and they brought in some new guy fresh out of college. He turned us into a competition band and took all the fun out of it. I only made it two more years then quit.

Many teachers made a lasting impression on me. From Mr. McDonald, our crazy music teacher in elementary school (looked like a cross between Ronald McDonald and Carrot Top!) to Ms. Bernabee, my 7th grade English teacher. She's the first teacher to give us writing prompts and let us run with them. I ADORED those assignments.

But the woman who really taught me to write was Sr. Eleanor. Tiny, tough, and tenacious, she would make us write those papers over and over and over until they were the best we could do. I had her freshman and senior year and will always be grateful for all she taught me.

Nancy said...

Caren, I feel your pain. One joy of not teaching a writing-intensive class is that I don't feel obligated to correct sentence structure or punctuation issues. I read essay questions for content only, which is way easier.

It's the curse of Latin students, I think. At my college, we have the alumni association. However, what we actually have among our graduates are alumni and alumnae (the masculine and feminine endings, for the non-Latin students). But I guess that's too much to put on brochures. To me, Latin is like a puzzle, with word endings the clue to what goes with what. I loved it.

Nancy said...

Hi, Helen--glad you liked the post. It's great that Rebecca loves her job so much. And I'm sure you're happy to take care of Jake, right?

I had history professors who keyed into my interest in the subject and expanded it. I was just telling the guys last night about my American History professor, who perched on the edge of the table, talked without notes, and delivered lecture after lecture in a perfectly organized outline. When I reviewed my notes after the first day in his class, I was astounded. Of course, he'd been teaching American History for something like 30 years, but still--pretty impressive!

Nancy said...

Christine, thanks. Welcome back to daylight! I would've loved to have that teacher for ancient history. My own professor was very good and totally brilliant, but he wasn't into military tactics. He sent us to the library for readings in Herodotus and Thucydides, but that wasn't his personal thing.

Nancy said...

Maria, what a great experience. I was afraid of my first grade teacher. She had a tendency to be snappish unpredictably.

Nancy said...

Terri, thanks. I wish I had seen that PBS special, but we don't get that channel.

You've had some fabulous teachers. Your band instructor sounds like a hoot! What did you play?

Band Day at Cary was a competition, but we didn't know it. We thought we were just marching in a parade--and we took third. Not bad, huh? We did a contest every year, but it was indoors, just seated and playing, and while we all took it seriously, it wasn't cut-throat. I can see how that would take the fun out of it.

TerriOsburn said...

Well, we went from elbows down and doing really fun routines to elbows up and a drill sergeant. Not. Fun. LOL!

I was in percussion the first two years. Little 4'11" me playing bass drum was quite entertaining. But I played louder and better than the two guys playing the bigger drums. Ha! Then I played bells/mallets/xylophone the next and ended up in Flag Corps.

Nancy said...

Terri--percussion! How fun!

The dh played the bassoon, not exactly a marchable instrument, so he did a stint on bass drum--until he got tired in a parade and unwittingly slowed the cadence to a point where the band was plodding.

Then they put him on cymbals and then glockenspiel, as he called the bells (not sure if that's spelled right). Various disasters ensued.

With the clarinet, it was always elbows down. And the instrument is easy to carry along your arm, fingers cupped in the bell, when you march.

Flag corps can be challenging--spinning that flag around and keeping it in its own space. I never figured I had the coordination for it.

Susan Sey said...

Nancy, what a great & timely post! Especially for those of us shepherding our precious first-borns into the school system in a week or two & praying that they land with a teacher who can see how absolutely precious & perfect they are.

As for me, I had a teacher in 2nd grade, Mrs. McKinnon, who did not think highly of my intellectual abilities. She was impatient & brusque with the dreamy little girl I probably was, & had several stern conversations with my mother about my inadequacies. I hated school in second grade.

Then in third grade I had Mrs. Johnson, & she loved me. Probably just loved children in general (unlike Mrs. McK), but at 8 years old, it's a purely academic distinction. She loved ME, & I could tell. I remember she once peeked over my shoulder at a poem I was working on, then leaned over to another adult in the room & said, "Doesn't Susan just have a way with words?"

And in that instant a writer was born.

Thank you, Mrs. Johnson.

