Friday, September 14, 2012

Memories of Teaching

  I had promised a Guthrie Seeger story. Since we got computers a few years ago at HC, I had the kids look up who was blaclisted by the House Committee for Unamerican Activities. We were starting McCarthyism and The Crucible.  Most of then names mean nothing to them now,but they were shocked when I pointed out that Burl Ives, the snowman in Rudolph(holly jolly Christmas) was on it.  Then I point out that Pete Seeger who celebrated his 90th birthday in DC with a huge concert attended by Obama ,Oprah and George Lucas was brought before the committee. The proceedings regarding him are priceless and well worth a read about someone who stick to his beliefs. There are pages of him refusing to answer questions and him being asked if he is taking the 5th amendment and Seeger explaining that he was not doing that because what they were doing was unconstitutional and to take the 5th would imply otherwise. Finally this leads to me talking about how Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" is as Bruce Springsteen calls it "an angry song" written to counter "God Bless America." I explain it was seen as a socialist song and the class starts arguing about  how it is patriotic and I tell them to sing the lyrics to themselves and you hear them all over the room going,"This land is your land ; this land is my land." And the epiphanies start about how that could be taken as a socialist comment about owning land. I point out we rarely hear two verses but we are going to hear them now as I put on Seeger and Springsteen and thousands of others singing it for his birthday and we sing along.  It was one of my favorite lessons regarding McCarthyism  and I thought it up as I was teaching.  Some of the best ideas come on the spur of the moment. As most teachers know, though, what works great one year, may flop the next, or even what works great in one class, may flop in another.  I know someone who was student teaching and the teacher let him go home at lunch everyday instead of doing the whole day because he said that the afternoon was the same as the morning. I have never ever had two classes that were the same, no matter the subject. Every class has its own personality; every class is different; to say otherwise is to do a disservice to a beginning teacher.

I want to take a minute to thank all my students from the past twenty-six years at Holy Cross who have been facebooking me since Labor Day, trying to console me over disability and retirement when they all know where I want to be--in Room 212. Thank you all ; you have made the week so much easier. The blog is coming. just have to feel well enough to set it up. I shouldn't be on here now. Back i
s bad today, but a story for the day. This is from the high school I first taught at in NJ, Our Lady of Mercy Academy in Newfield. I taught these beautfiul tiny tiny identical twins who weighed about 85 pounds soaking weight. Their names were Monica Anna and Anna Monica. Their equally gorgeous sister was Mary Anna; all there were highly intelligent VillaNova grads. For confirmation Anna Monica took Mary, Monica Anna to Mary and Mary Anna took Monica, so really if you knew any of the three family names you were always right on some level. When Dora was born they got her a Villanova sweatshirt which was one of my favorite toddler outfits for years, only to be rivaled by the Whites who sent me a Louisville Cardinal dress which eventually went to Madeira's daughter. I have to love anything University of Louisville.The twins were so tiny that if they got an excited about an answer and threw their hands into the air, their desks fell forward and they went down, so I had the girls behind them(it is an all girls school--think Trouble with Angels if you are old enough to remember that great movie) appointed to grab their desks when they raised their hands. Great school and great girls.

I remember Catherine's dad telling me she would never talk in class and her mom being relieved that I wasn't going to take points off her grade for being quiet because I said everyone is entitled to his or her personality and some people have a quiet one. I said she would talk at some point. Junior year, she did talk some and senior year more but the best time was when she was on the Mississippi trip working on Katrinia houses and she phoned in to our classroom to see how we were all doing.

In 1990 a senior boy got fed up with having to write so much in my class ( I still don't think they were overworked) and he said that he wasn't going to do it. I said that was fine that he had the free will to refuse to do the assignment and I had the free will to fail him for the year for not completing it. He said ok, I get it, and he went back and wrote the paper.

I don't really understand the blog thing so unless one of those ccomputer guys like Bruce , Falcone or Furey help me , you have to rread my teacher memories here while I clog up my facebook. This leeads me to another memory ; we were working on moviemaker wwhich I have only a basic knowledge of but these three and probably aa couple of more were pros at it and the mac equivalent, so the c cclass members are all helping each other and asking questions and tt these three start answering, they are tossing around those computer initials and dot everything to the point where I had to stop and say, "Any minute I am going to hand out the Spock ears bc I am starting to feel like I am at a Star Trek Convention or a Comic Con."

I I do not know why this one looks like this; I copied it over from facebook like a few others and it keeps cutting off letters and if I add the letters, then it doubles them. I can type better than this looks like I can

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