because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

Hidden Potential: Guest Post by Saucy B.

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Saucy B

Do you wear reading glasses? If so, don’t forget to enter my reading glasses giveaway which ends December 16th. Details HERE.

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My guest blogger today sharing her teacher memory is Saucy B. She pretends to be tough — she lives in northern New Jersey and claims if you call her a Jersey Girl, she will kick you in the shins — but for all her attitude, Saucy B comes with an enormous side order or good old-fashioned mama love.

I can relate to Saucy B’s story on one hundred levels. When she wrote this post and discussed how she was described by family members as “precocious” but school was academically challenging for her, I totally got it.

@SaucyB is currently taking a break from her blog, but I hope she will drop by to moderate comments. Her post speaks to so many people who have children who are struggling with school.

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Hidden Potential

I was late bloomer when it came to academics. I was young for my grade; in fact, by today’s requirements, I wouldn’t have even been allowed to enter school when I did.

But, since I was rather precocious in nature – often described as being four going on forty by my relatives – my mother didn’t hesitate to enter me into kindergarten.

It’s not that I didn’t get good grades; it’s just that those good grades came as the result of a lot hard work, a little bit of sweat, and certainly a few tears.

I was in my comfort zone with reading and language arts. But math. Oh math. There’s a reason that when I entered college I was an English major with a minor in Communication. (Dear Rutgers University, thank you for dropping your quantitative requirement the year I entered your fine institution.)

Anyway, it was in fifth grade that students in my school system could be chosen to participate in a Gifted and Talented program that met on Saturday mornings called C.A.T. (I haven’t the slightest idea what that stands for anymore.)

While I recall being slightly disappointed that I didn’t get to participate in fifth grade, I wasn’t completely surprised either. I was doing well, but I certainly wasn’t pulling down straight A’s.

Things changed when I entered sixth grade and was in the class of the school’s only male teacher at the time, Mr. Adubato. This teacher really tried to bring new ideas and other ways of learning to the table. He recognized and encouraged my creative writing in a way that no one else had. And after the first marking period, he got me into the C.A.T. program.

I remember being so proud that as part of the program I got to “publish” my own book of short stories. In reality, my work had just been bound with a nice front and back cover by the school librarian. But, to me, it made me legit.

Today, I see my son, who is also young for his grade, struggling as well. Kindergarten was not an easy transition for him. He received basic skills help and was evaluated this summer by the school’s Child Study Team.

At the beginning of the year, I told his teacher, “There are no rose-colored glasses in this house.” And while I’m very much aware and recognize that my son has challenges, I also know that he is extremely bright and articulate. Collectively, we just have to figure out how to unlock the potential that I know is sitting poised and ready in his little body.

How am I so sure of this? Last weekend I had the privilege of transcribing a story that my son made up to go with a comic book he had drawn. He had numbered the pages, established heroes and villains, and formulated a plot with a distinct beginning, middle and end.

He just couldn’t write it.

Apparently, kids his age are supposed to be able to write some semblance of words based on how they sound. My guy isn’t even close to that yet. So we sat. And I told him the letters to write so that he could bring the story out of his imagination and onto the page.

I strongly suspect that things may get harder for my son before they get easier when it comes to his school work. But I hope he is fortunate enough to have a teacher that recognizes his unique capabilities the way Mr. Adubato recognized mine.

How much do you think a child’s age influences his or her academic performance? And what do you think about “gifted and talented” programs?

Ode to Werner Barth: Guest Post by Larry Hehn

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Larry Hehn

Larry Hehn is my special guest blogger today. He is the brains behind Christian in the Rough, and I feel honored to be the Jewish girl he lets hang around the joint. As Larry says, “I encourage people to find fun in the middle of dysfunction, action at the end of distraction, and grace at the end of disgrace.” Every time Larry posts something I learn something new. I really wish I knew him in real life. Feel free to Twitter-stalk him at @LarryHehn.

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Ode to Werner Berth

Werner Barth was the best teacher I ever had. A wiry man with a spring in his step, a sparkle in his eye, a gravelly voice and a thick German accent, Barth had a tremendous effect on me. Strangely, it had nothing to do with the topic he was teaching.

Barth taught statics – defined in one dictionary as “The branch of physics that deals with physical systems in equilibrium, in which no bodies are in motion, and all forces are offset or counterbalanced by other forces.”

It was potentially one of the most boring subjects on earth.

But not with Barth as the teacher.