And Mrs. McKinnon? I hope you're retired.

Nancy said...

Susan wrote: "Doesn't Susan just have a way with words?"

And in that instant a writer was born.

What a great story! Mrs. McKinnon sounds a little like my first grade teacher, who was a distant relative of ours, according to my mom, in that vague but extensive way southerners tended to count kinship back then.

TerriOsburn said...

Nancy - I'm cracking up at the idea of him slowing down the band. LOL! Re: Flag Corps, they made it even harder for us since we had to twirl the darn thing around this large hat that was part of the uniform. Think Three Muskateers type thing. And a full skirt. It was tough, but I have much better arms back then. LOL!

Joan said...

I had good teachers through most of school...except Ms. Martin who taught me Algebra one quarter. Her degree was ENGLISH yet they stuck her teaching Algebra..with a very distinctive Texas drawl that this Kentucky 10th grader could not understand.

Mrs. Pierce. 5th Grade. Inspired me to write and guess how that is connected to what I am passionate about???

As to Hadrian's Wall...way cool. A friend of mine did a semester over there with an archeological team excavating near Roman ruins. As they brushed molecules of dirt off objects, they looked up to see a unit of Roman soldiers marching by!

The were visible only from the knees up (a theory that their feet were actually treading on the ground at the level it had been during their time). They marched through the wall and disappeared...

Probably on the way to a lunch break for some tasty garum ...aka fish sauce :-)

Donna MacMeans said...

Nancy - I would love some day to take your class. I can feel your passion for the subject even when you're not officially teaching. One of these days, one of your students will be writing a blog about fond memories of you. Your students just haven't recognized the gift they've received.

My passions include the art of telling a story, be it through the written or oral form, Painting and the expression of emotion through form and color, and Romance as an expression of passion for life.

jo robertson said...

Great topic, Nancy! I loved my high school social studies teacher. She made history come alive for me and inspired me so much that I majored in history in college. I later switched to English, but I never lost my love of history.

I don't think we can measure the effect that a good (or bad, for that matter) teacher has on a student. Everyone remembers his kindergarten teacher, right?

Anna Campbell said...

Joan, I've been to that house! It's the Treasurer's House near York Minster and you can do a ghost tour down to the cellar where the Roman Soldiers were marching. It's WAAAAAAY cool! Well, kinda eerie, but definitely cool!

Nancy said...

Terri, I'll have to tell you the dh's other band disaster stories sometime. If I can ever get him to come to RWA, he can tell them himself. Really, he was made for orchestra, not marching band, but his small high school offered only band, which meant marching.

Did you have to wear boots for Flag Squad? My freshman year in college, I attended a school with a marching band, and the women in the band not only wore miniskirts but had to march in high-heeled boots. Ugh! Try doing a stride step in those things. After the one parade we marched, I thought my feet were going to fall off. And might've felt better if they had.

The college I attended after that, my alma mater, didn't have marching band. Pep band meant jeans and a special polo shirt with footwear of choice. Much easier!

Nancy said...

Joan, I love the archaeology story! How cool would that be? I thought about going into archaeology at one point, but the whole digging up bones thing just didn't work for me. And mummies? Never mind!

Nancy said...

Donna, thank you. That's very nice of you. Come on down, and I'll find you a desk. :-)

I know you tell a great story and write fabulous romances, so that's two of the three. Do you also paint?

Nancy said...

Jo, thanks. I think making a subject come alive, as your social studies teacher did, is the key. That may be one reason I've glommed onto social history. We studied mainly political history in school. My senior year in college, a new professor taught American Thought and Civilization From 1865, and I was fascinated. And social history is more useful to a romance writer than political history. It's worldbuilding, y'know?

Cassondra said...

Oh, Nancy. I've had so many wonderful, amazing, gifted teachers. And a few really, really horrid ones.

With a good teacher, I can learn anything. I am convinced of this.

My first grade teacher, Mrs. Sandusky, taught me to read and to write. And she did a good job of it. Without that gift, I would not be the person I am. She also told me, once, as I stood beside her desk that I could do, or be, anything in the world that I wanted to do, or be. And I believed her. In that moment, my soul shifted, and that belief has lived in me ever since.

