Thursday, May 26, 2011
Off Topic: Salute to Teachers
This one is off topic, but dear to me. With all of the Oprah Show ending hype, I've been reminded of one important thing I share with Oprah (besides being Nashvillians) and that was a favorite teacher. Years ago, I was in school, living at home and returned home to my mother watching Oprah on TV. I was rattling around in the kitchen for a snack when I heard Oprah talking about her favorite teacher, Mary Alice Duncan. I went back into the room and saw that Mrs. Duncan was also my Mrs. Duncan, a special teacher in my life, too.
My fourth grade year was a year of transition and change. My family had returned to Nashville after living in Chattanooga for several years. I went from attending an elementary school with one classroom per grade level to a fourth grade school comprised of only fourth grade classrooms that was the same size as my previous elementary school. I was given two team teachers of which Mrs. Duncan was one. Then my homeroom class was dissolved in the face of budget cuts. I was moved to another class away from Mrs. Duncan, more trauma since my new teacher had a subtle harsh streak to her, not horrible, but one I keyed into and never trusted although usually I was her "teacher's pet" grading papers and such.
The biggest problem was that I was a precocious reader and had already tested out of all reading levels. I was used to being held back and didn't mind since I didn't know any different. But Mrs. Duncan--and I was young so I don't know all the reasoning--volunteered to have me return to her classroom each day for a special reading class all my own although I was no longer assigned to her team of teachers. And that's what I did for a year. I had my own reading class until another boy moved in halfway through the year and needed it and then we shared our advanced reading class. It was my favorite part of the day and I finally felt like I was working at a real level of education. I also needed that intimacy of a one-on-one class after moving into such a big school, so it was a blessing on many levels. I still wonder where the time came from since that is definitely not "wise" classroom time management with overfilled classrooms. My feeling was always that it happened because Mrs. Duncan made it so.
Mrs. Duncan was a special teacher and I've never forgotten her. There were a few other important teachers and librarians that followed, but she was the first to make me feel like I mattered, that my skills mattered and should be nurtured. I was blessed with parents who did that all along, but to have a teacher reinforce the message was a boon.
So kudos and thanks to all the great teachers out there who make a difference. The end of another school year is nigh and I hope you enjoy your summers!
You can see that original clip on the Oprah site. Apparently Mrs. Duncan was on the show again this week, but I missed it. I will seek it out since the magic of the internet means it will probably show up somewhere soon.