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Posts Tagged ‘Teacher’

A Teacher Who Made a Difference

May 21, 2013 2 comments
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Miss Ritcey, circa 1981, Alderney Elementary School

Her name was Miss Ritcey. She wore tweed skirt suits, sensible shoes, and a hint of a smile.

A few of us were pulled from our classrooms once a week and taken to the library to spend the morning with her. We sat in table groups, hardly believing our luck.

On our first day, she called us into a circle, and said quietly, “A boy wants to go home, but there is a man with a mask in his way. Who is the man in the mask?” We were allowed to ask her questions with yes or no answers. We fell over ourselves coming up with possibilities, before realizing the key to the answer was asking the right question. We finally got to the idea of sport, and then baseball, and the answer: the man was the catcher for the other team – the boy was afraid of being tagged out. It was drastically different from the Halloween or horror ideas that initially popped into our collective heads.

From then on, we were hooked. Unaccustomed to learning being fun or engaging, her class was like a mirage to a delirious desert traveler. Days spent in our regular classroom dragged by, while we waited for that quiet knock which signaled her presence in the building.

She lead us in discussions ranging from books to science. We did the talking. She mostly listened. Everything fascinated her.

When she did speak, she was quiet and deliberate and began all of her sentences with, “Now, people.” As though we were adults. As though we were important. As though she was giving the Throne Speech instead of addressing a motley group of kids aged ten to twelve.

For those few hours each week in the library, it was cool to be a geek. No idea was ridiculous. No question was stupid. No contribution went unnoticed.

We became our very best selves. Freed from chalkboard pointers, we dared to dream. We learned what it meant to think outside the box. We were encouraged to be different. We were encouraged to be daring. Miss Ritcey often smiled, but never laughed. We emulated her, and listened carefully to our classmates, used our powers of critical thinking to debate ideas rather than dismiss them out of hand.

She didn’t need to raise her voice. Robbie and Jennifer – prone to misbehaving – sat quietly for a change. We were all in awe of our wise teacher, mesmerized by her serene aura. Lulled by the calm oasis she created, despite it being in the basement of the school, where three rows of books amounted to the library. Her presence induced a pavlovian response to learning, cobwebs cleared from our brains and we readied for takeoff.

From grades four to eight, Miss Ritcey parachuted into our school, a Mary Poppins amongst mortal teachers. After that I never saw her again. I never kept in touch. She was constantly on the move, rotating schools around the city, and it was long before email existed. Dropping by to see her wasn’t an option. I haven’t seen or heard of her for thirty years, but I will never forget. Her voice was one of reason, her body was one of composure, her pores reeked wisdom and the palest scent of Chloe, and especially the unwavering respect she showed each and every one of us.

Miss Sally Ritcey, wherever you are, you encouraged us to believe in ourselves, instilled in us a hunger for knowledge, and a desire to be different. Thank you.

“Wisdom begins in wonder.” – Socrates

Who was the teacher that made a difference in your life?

The Slings and Arrows That Teachers and Children Duck

March 6, 2012 5 comments

My children are as happy and excited to go to school everyday as I am to send them. It’s the one thing in life we all agree on.

We have reached this consensus because I know they are going to be educated and challenged while having fun in a safe environment. They know they will have a great time. It’s all good. And of course the people who so cleverly pull the wool over their innocent eyes are their fabulous teachers, who make learning so much fun my kids don’t even know it’s happening.

Children across BC are not in school today because the teachers are on strike. They are striking not because they want to, but because they felt they had no choice. Teachers are already between a rock and a hard place due to funding cuts, and government-mandated larger class sizes will make it difficult to do their jobs properly. There are other issues at hand, and I don’t profess to know all the ins and outs of the dispute, but this I know: two characters, the union, and the government, are refusing to compromise. Within this cast, the union is being represented by an unwieldy woman who sounds like a battleax. The government is being represented by a man who speaks in monotone, and sounds more robotic than human. Both are difficult to sympathize with, and I don’t particularly like either of them.

These caricatures are getting in the way of my children’s education, and are getting in the way of our teachers doing what they do best: teaching. Like gang warfare, the two loud, obnoxious leaders are trying to settle a dispute that goes back a long, long, way, and our children and teachers are caught in the crossfire.

I do know a few things about teachers, having three children in the public education system for the past eight years. They each bring different, unique gifts to their job: some are more creative, some assign more homework, some are more into math or reading or athletics than others. But what they do share is a passion for their jobs, a belief in what they do, and love for our children. They share an ethos of hard work, and they know this hard work will pay off as the next generation goes forward. They don’t get paid well enough for all the crap they have to put up with between the parents, the union, and the government, but they teach anyway. It is their gift to society.

Every year, my children have been lucky to have not just an average teacher, but one that is phenomenal in different ways. Every year, their teachers surpass our expectations. Every year they improve my children, and mold them into better beings. Every year, I hold back tears (well, I try; occasionally I weep openly) when I thank them for their enormous contribution to my children’s lives. Every year.

That’s quite a talent pool. In my random performance evaluation, I give our teachers an A+. It’s too bad the union and the government can’t perform their jobs nearly as well.