Mrs. Vance, however--in the next room over, taught first-grade math. When I whispered to the boy next to me, asking could he please pass the pencils, (you know, the giant, fat, red pencils all parked in cans distributed down the row of tables? Those pencils)she grabbed me out of my chair and shook me. I never learned any more math.

Not until I got to college and a phenomenal woman taught Algebra 055(that's remedial algebra) and I found out I was good at math. Since then I've gone on to conquer any math challenge I've encountered.

Teachers are the most valuable people on the planet, next to parents, I think.

There was Dr. Pfoff, a biology instructor. He designed the goggles which Air Force pilots use when they deliver nuclear weapons so that their eyes are not damaged. He LOVED his subject. A college physics teacher whose name I cannot remember, but who loved to teach people what he knew. My high school art teacher, Mrs. Scott, who changed my life forever. The agriculture teacher who taught me to weld. And Mr. Ausenbaugh, the man who taught Feature Writing in the journalism program at my university. I credit that man for teaching me how to be a writer.

I have no doubt that you are an amazing teacher.

Nancy said...

Anna, if I ever get back to York, I have to check that out. Eboracum to the Romans, wasn't it?

TerriOsburn said...

Oh, I'd love to meet Mr. Nancy! LOL! (Though I promise not to call him that.) My school offered concert band but if you played in one, you played in the other.

We wore white knee high boots with about an inch, maybe inch and a half heel. Though no mini skirts, that was left to the dance line. Thank goodness. I don't remember the boots being a problem. Maybe I've blocked that out?

Anna Sugden said...

Lovely post, Nancy.

As a former teacher (of kidlets aged 7-11), I always used to believe that a successful year was if I could help one child make a major step-change in their ability. Whether it was to learn to read or 'see numbers'. And for each child in the class to have one thing they learned which they were really enthusiastic about.

I loved those small moments of pleasure - when a previously disinterested child went home and looked up stuff on the internet and brought the info in. Or who passed on info to other kids or their parents. When you found out what a child's strength was and could use that to boost their confidence - especially when it wasn't the three r's!

I don't expect any of the kids I taught will remember me specifically. But, I am happy that they'll never forget what I taught them and that they left my class with more than they arrived.

Interestingly, my favourite primary school teacher (Mr Farquarson) introduced me to the delights of Manchester United!

Nancy said...

Cassondra, thank you. I try. You have really had an array of fabulous teachers.

You wrote: She also told me, once, as I stood beside her desk that I could do, or be, anything in the world that I wanted to do, or be. And I believed her. In that moment, my soul shifted, and that belief has lived in me ever since.

It's so important to have that in our lives. The dh is not good at memorization, the skill critical to so many elementary school lessons. I joke that he married me so he wouldn't need SpellCheck. And his handwriting is horrible. He wasn't considered very bright until he hit middle school and had a teacher who looked beyond the scrawled writing and the lousy spelling to the actual content. Only then did he develop confidence in school.

I think he regrets never having gone back and told that teacher what a difference he'd made. I'm usually bad about that, too, but I bought Mrs. Brown a postcard at Hadrian's wall. She'd had a couple of strokes and was in a nursing home, though her mind was perfectly clear, and we had a wonderful visit.

If I'd had your math teacher, I'd have shut down. I was such a shy child and so easily squelched (I know none of you are believing this, but it's true) that I'd have just wilted if treated that way. And I had to have a tutor for algebra. I didn't see the reason for all those variables.

Nancy said...

Terri wrote: . I don't remember the boots being a problem. Maybe I've blocked that out?

Or maybe your boots actually fit. My AAA foot struck again on the boot-shopping expedition. I had to make do with the best I could get.

I might actually pay you to call him Mr. Nancy. *VBEG* Just to see his face.

Nancy said...

Anna, thanks. I love your teaching philosophy. That's such an important age, 7-11, when they're developing as people and moving out of the basics. That one step of improvement could make all the difference to a child.

You wrote: When you found out what a child's strength was and could use that to boost their confidence - especially when it wasn't the three r's!

Oh, I think a lot of them probably remember you. You noticed them as individuals, and the teachers I remember (not just the two I mentioned today) are ones who did just that.

MsHellion said...

Go teachers, indeed.