He loved to teach. And he loved his students.

He communicated ideas in ways that were fun and memorable.

One day, to illustrate the difference in direction between a positive bending moment and a negative bending moment, he stood on his chair and swung his hand up to his head. As he scratched his head, he said, “You can do this on the subway. That’s a positive bending moment.”

He then swung his hand down to his rear end. As he scratched, he said, “You can’t do this on the subway. That’s a negative bending moment.”

Twenty-five years later I still remember the difference.

What impressed me most, though, was his reaction when our entire class performed poorly on a test.

At that point he had been teaching for more than 25 years, longer than most of us in the class had been alive. But there was not an ounce of pride in Barth. At our next scheduled lesson, he pulled up a chair in the middle of the classroom, sat down and questioned us for an hour about how he could improve his teaching methods.

Even after years of learning, applying and teaching, he was still a student.

What I learned in that classroom had only a bit to do with statics, and a lot to do with a lifetime of learning, humility and working within your passion.

Sixteen years after leaving the program, I tracked him down and called him out of the blue to thank him. He remembered me. “Ah, Larry . . . skinny guy!” He remembered all of his students by name, and kept in touch with many of them.

He told me about his retirement 14 years earlier, his recent hiking trip, and how he had beaten colon cancer a few years ago. He spoke with a positive attitude and an appreciation for life that surpassed just about anyone I’ve ever known.

When I grow up, I want to be like him.

It has been eight years since that phone call. I’m sorry to say that I have again lost touch with Barth, but I know we’ll meet again. And when we do, I’m sure he’ll have a sparkle in his eye.

Can you recall a memorable lesson? Who was the teacher? What did he/she do?

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If you have writing chops and are interested in submitting a piece for #TWITS: Teachers Who I Think Scored / Teachers Who I Think Sucked, write a specific memory about one teacher you had and explain how that person helped you (or really screwed things up for you), as well as the life lesson you took away from the interaction.

Essays should be around 700-800 words.

Interested but have questions? Email me!

My information is under the Contact Me tab.

NOTE: If you haven’t yet voted in the poll to determine which definition best fits for the word “castanurgle,” click HERE. The polls close on October 20, 2011 at 7 am EST.

Mrs. Clayton #twits

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Kelliefish!

I am excited to have Kelliefish13 as a guest blogger today. Kelliefish is an avid traveler. In fact, she went to Italy this summer and documented her many adventures and took many beautiful photos.

Kelliefish started her blog to work on her writing skills because she has some real challenges when in comes to writing; something she addresses in this post.

Kelliefish is one of the sweetest fishies in the sea. Thank you for being so honest, Kel, and for helping me with my project. When you are done reading her teacher memory, check out her blog HERE.

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Mrs. Clayton

Mrs. Clayton was my favourite teacher. I had her when I was about 7. She allowed me the freedom to be myself and gently guided me and encouraged me to do my best. I remember being allowed to take my writing book outside under the tree just outside the classroom to write poems about the plants I saw there; somehow she got me to read one of my pieces in front of the entire school (of about 100 students) which, at the time, was a miracle given how shy I was.

She was also the teacher with whom I realised some of my weaknesses. While waiting for her to mark another child’s work, I watched her read their work easily and then send them off with only a few suggestions for improvement, and then I stood beside her as I handed her mine. She looked at my writing and asked me to read it aloud for her. I noticed the difference, but once we finished with the exercise, she didn’t treat me any differently and gave me some suggestions to help to fix my spelling. What neither she nor I knew at the time was that I am dyslexic and, unlike some of the other teachers I have had since, she never made me feel like I wasn’t trying hard enough. She just accepted me as I was.

I remember how she let us put the daffodils we brought for her into dye pots so we could watch them change colour. I remember how she stood on a desk screaming while some boys with brooms chased an enormous rat out of our classroom. She taught us funny old songs that I still remember. Mrs. Clayton inspired me to become a teacher, and I hope that one day I can be as fabulous to my own students as she was to me.

What little moment can you remember from 2nd grade? Or any elementary grade?

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If you have writing chops and are interested in submitting a piece of writing for #TWITS: Teachers Who I Think Scored / Teachers Who I Think Sucked, write a specific memory about one teacher you had and explain how that person helped you (or really screwed things up for you), as well as the life lesson you took away from the interaction.

Essays should be around 700-800 words.

Interested but have questions? Email me!

My information is under the Contact Me tab.