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My English 9 observation with Mrs. Stratton was good, and I am relieved. I tried to say I wouldn’t be nervous, but of course I was. The students were quiet until the point where they forgot the principal was sitting to the side of the classroom. Then they loosened up and began participating in their eager way. There was lots of discussion about symbols, several excited voices trying to share a personal story at once, and one student (who was annoyed with me from the previous day) with his back turned towards me. All’s good. The lesson was successfully completed.

My post-observation meeting also went well, and I was pleased to hear my principal say I was an excellent teacher. I was also surprised to hear her say that I “worked too hard” at times – that my job was to teach what needed to be taught, and if a student didn’t want to be part of it, sometimes you just had to send them out of the classroom. Well, I agree with that, and I know it’s true. But on the other hand, the student who had his back turned to me for the first ten minutes was fully engaged by the end. And the following day, when students used art supplies to illustrate their symbol, he drew an amazing representation of himself as a dog. He drew a pit bull, mind you, with its teeth bared and eyes staring. The student described the dog as “aggressive and dangerous” but added that pit bulls also were very loyal and protected their families. “Dogs”, he said, “are mostly smart, like humans. They need to be with someone else.” I think he did understand what it meant to use a symbol to represent something else, because later he could tell me about how the bird represented the boy in “The Scarlet Ibis”. Now that’s an effective lesson. A child learned something, read something, and then applied new knowledge to literature and to his own life. That’s education.

Another student told me his symbol was a turtle because turtles are slow and don’t really get anywhere, and hide in their shells. The turtle he drew had a big “E” on his shell to indicate failure. I spent five minutes talking with him about how turtles are persistent, and will do anything to get where they are going. Did you know that if you see a turtle crossing a road, and turn him around, that he will just start over and cross the road again? Better to pick him up and carry him over. I got the student on the internet looking for pictures of turtles to draw from. The first turtles he found were cartoon-like, slow, silly. But then he found the one he wanted – Testudo, the University of Maryland Terrapin mascot. A fighter, a turtle of strength. You know, “Fear the Turtle”. The student adopted that design as his symbol. A turtle with a big “P” on his shell for persistence. Now that’s a life lesson. That’s education.


Hi Ms. Hanne Denney:
Your stories and account of your experience with the newness of teaching and reaching students in various ways "hit home" for me. I was the turtle, in a shell of her own some years ago, seeking a less hectic life, and I was preferring some seclusion. But along the way, as my life has changed from decade to decade, I have been "forced" to start new chapters, and sometimes this has been really good and progressive for me! After raising my family, and trying a range of go-nowhere jobs, I finally buckled down and went for my teaching degree in 2003. I teach elementary art and I enjoy it immensely, but at 56 years old, it can be exhausting! Thanks for sharing your story.
Sally Abbey

Hanne: I'm so happy to see this latest stop on your journey. I was formerly with CF magazine. Remember how deftly and diplomatically you corrected some misconceptions about family day care I allowed in an early article I edited. Then saw where you went on to get national accreditation. Very interesting to see this latest step. My sister recently made the transition from homeschooling mom to homeschooling tutor to private school teacher. Her superiors have told her she works too hard too, but, BOY, do the students love being in her class. She really engages them. To you, and all of you out there pouring your heart into what you're doing, please know that some of us realize there is _no_more_important_job_ being done in this country, and I say that sincerely. (Speaking as a concerned sister, though, remember it's okay to take time to recharge your batteries; everyone wins when you're refreshed. Besides, what good will you be to the kids if you fizzle and burn out??)

Seeing that Symbol article really shows just how important our jobs are and furthermore it just goes to show that at times teachers do much more than just teach. WE SAVE!! I am proud to be teaching with you and call you my friend. I strive every day to make that difference in my students lives and it makes it easier when I see and hear that there are others of us out there doing more than just simply teaching.

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  • Laura: Hanne, Seeing that Symbol article really shows just how important read more
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