I found my high school teachers, Ms Yount and Ms Isaacs memorable, but I couldn't tell you what they were passionate about within their subject area (English Ed). It's quite possible Ms Yount had a passion for Emerson and that Thanatopis (sp?) poem--and if so, her passion failed to inspire me. *LOL* I still flinch whenever that poem crops up or I hear about a transendentalist writer. college, I had a history teacher, Dr. Alioto. He was passionate on a number of things--but he was a real science guru. Myself, I can't stand science. I don't like it; I don't understand it; and I flat out, don't care. Triple threat. But this history professor was able to teach the history of science in such a way that made science awesome. I still thank him for that.

Cassondra said...

Nancy said:

Band Day at Cary was a competition, but we didn't know it. We thought we were just marching in a parade--and we took third. Not bad, huh? We did a contest every year, but it was indoors, just seated and playing, and while we all took it seriously, it wasn't cut-throat. I can see how that would take the fun out of it.

OMG, yes. I graduated from the high school which has won the band competitions (overall) in our state sincen I was in high school, and that's a long time ago. I was told, in the sixth grade, what instrument I would play (I started on clarinet, but wanted to switch to sax, but they didn't need a sax. They needed clarinet)because of what they needed. I didn't last long. My buddy went all the way through his junior year in high school competing with the band, but he got elected as FFA president, and was told, "pick one." So he picked FFA. That likely did him more long-term good because of the leadership experience. Those competition bands are SO demanding.

Nancy said...

MsHellion, your history teacher sounds marvelous! I'm largely indifferent to the study of theology, but I had to take a religion class to graduate from college. I took History of American Religious thought on the advice of religion majors who swore it was just like a history class. And they were right. It was wonderful and engaging, and I learned a lot.

Nancy said...

Cassondra, I took clarinet became my mom pushed me that way. I wanted to take flute. The marching posture for clarinet is more comfortable, at least to me, not that this matters to a fifth-grader, but I like the solo sound of the flute more than that of the clarinet. I could've switched when I was older, but we'd paid for the clarinet and I liked it fine.

Nobody I knew in band still plays. My clarinet is gathering dust in the closet and would need new pads and cork, not to mention a reed, if I chose to blow into it and produce horrible sounds (which is what happens, of course, when you don't keep your lip, fingers and diaphragm in practice). I enjoyed being part of something bigger, contributing to the whole, and I loved the sound of the music, but if it hadn't been fun, I'd have ditched it before high school.

The dh doesn't have the lip control for the bassoon anymore (double reed instruments like bassoon and oboe, for the non-band people among us, are especially difficult), but he can play boogie woogie on the recorder.

MsHellion said...

History of American Religious thought

This totally sounds like something Dr. Alioto would have taught as well. (He did the History of Christianity classes and they were BRILLIANT.) I would have really loved this class, I'm sure. I find the evolution of religion in America to be very interesting.

Nancy said...

MsHellion, it was a very interesting class. With a broader spectrum than I'd expected going in.

Becke Davis said...

I LOVE teachers! Two of my nieces are teachers. Several of my best friends are teachers. I'm still in touch with my fourth grade teacher, my sophomore English teacher and my journalism advisors from my junior and senior years of high school.

Since I was always an English geek, those were the teachers I remember the best. Vervia Pratt (her name was old fashioned even then) put quotations on the blackboard every day and taught me the meaning of "Pro Patria Mori, Dulce et Decorum Est." She also instilled a love of poetry in me.

James Striker taught me to think outside of the box when writing.

The lovely Marjorie Schaller taught me to love words for themselves -- she would send back graded papers with phrases like, "Sterling work!" and "Grand and glorious!" She's still going strong, and thinking of her still brings a smile to my face.

The late Richard J. Calisch, poet, English teacher and head of the Humanities Division at Elk Grove High School many, many years ago.

At the time, I thought he was being elitist when he insisted on striving for the best. Now I am thankful for the way he pounded those ideals into my head at a young age. He challenged me constantly to do more than I thought I could. He opened my eyes to possibilities for a future I couldn't imagine. It's taken me years to realize how much he influenced me.

flchen1 said...

Nancy, I'm still not sure I know too much about how to analyze poetry, but Flossie (Ms. Lewis--that was the poetry goddess) still made quite an impression on all of us :)

And ballet--both, although I'm never going to be an on-your-toes kind of ballerina ;)

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

WONDERFUL Post, Nancy!

