Thursday, September 9, 2010

School Dayz

I've always had a special place in my heart for September. First my late August birthday signaled the end of summer, usually pretty boring by then. I was always ready for Labor Day and back to school. There is something about a fresh notebook, a new pen, a freshly brown papered school book that called to me.

My favorite subject in high school was English. I had the same English teacher for three years in a row, Ken Robinson. When we first met, he had just graduated college. We were his first class. He had a shock of red hair and an easy manner. He was funny and irreverent, exactly what we needed. He also had a MBG which served as my late bus one memorable afternoon. Too bad teachers can't drive kids home anymore, it was quite the thrill.

We called him Robbie, we called Ken. We even called him Red, but never to his face. It was the late sixties and alternate teaching techniques were the rage in our high school. He taught us poetry using the lyrics of Simon and Garfunkel. He played us his favorite music and accepted comic books (the first graphic novels?) as term papers. We decorated the room and put on plays. We played pranks on him, having him paged to the office and rearranging all the desks. He never got mad, always finding the humor in our efforts and getting us back on track with our schoolwork. I know we tested his limits and taught him as much about teaching as he was teaching us about English.

Somehow he taught us valuable lessons amidst the chaos. That we were unique and valuable. That the jocks didn't rule the school. That poetry-and poets-mattered. He always had time for a confused teen and a kind word. His smile was enough to make you hit the books harder.

He was the first teacher that showed me the depth of literature, how stories could be read for different meanings. He taught me to look beyond the obvious.

i write stories now because of Mr. Robinson had an unerring faith in my talent. He died way too young, thirteen years ago, younger than I am now. My mother sent me the story of his memorial service from the school paper. Seemed like he never changed. He was still the most beloved teacher at my high school. His picture is on my refrigerator and every day when i set off to work, I glance at his smiling face and doff an imaginary hat.

Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. Remember me to one who lives there. She was once a true love of mine.

Can you take another contest this week? Sure you can. I'll send a cell phone holder that I made out of crime scene tape fabric to a random commenter. You know we like knowing you're out there. Contest ends Saturday night, midnight EST.

14 comments:

Janel said...

My high school English teacher helped me get my first writing job, writing press releases, right after I graduated. I ran into him a few months ago and I can't tell you how happy I was to see him doing so well. I hope my children have a special teacher too.

Camille Minichino said...

Wonderful story, Terri. So sad that he died. But he lives on in your great stories.

Dru said...

nice post and tribute.

I remember I had a bad day with other students and my math teacher pulled me aside and told me that I can do anything I want at my own pace because when it is done, I'll be proud of my accomplishment.

Terri Thayer said...

Special teachers can change a kid's life. Sometimes with just a word of encouragement. I only wish we paid them what they were worth.

Janel, Glad your old teacher is still making a difference.

Dru, My math experiences were more like the ones in Linda's post yesterday. A lot of me feeling really, really dumb.

Linda O. Johnston said...

What a wonderful relationship you had with that special teacher, Terri. I complained a bit yesterday, but I really loved my chemistry and physics teachers. They both encouraged me and made me feel good about myself. And I have to admit I wasn't a scholar in physics!

Betty Hechtman said...

Your English teacher sounds great. How sad that he died so young. Knowing the influence he'd had on you would have made him feel that his career was worthwhile.

Terri Thayer said...

Yes, Linda and Betty, a good teacher is a wonderful thing. Mr. Robinson had a thirty year career changing lives so his legacy carries on.

Jane Jeffress Thomas said...

Teachers like yours are few and far between and are the ones we remember. Yes, it is a shame teachers can't give rides to kids anymore. I hope I was a teacher like your was. So far, I still have a following after being retired now for nearly 15 years. I know I had a good time and I just hope they did as well.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Terri, you brought a smile to my face. I remembered two teachers, Mr. Spejewski, who taught English and drama, and Mr. Besch, who taught chemistry. Although I love science, I feared chemistry. Mr. Besch was a superlative teacher, and I made an A in chemistry. In fact, he gave me such a good grounding that I breezed through beginning chem in college! He also told me to never be afraid of the competition in a field. I took that to heart. You know, if do wonder, do these teachers have any idea how a kind word or a thoughtful comment can stick with us? Sometimes today when I write and worry about publication, I see Mr. Besch and that crooked smile of his as he encouraged me to move toward my dreams.

Terri Thayer said...

Jane, I'm sure you left your marks on the kids. After all, how many of us actually told the teachers how much they meant to us.

The smallest gesture can make a huge difference. No to mention all that educating! Hooray for teachers.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the middle of reading "False Impressions" and enjoying it very much. I am so hoping for the return of Dewey. Will there be more books published in that series? I really want to know what's going on with Dewey, the quilt shop, Buster and, of course, Kym! Pat

Terri Thayer said...

Thanks, Pat! Glad you're enjoying FI. Dewey is still out there having adventures. Not sure when we'll see another book in that series, though.

Stay tuned!

NL Gassert said...

My High School math teacher, Mr. Richter. He always expected the best from his students. He set high standards and expected his students to follow his example, striving to do their best, not simply to pass tests, but to ace them.

Sadly, I lost contact with him over the years.

Terri Thayer said...

Number 1 comment wins! So Janel, send me your snail mail address and I'll get your cell phone holder into the mail to you. You can email me at terri@territhayer.com.

Congrats! Big hugs to everyone who entered.