When Your Teacher Goes Off Topic: #LessonLearned by Dawn Sticklen
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Dawn Sticklen writes a blog called Since You Asked… in which she explores… well… everything. This April she did the A-Z Challenge along with a lot of other bloggers who pushed themselves to post every day with a significant word or concept that corresponded with the assigned letter of the day. I don’t think Dawn has missed a single one. And they are at Y! (Why? Because we like you!)
Dawn started her blog to write about adoption and parenting, but these days she writes about everything under the sun — which is really refreshing because you never know what you might find at Dawn’s place.
Tweet with Dawn, and you’ll see she exudes a positivity which is infectious. But not like herpes!
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Ode to Sweet Jimmy
Mr. Padgett was my high school math teacher. While “Sweet Jimmy” had a disposition that was anything but, he nonetheless managed to endear himself to his students. (Well, some of us.) With arms covered in tattoos commemorating his service in the navy, Mr. Padgett’s imposing presence intimidated the typical mild-mannered high school student. In his booming voice he frequently offered his opinion about matters such as the low rate of pay afforded teachers in our district: “I am the ONLY certified mathematician employed by Nassau County and yet I receive no extra compensation for my credentials. Thus, I am compelled to teach night classes at the community college,”; or the district’s refusal to participate in the one Federal holiday deemed worthy of recognition by the ex-fighter pilot: “Once again it is Veterans Day and Nassau County is the ONLY school district in the entire state of Florida that does not feel it is important to show honor to our war veterans by giving us the day off.” This last declaration was always followed by a vivid depiction of how, while serving in Viet Nam, Sweet Jimmy’s plane was shot down and he was in a total body cast for the remainder of the war (or something like that).
Mr. Padgett had quaint little phrases that he wrote on the board each year to help us better understand the material he was covering. Statements such as, “Pi R Squared – Cornbread R Round,” helped us to remember basic formulas in geometry while, “O I C, I C Y, and I C 2,” reminded us that eventually the light will indeed come on during a lesson and we WILL understand the concepts presented to us (or else we would fail and end up in Mr. Roberts’ less challenging, albeit more practical, math class).
Mr. Padgett took time to teach us about the finer points in life, since Nassau County also refused to present solutions for the real issues teens in the 1980’s faced (you know, those unique dilemmas only those of us who graduated in 1984 dealt with – namely, sex, drugs, and rock and roll – but mostly sex). We never knew if a morning’s math lesson would also include a reality check about birth control (“You do, of course, realize that the pill must be taken more than just either before or after you have sex in order for it to work?”) or sexually transmitted diseases (“Herpes is forever; true love is not. Always use a condom.”)
One of the most memorable math lessons, though, was the day that Mr. Padgett instructed us to take our seats and prepare to pay close attention to a film he thought would prove enlightening to us. He proceeded to turn off the lights and cue the projector for a film hosted by none other than Ann Landers. For 50 minutes we listened as Ann interviewed couples infected with either herpes or gonorrhea. “What about…herpes?” became our class mantra as we tried to figure out what possessed those couples to agree to be interviewed on camera about such humiliating afflictions. (Remember, this was in the days before reality TV.)
Mr. Padgett taught us much more than just mathematics. He taught us about life, and somehow managed to teach me, personally, to respect myself enough to always put forth my best effort – no matter what the task before me.
Sadly, Sweet Jimmy died a few years after I graduated from high school. However, his legacy lives on not only as a great math teacher, but as one who helped prepare students for life in general. His impact on students’ lives has survived long after his own mortality – and how many teachers can say that?
What is the weirdest thing you ever learned in a class that had absolutely nothing to do with the course subject matter?
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