My high school drama teacher was one of the most passionate I was lucky enough to have. She would put on one Shakespeare play per year, usually a comedy. With high school students, she was truly a brave woman! But she definitely instilled a love and passion in Shakespeare in me and many others. THANK YOU Mrs. Lautenslauger!


Nancy said...

Becke, what a wonderful lineup of teachers! A demanding teacher and the experience of having to dig deeper and try harder can pay huge dividends.

Nancy said...

Fedora, if Ms. Lewis, goddess of poetry, made an impression on you, I'm sure you are way more adept at analyzing poetry than I am. I haven't had a clue since it stopped rhyming.

I'm impressed with the ballet. Ballerinas are so graceful. A friend in NYC once took me to Swan Lake at Lincoln Center. Baryshnikov danced a comic role in a shorter ballet on the bill; his career was winding down then, but seeing him was a real treat. The whole thing was beautiful.

Nancy said...

AC, thanks! And thanks for taking time out of your very busy guest blog schedule today to stop in.

AC is promoting The Treasures of Venice today on various blogs. Maybe she'll give us the URLs? I picked up the book last night. It has a gorgeous cover and looks fabulous. I'm eager to read it!

And I think a high school teacher who stages Shakespeare is brave, indeed.

EilisFlynn said...

Sadly, I never had a teacher who was that enthusiastic about his or her topic until college, which was how I ended up a linguistical anthropology major (big bucks there, believe you me!). To this day I have a real affection for how language is so different, yet so much the same throughout the world.

Nancy said...

Eilis, I always thought linguistic anthropology sounded fascinating. At one time I considered trying to take several different languages, but history lured me away.

Lynz Pickles said...

Ah, great teachers. I had four of them: Mr. Dvernachuk in grade five, Mr. Maxwell and Mr. Rushby in grade nine, and Mr. Rakosy in grade ten.

I started a new school for the first time in grade five, and in a new language. I'd been in French immersion until then, and switching to English would've been so much harder with another teacher. Mr. D. was hilarious, and most importantly, he had a bathtub filled with pillows in his classroom. I lived for the days I got a turn in it, or on the couch. But mainly, the bathtub. *sigh* I loved that tub.

Mr. Rushby was the head of the math department, and we were so lucky to have him when starting high school. He loved math, and he made the icky stuff interesting by using humour. He'd make themed tests: every question on one would be related to figuring out how much money his wife and son stole from his piggy bank, or how far they travelled on vacation while he stayed behind. Funny, funny tests... that year was the last time I got an A in math.

Mr. Maxwell was our English teacher, but he didn't usually teach that subject. He was really a philosophy teacher, and he looooved it. Let's just say that discussions in English class that year were amazing. Oh, and he was very good with self-deprecating humour. Hehehehe.

Mr. Rakosy taught history, and loved it. Being in his class didn't feel like being in high school, since handouts were far and few between and getting a 90+ grade past the first term was next to impossible, but he was funny and brought the subject to life. Not that history needs any help, since it's awesome, but he made it even better.

As for my passions... have I mentioned languages before? Also, history and literature, especially romances. So, basically, I should start reading historical romances in French or Spanish. Hmm.

Nancy said: At one time I considered trying to take several different languages, but history lured me away.

Such a difficult choice! When I was in twelfth grade, three AP courses (French, World History, and Literature) were scheduled in the same afternoon, which had two periods in it. Let me tell you, the humanities nerds were NOT happy with the new VP when he made that schedule. French was the only one which had a non-AP class as well, but that class was scheduled... you guessed it, in that same afternoon! I was a very grumpy Lynz when choosing my courses that year.

Nancy said...

Lynz, what earned a student a turn in the tub full of pillows? Those teachers all sound great.

You and Eilis should probably chat sometime about languages.

My "literary" favorite is Shakespeare. The dh loves Dickens. I think I read that the BBC or the RSC or some combination thereof is doing all the plays again. The BBC did that in conjunction with PBS about 30 years or so ago.

Joan said...

Philosophy? Lynz, that reminds me.

When I went back to college to complete my bachelor of science in nursing, I had to take philosophy 101.

