Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Reflections on one teacher's life work

I am positive that the profession of public school teaching -- and any remaining respect for that fine work -- is being destroyed right before my eyes. I simply do not understand the teachers’ passivity, nor that of everyone else.

What’s happening to public school teachers is breaking my heart, and I am so very, very grateful that my grandmother, Luella Robinson, did not live to see these times.

Mrs. Robinson graduated from Snow College in her hometown of Ephraim, Utah, and commenced to teach public school children for the rest of her life. She was an elementary school teacher for most of that time, finishing her years by teaching special ed.

This was a woman who absolutely loved children, and they loved her back. Dresser drawers in her home were filled with gifts from former students and their parents.

Since my sister and I ended up with a relatively unstable home life, we found refuge in the time we spent with our Grandma Robinson. Until we moved out-of-state, we would often spend Friday nights at her house. On the Saturday mornings, she would take us to the nearby train tracks and hold our hands as we walked up and down, balancing on the rails. Sometimes a slow train would come along and we would all wave to the operators and wait for the caboose.

Back at her little house in Sugarhouse (in Salt Lake City, Utah), she would encourage us make mud pies on her back steps and huge flour-water dough messes in her kitchen. We'd make blanket/furniture forts, swing on her willow tree’s branches, pick hollyhocks and use toothpicks to turn them into little dolls, draw and paint, read books, decorate cookies, and drink Dr. Pepper.

After she retired and we were older, if we all went shopping and there was a little child standing in line, Mrs. Robinson would approach that child and parent, say some kind words, and give the child a nickel. In those days, a nickel would buy something small that was tasty.

Luella Robinson was strongly against corporal punishment and shared her vision with other people in the world. To her, there was never (ever!) any reason to hit a child. “If a child is misbehaving," she explained, "all you need to do is get down to their eye level, place your hands on their shoulders, and look directly into their eyes as you are talking.”

I am certain that my grandmother put this same kind of love into daily practice in her classrooms during each and everyone of the years she worked. Her intelligence, grace, and skill are certain to have made a positive difference for hundreds and hundreds of children. Her life of teaching was not centered around test scores.

Maybe the ed deformers' next idea for "improving" the "effectiveness" of public school teachers will be to bring back the stocks. I expect U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan would also cheer that on.

From Wikipedia: "Stocks are devices used in the medieval times for torture, public humiliation, and corporal punishment. The stocks partially immobilized its victims and they were often exposed in a public place such as the site of a market to the scorn of those who passed by. Since the purpose was to punish offenders against the standards of conduct of the time anybody could assault, revile or aim filth at the victim."

And by the way, Norm Scott is right.


caroline said...

But how were Grandma's value-added measures? That's all that matters, you know!

The Perimeter Primate said...

Dana Goldstein on "The Chicago Strike and the History of American Teachers' Unions" (9/12/2012)