Archive | November 2014

The Things We Remember

classroomKevin hates dates because dates cost money.

Know what that is? That’s a saying my 6th-grade math teacher taught us to help us remember metric units: kilo-, hecto-, deka-, (meter), deci-, centi-, milli-. Or, Kevin hates dates because dates cost money. Kevin was her son. (It was assumed we would remember “meter.”)

It’s funny what we remember from school. I remember my 4th-grade teacher telling us to cover our mouths when we sneeze because if we didn’t, the germs from one sneeze could be across the room in seconds. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but that’s what she said.

I also remember how my 2nd-grade teacher told us a story about her hair dryer catching on fire one morning, and I can still visualize her telling it.

Then there’s my 10th-grade English teacher. Everyone remembers her. She had red hair and always got lipstick on her teeth. I know because I sat in the front row. She told us about the time she ran over her foot with the car, and how she once wrote a letter of complaint to the peanut butter cracker company when the packet of crackers she purchased had an insufficient amount of peanut butter. They sent her a year’s supply as an apology. The same teacher also had a sign at the front of the class that said, “Thank you for coming to class. Please don’t ask to leave.”

Many of the things I remember are trivial. Like how my 10th-grade chemistry teacher broke his arm and said it happened while saving some nuns. Which of course wasn’t true. … But it made a good story.

Or how my 6th-grade English teacher hated when people started saying “like” as a filler or a lazy substitute for a more appropriate word. She went on a tirade one morning from her stool by the blackboard: “It’s ‘he said,’ not ‘he was like‘!” she yelled.

One of my oldest memories, though, is from kindergarten. I had a pretty, young teacher named Miss Cruz and she let us have a pet mouse named Peaches. Miss Cruz also had a sandbox and beanbags in the classroom. She was a cool teacher. Her boyfriend came to visit one day and they kissed outside the classroom door.

Then there was Ms. Glandon in 1st grade who gave me a bad mark in her grade book for writing my name in pencil on the bathroom door … even after I erased it. Hmph. I regularly stole Blow Pops from Ms. Glandon’s file cabinet and didn’t feel bad about it.

While I remember a lot of these silly details, I’ve been thinking lately how there’s a lot I don’t remember from school. Or college. Or seminary. Of course, there are many important things I do remember—my education definitely hasn’t been a waste, but I feel like my brain has been given so much information over the years that it’s decided some stuff needs to go. And now, as a Sunday school teacher for the high school youth at church, I wonder if the students will retain anything I’m teaching.

Will they remember how to share their faith in a simple, respectful way? Or how the story of Jonah still applies to our lives? Or will they just remember the paper snowball fight we had one morning to wake everyone up?

I wanted to be a teacher from kindergarten to 10th grade and looking back, I’m glad I went a different direction. But I have a lot of respect for teachers, especially the ones who can keep students’ attention while still teaching them something valuable that they’ll remember. It helps to know that even though my 6th-grade math teacher has no idea I remember her mneumonic device for metric units, I definitely do. You never know what people will retain.

And even if the senior youth at church forget what Jonah has to do with their 21st-century lives, maybe they’ll at least remember that I cared enough to teach it.

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