I had a "student" teacher. Can't for the life of me remember his name but he did the same thing...infused humor into his topic.

I fell in LOVE with philosophy...wrote a paper comparing Rush Limbaugh to Socrates (both gadflys...always poking) fell in love with Plato and thrived on the notion of the "Philosophy of Life according to Joanie T"

I even briefly considered getting a minor in it!

Nancy said...

Joan, wow! At my alma mater, Intro to Philosophy was one of the last courses people took for the major because it was so hard. I took two philosophy courses, Logic and Philosophy of Religion, which was fascinating, but I always felt as though clarity of meaning were just a finger's breadth out of my grasp. I did extremely well on papers I turned in not being entirely sure exactly what I'd said and didn't do as well on the ones I thought were precisely reasoned and clearly explained.

That professor really hammered on writing, though. He's the one who first introduced me to Strunk & White, discouraged the use of "It is" to start sentences (or much of any other time) and talked about the importance of using strong verbs.

PJ said...

Wonderful blog, Nancy! I'd love to take your class. I have no doubt that your enthusiasm would infect many students, myself included.

I loved school and was blessed with many terrific teachers. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Hawks, is the woman who always gets the credit when someone compliments my penmanship.

Miss Cronin, my 2nd grade teacher began the process of instilling confidence in a very shy child. She also introduced me to geography and the joy of discovering new countries and cultures. She continued to be my mentor throughout grade school and, as I got older, became a very dear friend.

Mrs. Shafer was my 10th grade English teacher and shared my love of grammar. She was also my 12th grade Psychology teacher, a subject about which she was passionate, and made the class so fascinating that I later minored in Psychology in college. (I majored in English.)

Mr. Keech was my high school drama and journalism teacher. Much of what I know about writing I learned from him. He was the teacher who discovered that a shy girl off stage became someone entirely different once the curtain was raised. He worked with me and encouraged me through minor roles in our stage productions the first three years of high school then shot my confidence into orbit by casting me as the lead in the drama we performed senior year. I don't think he has any idea just how much impact he had on the life of that quiet, shy young girl who is no longer either quiet or shy!

Lynz Pickles said...

Lynz, what earned a student a turn in the tub full of pillows?

Well, the couch and the tub went hand-in-hand. Back then, our desks were put into groups, and one group was in charge of classroom duties each week. That group got to sit on the couch. We rotated the different duties each day, and one of them - I can't remember which one - was considered harder than the rest, so the person doing it for the day got the tub. Our class had about fifteen people in it, so, while couch time wasn't suuuuuuper special, tub time totally was.

Nancy said...

PJ, thanks. I appreciate that.

Your experience and mine with psychology are perfect examples of teachers making a difference. My first psych professor was not exactly interesting. One of the women on my hall and I took turns going, within the limits of the attendance policy. The second was interesting but didn't ignite the subject for me. So I was done after that.

Your drama teacher sounds as though he really knew what he was doing--working you up to it and then giving you a chance to prove to yourself what you could do.

The processes by which shy people become less so are intriguing. For you, it was drama. For me, it was probably debate team. For others, it's a job or series of jobs, or a volunteer slot. Interesting.

Nancy said...

Lynz, rotating duties and rewards, huh? Sounds kind of like life. But what a fun class!

Nancy said...

Just a quick reminder that Gerri Russell will be here tomorrow to tell us about her new Scottish Templar romances and give us a peek at the first book. It's a September release but is in stores now.

limecello said...

Congrats on the GR, fedora!

One of my favorite teachers ever, and a favorite still, was my 7th grade biology teacher. He could've been a professor (and actually lectured at a few universities) but ... he liked kids. (I'll never understand why, but I'm grateful for it.)
He'd put class notes on the board, lecture on them, and we'd copy them down during the period - sometimes adding what he said. It was insane, enthralling, and engaging. Nobody was allowed to yawn. He also had tons of animals - snakes, gerbils, mice, mourning doves, chinchillas, iguanas, giant hissing cockroaches from madagascar, hedgehogs, chicks...
And he'd take us on nature walks - he did survival stuff for fun... Great times. I still have that note book somewhere...

Nancy said...

Limecello, that sounds like an amazing class.