Guest Writers

When Your Teacher Goes Off Topic: #LessonLearned by Dawn Sticklen

Click on the teacher lady's butt to see other posts in this series!

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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!

Folks can Find Dawn on Facebook and follow her on Twitter at @JoMoBlogger.

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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).

Dawn's "Sweet Jimmy"

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?

Tweet this Twit @rasjacobson

21 thoughts on “When Your Teacher Goes Off Topic: #LessonLearned by Dawn Sticklen

  1. Renee! Thanks so much for having me over here today and for the exceptional blog description! (I may have to copy and paste that one!) Thanks, too, for letting me tell the story about Sweet Jimmy – I still use some of those phrases with my own kids (especially the one about herpes….)

    1. Dawn! I’m so glad you are here! (Finally!) This is a great story of how times really have changed! I think Sweet Jimmy might have been fired today for talking about condoms and herpes in math class.., but in reality, THOSE are the lessons that students remember. Words that come from repeated teachers that are off-topic can be very powerful!

  2. I notice that quite often you promote the blogs of others. I have begun to do this too. We’re established now it’s about others. I enjoy seeing the traffic grow for newbies. Must be teacher/mentor syndrome.

  3. What a lovely tribute, to Dawn and Sweet Jimmy.

    Not sure if I should admit this, but most of what I’ve learned in class has been–at best–the material’s second cousin once removed. Math boredom, er, disinterest, taught me to crochet necklaces using string and pencils…for example. 😉

    1. August, I find that a very creative and useful way in which to have spent your time 🙂 Mr. Padgett was truly one of a kind!

    1. Sherry, you certainly never knew what to expect in his class, but you also never wanted to let him down (and not just because he’d embarrass the crap out of you if you did!) Thanks for stopping by! Be sure and check out some of Renee’s stuff – she’s pretty stinkin’ awesome!

  4. Great post, Dawn! He’d be tossed in jail nowadays for showing that movie.

    Physics was a class I hated–failed all year,squeaked thru by passing the Regents with a 65. I learned that if you stretch a Slinky from one end of the hall to the other and then let go, it can be dangerous. And I did not learn about “S” waves that day, either.

    1. emigal, I don’t even know what physics is! Seriously, I NEVER had to take a class in that subject, and I really don’t think I’m missing out on any of Life’s great mysteries because of it. So, I am saddened by the fact that your GPA had to suffer because of that one little class! 🙂 Mr. Padgett was not the only teacher we had who would discuss the finer points of life with us, but he WAS the most memorable! I’m sorry my kids don’t have more teachers who remind them to respect themselves and others, those are some lessons kids need to learn not just from us parents but from others as well.

    1. El, I have to tell you that almost 30 years later my high school buddies still greet each other with, “what about……”! Some things just stick with you for a lifetime, and when I first saw Renee’s prompt I knew there was only one teacher who had that kind of an impact on me! It is so great to be here, I’m so HONORED! Really, I’ve been reading Renee’s stuff for so long now, it’s pretty surreal to see my name here! Thanks for reading!!
      And now I shall stop using the exclamation point key on my keyboard….

  5. Ode to Sweet Jimmy. I love that story.

    I went to a small rural school, and one teacher’s mantra was how important it was to get an education, even if you wanted to marry your high school sweetheart and be a stay-at-home wife/mother.

    1. Thank you, Leanne. Sometimes I think those smaller schools are nice because teachers have more opportunity to really get involved in the lives of their students (which I suppose can be a bad thing, too, but that’s another post altogether. Hmmm, I think I just gave Renee an idea for another post….)

  6. What a great story! I believe that those teachable moments – even though they have nothing to do with the subject matter – are sometimes more important than anything. 🙂

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